April 23rd

Song of the day: “Remember” by Liam Payne

Today is the day I was supposed to fly home from London, and it feels very strange having already been back for weeks. It was a beautiful sunny day in Southern California, and even amidst this lockdown I found ways to enjoy it. My time abroad definitely changed my life, and no matter how much I miss being in London, the knowledge that I will go back makes me smile. I thought I would feel sad today, but focusing on how much I’ve gained from the experience – Covid aside – is truly an incredible mountain of joy. My family and I sat looking through more trip photos tonight, and I finally feel up to writing in my blog again. It took a while, and I still don’t like having to drive instead of taking the tube, but I appreciate California in a new way. However, sorry Mom, London has my heart.

50 Hours

Song during the horror: “This City” by Sam Fischer

A lot can happen in 50 hours, especially if you’re awake the entire time. When I woke up on Monday the 16th at 8:30am to start my day I had no idea that I wouldn’t get to go back to sleep until 11:30pm on Tuesday the 17th, in California. Monday morning I said goodbye to the last two girls in my flat before they headed home, and then I set out for a long day of adventuring with my grandmother before my physical therapy appointment at 4:30. We knew at this point that I was going to leave London on Friday, so I started packing in more and more things into the schedule so I could see them before I left. That morning we visited Marleybone and had brunch, winding through the quaint homely area and shops in beautiful alleys. I found this beautiful French shoe store with velvet slippers costing upwards of 200 pounds. After, we split up to check different things off our lists and I headed to Camden, since it’s one of the top places to visit in London and is famous for the markets. It was really fun to go through the stands, ranging from fake Gucci to luxury leather, and dozens of street food pop-ups from all over the world. I tried some amazing Thai and ate while having a conversation with a very determined bird. After spending some time exploring and bargaining I headed back to the tube (during which time I passed a crazy person yelling “I HAVE CORONA!”) and realized my Oyster card was gone (my means of paying for public transport). So, I either dropped it or I was pick-pocketed; I’m guessing the latter. I ended up having to buy a new one at the station and then load it with a few pounds to get me there and back to my flat. WELL, the end of my tube troubles continued with getting lost when the tube split and I hadn’t payed attention to which direction I was going, so it took me farther East instead of West. When I finally arrived, I really needed treatment. Since last Thursday when I saw him, my program basically shut down, all my friends flew back to the States, my grandma showed up and I had been incredibly stressed. I definitely needed the relief. We had three sessions scheduled for the week before I was supposed to leave on Friday, so we used this first one as a set-up for the next two, dancing around the main problem and loosening up things around it in preparation. My next appointment was the following morning at 9:00am. I went back to the flat, ate dinner and changed into a nice outfit for the show we were going to see, “The Mousetrap” by Agatha Christie. It’s the longest running show at 68 years, and I was SO excited to watch a murder mystery, especially with my grandma because I knew she was going to enjoy it. We walked through the West End over to the theater, but when we approached an Usher told us the show had been cancelled 30 minutes prior due to Boris Johnson’s announcement to prevent large gatherings. My heart sank as we walked back because this meant that the rest of the West End was going to follow, and so would the rest of London. Everything was going to be shut down in a matter of days, which meant I had to get out while I still could. There’s be no point in staying if everything I still wanted to see was shut down, including the public transportation system, which was my means of getting to physical therapy. We went back, I called my mom, and after some debate we decided I needed to come home the next day. I agreed as long as my physical therapist could see me earlier the next morning so I could see him and still make it to the airport on time. He hadn’t worked on my main issues yet and there was no way I was leaving for a horrible plane ride and a 14 day quarantine in the States without being set up first. I would be in an unimaginable amount of pain. I texted Mike and he called me ten minutes later, bless his heart, and said he could see me at 7:00am and work on me until 8:15 to give me some extra help. I was very lucky and grateful he could do that for me. At this point it was around 9:30pm, and nothing was packed. I had three suitcases, two carry-ons, and 8 hours to get myself packed, showered and ready to leave for PT. I decided to shower first, then began packing. It was a nightmare. By 3:00am I was calling my mom begging her to switch my flight because I didn’t think I could get it done in time. I was so tired and delirious as I tried to get everything to fit, crying through the whole thing over being SO tired and heartbroken I had to leave. I never got to go to bed. At 6:00am when it started getting light again, I got dressed, did my makeup to cover up my tired face so the flight attendants didn’t think I had coronavirus, and left for PT. Mike did a fantastic job setting me up. He hit all the major problems and then some, and helped me calm down my nerves from having to leave. He kept the room at 78 degrees, but I was shivering. He explained that when that happens and your stomach hurts it’s because the nerve that stems from your brain down your spine and into your stomach is affected by emotions. So my brain being nervous and upset was sending glitched signals down though my nerve pathways. The way to help this is to take big breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. After saying goodbye to Mike, I stopped by my favorite shop, Panache, to pick up a bag of chocolates to share with Mom and Tal and my last coffee from them. I was one stamp away from getting a free coffee. I’m saving my card for when I go back. The rest of the morning is a blur now, from lugging my suitcases down four flights of stairs with my grandma, asking my driver to help, turning in my flat keys and crying having to say goodbye to sweating in the backseat of the car alone as I drove away from my city. I was so over-tired and fatigued when I got to the airport, checked my luggage, glided through security and waited for two and a half hours for my flight. The flight was fine. Could’ve been better and could’ve been worse. I sat next to a grad student who was also forced to leave her program, and she was super sweet. They fed us a really good chicken curry and we had afternoon tea before landing. I watched three movies: The Devil Wears Prada, a Dior documentary and Frozen 2. All very Bianca films. Most of the time I listened to my “London” playlist on my headphones, letting everything I’d done in the last two months replay in my head. The landing was really smooth and I was excited to get off because I knew my mom would be around the corner. They wouldn’t let her in the bag reclaim for international flights, so her text told me she’d be down the hall after I got my bags. It took me two hours to get to her, which was absolutely RIDICULOUS, because LAX was acting like they had no clue our plane was flying in. Going through customs was so disorganized and understaffed, and we all waited in line while the airport security argued with customs, who was arguing with the CDC. It was a mess. And because there was no service in the hot ditch we were all shoved into I couldn’t let my mom know I was okay. I’m sure she was worried because I had just been on a 12 hour flight, so she hadn’t heard from me during that time, and it was another two hours before I got my temperature taken to be cleared to get my bags, and she couldn’t even be sure that I landed! The nice couple behind me in line missed their connecting flight to Seattle because it took so long. At this point I was way past tired, moving into my if-you-look-at-me-right-now-I’ll-*!@#*-slap-you phase as I loaded all my bags onto a trolley and heaved the cart down the hall. From a few yards away, I saw my mom. She bolted around the crowd and came running around the corner, and I ditched the cart to hug her. We both started crying at how surreal it was that we were in the same room in the same time zone. The same weird feeling continued as we got all of my stuff in the car, drove an hour home, stopped at AT&T to change the SIM card in my phone back to my US number, and finally collapsed in bed at 11:30pm. Slept like a rock in my own bed. The next morning I had just woken up when my bedroom door opened and Talia came in; she wasn’t supposed to be home from Hawaii yet, so it was a huge surprise to see her. We practically squeezed each other to death, both crying over seeing the other and over how sad we were about both of our trips being cut short. It’s good to be home purely to see them, and after I’m done quarantining myself for 14 days I can go see my other friends and family; it’s so strange being home but not being allowed to go anywhere, but I’m not about to contribute to this pandemic in any way, no matter how much I want to go to physical therapy or even just the grocery store.

Being around Mom and Tal the past couple days has helped keep me distracted from how heartbroken I am over this. I feel completely robbed, ripped away from my program when I still had 6 weeks left, with so many things planned and places left to see. I’ve know for over two years I’d be going on this trip, since the day I got into Chapman. I saw a lot of people around me before our program gave us the choice to leave wanting to leave, hoping they could get out; that always made me feel very angry. I couldn’t understand how people could act so ungrateful. Why would they leave London before having to? It took me a few days to realize and accept that each person’s situation was completely different, and in my rare case, London wasn’t worth loosing until I was forced out. I found out just how much uncertainty I would deal with in order to stay. It proved to me that London is where I want to be, especially after having been to other places in Europe for comparison. I found my city, and I was willing to do anything to keep it. Finding the place where you truly fit in cannot be described, but the connection is so incredibly strong and I feel like I left a giant piece of myself behind. California feels empty to me now, like there’s nothing here for me. The last thing I want to do is get in my car. I miss my day-to-day life in London for endless reasons; I miss climbing four flights of stairs to get to my flat, I miss swiping my Oyster card to let me through the gates to the Tube, I miss walking down the street passing old buildings, I miss the fashion, I miss seeing a show every week in the West End, I miss my physical therapist, I miss my Italian coffee, I miss Panache, I miss the culture, I miss the things I was learning and the people I came close to, but most of all I miss the incredible independence. I feel like I’m missing my life being back, and all I can think about is how to get back. All of a sudden the word “home” is fuzzy. My roots are in California but my heart has chosen London.

I’m determined to continue this blog until I finish writing about the last of my experiences, but I’m not sure how long that will take. Sometimes I feel like I have to sit down and scroll through weeks of pictures just to feel like I’m still there, and sometimes I have to ignore it completely to cope with the loss. I’m doing my best to only have positive memories and not think of my trip as being “killed by corona,” so I think using this blog to write about the wonderful things I got to do will save my memories. Unfortunately during this pandemic we are all loosing something, and the best thing to do is lean on each other for support. There are different scales of loss, but the last thing anyone needs to be doing is attempting to compare hard situations; this is not a competition to see who has it the worst, it’s a time for us all to acknowledge that it’s all relative, so we should be staying inside with our relatives and get through this as soon as possible. We all need to step up and be as selfless as possible; it is no longer about protecting ourselves, it’s about protecting the people who are in vulnerable positions. I have faith that everyone will come out of this stronger and more humble than before, and in 50 years when my grandkids ask what I was doing when COVID-19 hit I can say, “oh, baby, I was in London.”

Coronavirus

The past few weeks have been absolutely insane with the pandemic outbreak of COVID-19; throughout this time, my trip to Italy for spring break was cancelled, everyone has been watching the case numbers rise from country to country and state to state, Chapman University main campus has been shut down and converted to online classes, and I absolutely with all my heart do NOT want to leave London. It has become a second home to me, and each day of exploring that passes I feel a stronger connection to this city, a place where I will very likely live in the future. While many students here have been worried about staying, I have been worried about leaving.

Last night after our Dialects class, everyone was waiting in anticipation for an email from Chapman determining whether or not we would remain in London or be shipped off to the States six weeks early, barely past the halfway point of the program we’ve all been waiting for for three years. At 6:30pm,we got the email: our program will be shifting to online courses starting on Monday, and any student wishing to leave London and return home may do so. Those that wish to stay will be allowed to remain in the dorms for the remainder of the program, with full administrators and staff continuing as planned, as long as we sign a waiver saying we take full responsibility for ourselves (so Chapman doesn’t get sued by angry parents). Classes will be re-evaluated in two weeks and in-person classes might resume.

Of the 13 of us Chapman folk, 2 of us are staying. Needless to say, this is breaking all of our hearts. Last night a bunch of us piled into a hotel room with wine and cheesecake, surrounded by bags and bags of already-packed luggage, laughing, talking and crying over the situation and how we hate having to leave each other so abruptly. Each person’s decision is personal and we all have very different reasons as to why we are staying or leaving, especially with all of our families involved. Following President Trump’s speech Wednesday night (I was up at 1:00am here watching it) where he announced the closure of boarders to European travelers (except for the UK), most people feel that the UK is next and they would rather be potentially quarantined in the States with their families than here in London. I completely respect all of their decisions, I’m just sad to loose them all, never mind the fact that I’ll be the only one left in Flat 5, originally a full house with 9 of us.

I have decided to stay for many reasons. To start, Chapman did not order us to return home. They gave us the OPTION because it is still only a level 2 travel advisory here in the UK. I have been hoping and stressing for weeks over being to stay here, so I am extremely lucky to have been given the choice and I commend my University and FSU for their decision. I trust that they will figure out what will be done about my classes, but as of right now it looks like I will not be getting my Stage Combat certification because I won’t have the in-person hours completed, and it’s impossible to take an acting class (High Comedy) online, so that leaves London Theatre Tour (which we need to see shows for in order to discuss them) and Dialects. Dialects is pretty much the only class that is feasible online. So, I really don’t know what will happen, but luckily the theatre department is a team of very creative people. My Grandma Kathy just arrived last night for her 10-day stay with me here in London, so I am absolutely not alone. I am here with her and safe, so if anything progresses negatively I can leave with her immediately. As of right now, I plan to stay for the next six weeks. If I did fly back to LAX, there is a very good chance I would be bussed to a hotel for a 2-week quarantine. My physical therapist here is healing me, so by remaining I am doing the best I can for my physical health, and I have the support of family and my program right next door.

My decision could change at any time as the coronavirus outbreak progresses, but I will keep everyone informed. Everything is okay, I’m okay, and I will text and call anyone that wants to talk to me directly. I love you all, please don’t worry!

Cursed Child – Parts 1 & 2

By some crazy miracle, I was able to get tickets through an app here in London called TodayTix to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two! Tickets cost hundreds of pounds (like Hamilton) and all of a sudden the app opened up bundles to see both shows back to back for significantly cheaper, so my friend Charlie and I snatched them up in time and got to go! The two of us are HUGE Harry Potter fans and she was the perfect companion because of that.

The background on this show is that in 2016, a spin-off sequel to the series was published as a play with J. K. Rowling’s permission. At the time, I happened to be touring colleges on the East Coast after my summer program at Yale, and driving through a remote town in New Jersey (on the day it came out) I saw a copy of it displayed in a local shop owner’s window. I shrieked, yelled at my mom to stop the car, and she immediately pulled over. She and Talia were both angry with me for scaring them, but I was too excited, having waited a long time for the script to be released. When I explained, they knew I had to go buy the copy, so we went straight in and bought one. I remember being upset that I couldn’t read it right away in the car because I needed to pay attention to the areas that could potentially be my college town. I read it in an hour that night in our hotel, and absolutely hated it. From the die-hard Harry Potter fans I’ve talked to, I’m not alone. The plot had used so many recycled themes and ideas on top of circumstances that would never come to be in the first place. I was really disappointed and upset that people might take this sequel as chronological fact, because Rowling didn’t even write it. To me it was a media-glorified piece of fan fiction. Time goes by and it gets produced into a stage play, split into two shows meant to see consecutively in the same day or in two days (hence, Part 1 and Part 2) – with a ton of controversy surrounding the black actress who was cast to play Hermione – wins six Tony Awards in 2018 including Best Play, and I start to catch on just how much of a live spectacle the show is. In 2018, I no longer shunned the play but thought of it as an astounding piece of theatre. Fast forward to the present, and I pounce on tickets.

Last night Charlie and I walked over to the theatre, collected our tickets for both parts at the box office, and waited in line outside to have our bags searched, our bodies scanned, and our tickets checked in order to enter the premises. Once we got inside, all the ushers had on their house scarves and lanyards, and kindly directed us to our amazing seats! They were right in the center in the balcony. The show was absolutely astonishing; the magic presented on stage had our jaws dropped to the floor, both of us wanting to grab the other in our excitement of what we were seeing. It was about two hours long with an intermission (where I bought ice cream and a show sweatshirt, of course), and the end of Part One left off with some thrilling feats of tech and a cliffhanger. We left absolutely giddy, I was full of adrenaline and Charlie was in tears, and made our way back to the flat. Part Two tonight was just as incredible, but I had to go without Charlie because it was her dad’s birthday and they flew out to be with her. She was sad at not being able to go, but it looks like she’ll be able to get a ticket to just the second half soon, so it will all work out! After the performance, the cast bowed six times before exiting, and my brain went on high alert to get to the stage door as soon as possible. I put on my coat and grabbed my purse, and started to make my way down this gorgeous grand staircase when it happened. I fell. Skillfully, as it turned out, but I fell. My foot slipped from not being able to see the stair very well, and so I slipped down onto my left leg and started sliding down the staircase; I was gaining speed pretty fast and needed to stop, so I flipped myself completely over and grabbed the stairs to stop myself. So, I went from standing, to sliding, to staring my threat right in the face. About four inches away. I must say, it was pretty smooth. I have pretty good reflexes and by now I’m used to falling over. I was lucky that there was no one directly in front of me or I would have completely taken them out, too; as it was, everyone around me froze in horror and immediately tried to help, asking if I was okay. Honestly, I think they were just shocked I was able to stop myself. With the adrenaline in trying to get to the stage door, I stood up, said “oh, I’ve had worse,” and ran out of the theatre. I mean, it’s true! That left people speechless a second time because I was so nonchalant about the whole incident. As I’m finding out now, the bruise is going to be pretty bad; it already hurts a lot to walk, so yet again my left side has been beaten up.

At the stage door, I got very lucky. Some actors came out to a small crowd of around 25 people, which is not at all what I was expecting; I think it’s because most people were tourists and they don’t know to come to the stage door. Four actors came out, including my favorite! He played Scorpius (Draco Malfoy’s son), and I got to talk to him for a few minutes, get a picture (and a hug!), and have him sign my program. He’s fresh out of drama school, so it was really awesome to meet someone who’s one step ahead of where I dream to be, not to mention humble. I left feeling giddy with all of their signatures and thanks for seeing the show, and I’ll remember this as one of my fondest memories from London. I still don’t agree with the script, but seeing it live was one of the most incredible stage marvels I’ve ever experienced, and I view it as a fun spin-off rather than cold hard fact. I would highly recommend this show to any Harry Potter fan, but the more you know about the series, the more things you’ll catch! Everything except a Snitch, that is.

12 Days of Tea – #4

The fourth tea I’ve tried was the Irish Breakfast, and it’s been my least favorite. A dark brown color, it really just tasted like bitter black tea with an odd aftertaste. It was also extremely strong, so if I were to make it again I wouldn’t steep it as long. I did add milk to this one, which did not take any of the taste away because it was only one sharp flavor, and that really helped to make it creamy and more enjoyable. However, I probably would not choose to drink it again. 3/10

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Theatre in London

I’ve been here just over a month, and have probably seen around a dozen shows already, both with and without my class. Living in London trying to mold into the culture has really shown me just how integral theatre is in everyone’s lives. New shows are opening left and right with advertisements everywhere, and people are always talking about them. I can speak to pretty much anyone on the street or in a shop or restaurant and discuss theatre with them: what they’ve seen, what they liked, what’s coming out soon, etc. The other day I was walking down the road and two guys passed by me, one asking the other, “is Wicked at Victoria right now?” In California it can be really expensive to see good theatre, or at least the theatre that people hear about, which are touring broadway musicals; most people don’t go and don’t care because they don’t know how incredible it can be. Or worse, they have no idea there is a differentiation between plays and musicals. The number one question I’m asked as an actress when someone finds out is “Oh! So do you sing?” What they are really asking is can I sing, but when I tell them I don’t sing or dance most people look very confused, as if wondering how I could possibly be an actress if I don’t do either of those things. In London, when people find out, their faces light up and they reply, “Oh, that’s wonderful! I hope I’ll see you in something one day!” The first is not an insult to me because people simply don’t know, but it has always made me sad that more members of my community haven’t experienced the joy, anger or heartbreak of a great live play. Reading one doesn’t count; plays are meant to be seen. It’s been heart-warming surrounded by people who see the possibility of me becoming what I’ve always dreamed of.

Seeing so many shows on various days of the week, I can honestly say there is no difference between crowds. Theaters are just as full on Tuesday night as they are on Saturday, and people generally arrive an hour before to sit in the theater’s cafe and socialize; when the show is about to begin, everyone orders drinks and snacks and goes to sit down. No one ever comes in late, and if you leave during the performance there is no re-admittance. The food and drink surprised me because that is typically only allowed in movie theaters in the U.S., but no one is ever loud or obnoxious with their food, and the theater is the same level of cleanliness as a non-food theater in California. People are respectful of the artists before them and the atmosphere is a wonderful one to be a part of. At intermission, the traditional snack to get is a mini tub of ice cream; at my second or third show when I kept seeing vendors with the same brand of something, I asked what it was and the lady looked surprised I didn’t know it was ice cream. “Do you not buy ice cream at the interval in the States?” She asked. No. No we don’t. I’d get kicked out if I brought ice cream in a theater. The level of sophisticated attire varies according to where the venue is located, but no one is ever sloppily dressed, like I witnessed in New York when we saw Aladdin. It was horrendous.

At the end of each show, people only stand if they feel the performance deserved it, and copies of the play (especially ones that just premiered) can be purchased at a kiosk. Only the big touring broadway shows will have T-shirts to purchase; if you’d like a souvenir, you can either buy the play or the program (which are not free like they are in the U.S.). After all of this, people can head to the Stage Door outside the building to wait for the actors to come out, and all the ones I’ve met have been so incredibly kind and humble, and willing to sign my tickets! Starring in a show is a different kind of famous than being in a blockbuster movie; the actors actually get to lead normal lives in London because people respect their time and their privacy, yet they still have their moments with fans after every show. If I were ever to be “famous,” I’d want it to be from that. All I want as an actress is to make a consistent living doing what I love, and if people appreciate my work, all the better.

Edinburgh📍

Two weekends ago the university took us to Edinburgh, Scotland, for the weekend! We took a train up early Friday morning, having to wake up at 4:30am to catch our train and arriving in the city around 11:20. It is absolute insanity trying to roll a small suitcase and backpack across cobblestone roads when there’s a hundred other people doing the same thing, all averaging walking like they have zombies chasing them; but I suppose none of them have to go to physical therapy twice a week, so they can run at top speed without a care in the world. The biggest challenge of this was when we arrived in Edinburgh because we were slapped in the face with harsh cool wind and hills. I’m not used to hills. London doesn’t have hills. No one said there would be hills. I battled against the hills for a few blocks until we arrived at our hostel, then three flights of stairs laughed in my face. 

After we all stored our luggage (check-in wasn’t until 2:00), the PA’s let us loose to go get lunch and come back to get room assignments. We walked outside and went to explore in search of food, and for the first time I really saw the city. It was gorgeous. Everything reminded me of St. Paul’s cathedral, but before the stones were cleaned. The cobblestone was uneven, the buildings brushed the sky, there were cashmere stores everywhere, and a man wearing traditional Scottish attire serenaded the streets with his bagpipe playing. We rounded a corner and saw a beautiful downhill slope, showing a row of quaint shops and pubs descending into the old city. Halfway down was a mint green Mediterranean restaurant that was apparently used in a scene from one of the Avengers movies. We went in, and the food was incredible; the salmon I had was hands down the best I’ve ever had in my life. It was flavorful and fresh without being salty or fishy. The dessert was great, too. I tried baklava, and saffron and rose ice cream. 

Everyone waited in anticipation as one of the PA’s yelled out room numbers and then the names of the victims. It was anywhere between three to eight people in a room, and no one knew what they looked like or what the bathroom situation would be (everyone calls them toilets in the UK). My expectations were low but hopeful. Finally she called room 208, and it ended up being me, Nikki, and only two other girls from another school. We got lucky! Nikki and I made a mad dash to the room to try and pick beds first, and when we got in the room there were 6 beds, 3 bunk beds. We both picked bottom bunks and when the other girls arrived they chose to share the third bunk, so everything was great. It was even better when we discovered we had our own bathroom in the room! We unpacked a bit before the scheduled hike up to Arthur’s Seat, but I ultimately decided not to go. I didn’t want to push my body further after a long morning, so instead I went out by myself to explore the area and shop around because I wouldn’t get a chance to do that later. The sun peeked out for a while as I cut through alleyways, winding in an out of local shops, which was a surprise because it was scheduled to rain all day. Most of them turned out to be tourist souvenir shops, and after two hours I basically saw all of Old Town, but there was one antique store that caught my attention. I went in to the tiny store and squeezed by the only other person inside to look at a bunch of teacups and barrels of random buttons. When the gentlemen left, I moved to the counter where the jewelry was kept. I didn’t see anything I was interested in, but the aging shop owner looked so sweet that I felt compelled to speak with him. So, I asked if he had any key necklaces. He lit up immediately, running to the back of the store and returning with boxes of old keys that he suggested I turn into a necklace, but none of them sparked for me. I told him about my key collection and showed him the gold one I was wearing I got at the Louvre, and a lightbulb went off in his head. He asked me to wait while he checked one more place, and went to unlock the window to the outside display window. He returned carrying a beautiful little gold key on a small key ring, and placed it excitedly in front of me. It was stunning, delicately engraved and softly glistening with history. I asked what he knew about it, and he told me it was from the 1880’s during the Victorian Era, the key ring certainly made of gold and the key itself of steel (but probably painted with gold). It wasn’t tarnished at all. When I asked what it may have gone to, he examined it and said because it had a small hole in the end, it was most likely used for winding a watch or opening a small jewelry box. I bought it, and the shop owner was so excited for me. I’m excited for me, too.

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After everyone got back from the hike, we went out for dinner and got fish and chips! I hadn’t had any yet, and the place we went made amazing ones, both the fish and the chips! By that time word was circulating that there was a pub crawl starting soon and going until 1:30am, but Nikki and I were already so tired and didn’t want to go, so instead we chose a pub ourselves and went there, were we relaxed with our drinks, talked, and listened to the house pianist. After a while we were craving dessert, specifically gelato, so we wandered around looking for one. The Italian place we found wouldn’t seat us just for gelato, so we ended up going to an “American” restaurant and ordering regular ice cream. It was delicious anyway.

The next morning we woke up early to go downstairs for the free breakfast, where I had coffee, chocolate croissants and yogurt. Soon after we had to get ready to hop on a bus because they were taking us to St. Andrews! The bus ride was about an hour and a half with breathtaking countryside scenery. I’ve never seen greener grass. It actually reminded me a lot of Arkansas and how much my grandparents would love it. I suddenly really wished I could unload my four wheeler and take off on the Scottish highlands, no matter how much the wind would hurt. 

We got off the bus at 11:00 to be back at 3:00, and right there was the coast and the birthplace of golf. We headed straight to the beach, and looking out over the sea was something I didn’t realize I missed. I’m more of a pool person, but growing up in California I feel like I see the beach all the time. This one was different, though. The ocean was a light grey color, and jagged northern rocks jutted out of the coastline. The wind was swirling by us, incredibly cold and strong, sometimes making it difficult to hold my balance. We went down to the beach and climbed up the giant rocks, and it felt like we were at the edge of the world. The wind was worse up there, but I felt powerful being able to climb around and adventure on a Scottish beach. By the time we left and went through the small golf museum (which was really special for Nikki because she played varsity golf in high school) we were starving! We walked up the Main Street of the old town, which felt so much older and quieter than Edinburgh. For lunch we ate at a nice little cottage called “Doll’s House,” and apart from the waitress being completely clueless it was good. That was a theme for almost every single restaurant this weekend; every server we had took forever and pushed both of us to the breaking point multiple times. 

With the time we had left, we ventured over to the ruins of St. Andrews castle, built circa 1200. When we passed through the teller onto the grounds of the ancient castle, it immediately felt like a museum with a rich history surrounding us that demanded our attention and respect. The sky turned grey and started to drizzle, so we plopped open our umbrellas and sloshed around in the vibrant grass. Rain in the UK so far has been a peaceful event, and I’ve come to not care so much as long as I have my umbrella or raincoat. I’m learning that emotions connected to weather is mostly a state of mind; I can’t control how the sun makes me happy, but I can control how much the rain makes me gloomy. Nikki and I explored the ruins, climbing up narrow staircases onto balconies, walking into dungeons, and even going underground to an old mine. That was the coolest part because we had to crouch down significantly to fit through the first half of the tunnel, then climb down a ladder to enter into the open cavern, dripping softly. The acoustics were amazing and we were the only ones in the cave. 

After we finished exploring we headed to the bus to take us back to Edinburgh, and we rode home happy listening to music. Back in our hostel, Nikki and I collapsed on our beds and rested up before deciding on a place for dinner. We had walked by an Indian food place a million times, but when we finally got our tired butts up the place was closed, so we ended up finding a small Mexican food restaurant (probably the only one in Scotland). I didn’t realize how often I eat Mexican in California until my dinner was in front of me and it felt like comfort food. It was pretty good! I’ve had better, obviously, but my only big critique was that it didn’t come with guacamole (…what?…) and the margarita was a joke. But all in all we enjoyed a nice long dinner in a quiet space. After, we went back to the hostel again, showered, rested, hung out with some people, and decided we needed dessert. Specifically, a Scottish specialty: deep-fried mars bars. A mars bar is basically just a Milky Way, and then fried. And served with ice cream. It was incredible, one of those treats you have to have eaten to know how great it is!

The next morning we woke up, went to breakfast again (I had really good porridge and a chocolate croissant), packed up and stored our luggage, and were walked up to the Edinburgh castle in a light drizzle. They gave us a few hours to explore the castle and get lunch before meeting back at the hostel to reclaim our luggage and train back. The castle was beautiful in a different way than the others have been. It’s easy to say, “oh, I’ve seen a million castles, I don’t need to see another one,” but each one feels completely different if you let your surroundings affect you and spend a moment thinking about where you are and who came before. Looking out over Edinburgh, I couldn’t help but feel how a monarch must have felt: an immense need to do the right thing because people were depending on me. It’s very powerful to put yourself in someone else’s mind and take on their emotions because it forces you to grow as a person; that’s why I’m an actress, it’s an ever-growing craft that forces me to think about life and human relationships. Winding through the castle, I got to walk through the halls that Mary Queen of Scots did, viewing portraits and delicate embroidery until I stumbled into a family crest look-up room. Talia and I have done 23 and Me, so we know that our family is British, Irish, French and German primarily, but we never knew if our last name came from Beachum, Beacher, or was always Beach. Looking through the books, I found our name: Beach. On the computer I pulled up my family crest, and I gasped because there were two giant lions on either side of it, which was typically reserved for royalty. I read the paragraphs explaining the history of the name, and it turns out that the first Beach was quite a high up Noble who accompanied William the Conqueror to England in 1066. (Later we would visit the Tower of London, and walking around those grounds made me wonder on which spots of land my ancestor stood.) I left the castle giddy, and my friends and I decided to eat lunch in a place called the Elephant Cafe because J. K. Rowling wrote a lot of the Harry Potter series in there! The service was terrible, but the tea and dessert was wonderful. The lady at the checkout finished our transactions, and without missing a beat looks at me and says, “for three?” I said, “for us? We just payed.” She looked dumbstruck and confused, so we left as fast as possible. That was my last straw with service in Scotland, and quite honestly my friends are lucky I didn’t snap at her right there in the restaurant. 

Pulling my luggage back to the train station was easier this time because it was downhill most of the time, and the ride back was pleasant. I love trains because it’s so easy to get up and walk around and there’s so much more room than an airplane. Four hours feels like nothing on a train but a lifetime on a plane. Arriving back in London, I had that same feeling of home as I did after Paris, and I flopped back down on our flat sofa and sat in awe of the weekend, mulling over everything that just happened so fast. 

St. Paul’s Cathedral

We toured St. Paul’s and went to the top! FOR FREE! My friend Charlie an her mom met a guy a year or so ago at a hotel in the States, and he told them he worked at St. Paul’s. When they found out they were both in London, he offered to give her and a few of her friends a free exclusive tour, seeing things the general public isn’t allowed to, and take us to the top. I was one of the lucky people who got to go, and the cathedral was absolutely stunning from the moment we walked in. He showed us around the floor level of the church, pointing out meanings of stained glass windows, spiting out facts about the materials used to build the massive building, and even brought photos of damage bombs did to the monument during World War II. Then he took us into the places the public can’t go, and it was like we were in a movie investigating a crime; he took us through cobweb secret stairways with doors a foot shorter than me on either end and just wide enough for my shoulders, inside the ceiling so that we walked beside two of the domes, a room with piles of stones from past versions of the cathedral (which we got to TOUCH) and even to an enclosed section of the roof. It was incredible to peer through the high stained glass window looking down into to the church rather than being inside three stories down looking up. He also had the key to the room which holds the original model of the cathedral presented to the king for review centuries ago. At the time, it cost the equivalent of a house today to build and was made completely out of wood. He trusted us not to touch it (which we didn’t) and pointed out fun facts on the huge model, which the public only gets to see photographs of. We then started our climb to the top – and believe me when I say the number of stairs we had to climb was insane – he took us up the staircase that Warner Bro’s. used to film a scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (the one where Luna yells at Harry to stop and listen to her as he’s running up to the Ravenclaw common room searching for the diadem), so naturally I freaked out. I got to stand where they stood to film! It was crazy. The top of the cathedral showed the most amazing view of the city, and according to our tour guide it’s even better than the London Eye. I’m going to trust him on that one, since the Eye will be closed the whole time we are here and I don’t want to believe I’m missing out. We took photos at sunset, which felt magical, and that concluded our three hour personal tour of St. Paul’s.