It's Really Israel?

Eilat, Israel. Possibly my favorite place so far! Where do I begin?! 

Well, I was still in the Navy, it was one of our port calls. We had our typical 4 days of freedom in any one country. Everyone always darted for the first bar. But not me. I head straight for the beach. This beach was like no other. It was skinny, the sand running curved around the turquoise water. I don't ever remember it being packed, which was nice. I find a good spot, set my stuff down and head straight for the water. It's perfect. The sun had been warming it up all day. The people are SO nice, too! Most countries are nice to us, especially the guys, because they all want to marry a Navy guy and go back to the States, but the Israelis are so genuine. 

 There was no barrier between the sand and the street. You could walk straight up to a strip mall, and countless bars and restaurants. 

 

After I soak up enough Vitamin D, I decide to go check out the mall. It's your typical outlet mall, plus a ton of touristy souvenir shops. I meet up with a few friends, who are about to get a fish pedicure, in the middle of the mall. They have us put our feet in a small fish tank and these little fishies eat the dead skin off, at their leisure! It definitely tickled, and if you think about it, pretty gross and gnarly! I need a drink after this!

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We decide on a pub called "Three Monkeys". Half the ship is there, already drunk.

Go figure.

My friends and I grab a table outside on the patio, still enjoying the breeze as it slowly starts to get dark out. Soon enough, I have to pee. As I make my way from the patio to the bathroom, I have to squiggle through everyone crowding the bar. That results in me bumping into a group of corpsman (navy medics) and they all drunkenly insist on including me in their next round of shots.

Eh, one shot, no big deal, I think, as I agree. They respond by cheering me on and walking me up to the bar. I forget the name of this drink, and if yo know it, kudos to you. The bartender gets some coffee liqueur, and some absinthe, and does something to the glass, and starts swirling it around while tilting it. I'm pretty amazed, then he lights it on fire. Not expecting that! I felt like a cartoon character that got blown up and lost her eyebrows! (They were still there, in case you were wondering). Anyway, so we have to drink these bad boys while they're still hot, it was the weirdest feeling! Also, having never had absinthe before, my stomach felt like shit after. I don't recommend it, lol. 

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The next day, we head out to the Dead Sea. Legend has it, and it's been scientifically proven that the salt content is so high that we can float on top of the water! It's so cool! It feels like we're the only people left on earth while we're there! The vast space around us makes us feel small. 

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Next, is Jerusalem. It's packed with so much culture, architect, and history, my heart actually skips a beat. Again, I feel small surrounded by all these huge structures. We see camels walk by as if that's the norm here, as they kick up dirt and let kids play on and around them. The rest of our free time we wonder around all the shops and the outside kiosk stands. A few of us go get tattoos, because why not? We weren't really supposed to, per the Navy, but that has never stopped us! I decide to get two of the elements, water and earth, because that's what Israel is surrounded by the most, that being my most fond memory. With his long blonde ponytail, a tall lanky guy makes us wait in line. As we wait for half of the Boatswain mates to get their ink, the owner of the shop (homeboy with the ponytail) has everyone take 2 shots minimum before he inks us. Now normally, artists won't tattoo you if you've been drinking, but apparently this is an exception. I try a local drink that's some sort of mint lemonade concoction. It's delicious. I think it's called Limonana, but I could be wrong! Anywhom, I decide on my feet for the tattoos. These are my souvenirs. While most people stick with a shot glass, or fridge magnet, I decide to get something that I can take everywhere and add to my own collection!

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Here's a few more pictures!

Stay tuned for my next adventure!

Until next time! 

Drunk off Butter Beer

     Not really, I wish!  

While visiting Norway, I was talking with my friend Katie, and she told me that she was visiting her cousin in London the same time. What were the odds we were in Europe during the same month after not seeing each other in two years! We did some research and went to Paris for a day which is another post in my blog, with some awesome pictures! On our way back from  Paris we got tickets to go to the Harry Potter movies it back in London.  It was so cool! It was definitely something I got to check off my bucket list that wasn’t even on it!

 

 

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       We take a bus to the studio, and we are so excited when we get there. With our tickets in hand, and after taking pictures of the entrance (obviously), we make our way inside. We have to wait in line with a medium sized crowd, and there is a video playing up on the wall that we get to watch before we go in. It showed how J. K. Rowling got inspired and used to doodle on a napkin, and how the world of Harry Potter blew up from there.  While watching this video tour, We also get to see the Cupboard Under the Stairs movie prop! It's sitting to the left, blocked in behind velvet ropes, we obviously can’t touch it but everyone is snapping pictures, including us,  as well as an elementary school class that are all first in line.

 

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After the excitement of that wears down, we see a cute girl in braided pigtails and a dark green, collared shirt and a name tag on, step up on a tiny platform. She directed us into a room to the right. No one knows what to expect, but it's obvious we're all excited. We crowd in, and she goes over a few rules, like no touching, try not to crowd anything for too long, etc. then, the lights get dim, and a pinkish-purple light comes on. Everyone turns around to see the entrance to it all...The Door. It felt like that scene on the original Willy Wonka when they go through the teeny tiny door and when they walk through, the next room is enormous. Not that the door was small, because it was freaking huge, but because the inside was even bigger. 

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As we make our way through, it doesn't seem real. I've seen the movies countless times, and have read the books more than I'm proud to admit, but to actually be standing in The Dining Hall?! There's no way. This can't be real. Imagine a gut-wrenching moment, a positive one, like winning an award, for example. That's how it felt walking in. All the house tables are here, each dinner plate set just right. Of course, the benches to all the tables are roped off with the same dark red velvet. But it's still SO cool! As I make my way around, Katie is somewhere on the other side. Working my way to the back of the room, I literally almost run into The Sorting Hat. It's on a stand, and it look dirty and beat up, and bigger than I imagined, but awesome nonetheless. There's also a fe mannequins with costumes on, as if the professors were standing in their perspectives spot like in the movies. I snap a few pictures as we move along.

Our "tour guide" let's us know that the next room is where most of the props are, and that we are free to roam. She also let us know that when we;re done, there's a door in the back that leads to a cafe that serves butter beer. Hell. Yes. I'm so pumped.

We make our way through another set of doors, into what seems like a huge warehouse. All the props are right next to each other, either enclosed in glass (mainly the smaller props) or set up on ledges. There's a camera flashing like every 5 seconds as families and friends take a million pictures of each thing, including Katie and I, Katie with her selfie stick haha! It all seems so surreal. I mean, here I am, looking straight at the Deluminator, and the Sorcerer's Stone, and then I turn the corner and see Hagrid's Hut, right next to the Mauder's Map. 

We also see The Invisibility Cloak, The Mirror of Erised, The Time Turner, even Tom Riddle's diary, with the Balisk tooth. There's also a glass box with everyone's wands in a big circle, each with their names. 

There's a room off to the side, and as Katie and I wander over there, it keeps going. It ends up being more sets, bigger one, like Gringotts, The Gryffindor Common Room, the dorm beds, a wall of "talking" pictured, even Dumbledore's "secret" door. 

 

There's still so much to see, but it was a little overwhelming. In a good way. But the hunger bandit strikes us both, and I'm dying to get some butter beer. So we head towards the cafe. There's nothing too great about it. Just sandwhichs and drinks....and of course, butter beer. We notice an outside area, and after we inhale our food, we decide to go take a look. Outside, in a small enclosed area, we see even more props. Ones that wouldn't really fit inside, even in a warehouse. We see James' and Lily's house, and 4 Privet Drive. to the right of that, was the car. I don't think it was roped off, letting kids sit in it for pictures. 

As we leave, and think it's over, there's still one more section! It seems like it never ends! As we walk into the room, we see The Hogwarts Express! Just as advertised! It's roped off, but as you walk from the front to the back, you can see the candy cart, some mannequins, and even a trace on the window of a heart and initials from when Lavender expressing her love for Ron. It was great!

Then, next to the train, was Tom Riddle's parents grave, along with a wall of the school rules, and a small section of the potion's classroom.

The coolest part, for me, at least, was seeing a mini version of Hogwarts. It was a huge, mini castle. Talk about an oxymoron! 

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Imagine having this as a dollhouse as a kid! This was definitely my favorite thing, by far. 

I'm glad you enjoyed your tour! If you ever go to London, I highly recommend this, even if you're not that into Harry Potter! 

Stay excellent! <3

 

Hurry Up Hong Kong

     After being out to sea for what seemed like forever, we hear the news that we can finally see land. We're on our way to Hong Kong for a few days while on deployment, and pass the Philippines on our way there. As they announce over the intercom that land is finally in view, everyone stops what they're doing to go get a glimpse of land far off in the distance. It's foggy out, and it's torture. They were teasing us with land just out of reach. As the Philippines fade away as the ship continues to make its way through the gray water, we see bigger mountains on the horizon as the ship moves slowly, heading towards the pier. Or maybe the mountains were the same size as the others, we were just getting closer. We can start to make out a Ferris wheel and the makings of what seemed to be a park hiding in the fog. It's freaking Disney Land! Right on the coast, spread out near the water. If that didnt get everyone excited, I don't know what would have! Except real food, being on dry land, not working, a real bed, a beer (or 5) and fresh air. After being cooped up on a ship, anything seemed exciting.

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     When we finally have some freedom explore everything Hong Kong has to offer, our first stop is Disneyland! I’ve actually never been to Disney here in the states but the one in Hong Kong is very small, it was its 10 year anniversary when we went and it was one of the coolest  things ever! They have a whole section dedicated to Toy Story where everything was enourmous, and it made you feel like the size of a toy. We went on space Mountain and around the world,  and we also went to the one restaurant they had at the park and when we got the receipt, the entire thing was in Chinese 😂

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 Walking around the streets of Hong Kong is just as cool as Disneyland. It felt like the entire city was one giant farmers market, and everything is super fast pace but also gorgeous.  

 

 

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     One of our next stops is.....Buddha!  I honestly don’t even know if any of these pictures  can do it justice, it was amazing. Sitting up on a hill, he is hard to miss, but once you walk up to him he is so immaculately enormous, I literally got shivers! It was such a cool experience! Obviously the area was flooded with tourists and cameras going off left and right and I definitely joined in with that.

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        We spend the rest of the time exploring the street and see some crazy things that you would never see here, like construction workers climbing bamboo ladders and grids up the sides of buildings, and having meat markets with rats on sticks like Shish-kebabs, it’s insane! A few of us end up going to the tallest bar in the world, I wish I got a picture but I didn’t. 😩  it was a cool experience, it’s obviously super high-end fancy bar/club and we walk in with hoodies and jeans on haha. I don’t even think we buy any drinks because theyre triple the price because of where we were at. 

All in all, I would definitely go back to Hong Kong. It’s a beautiful city, with so many hidden treasures! We were only there for a few days, so we had to squeeze everything back to back, but it was so worth it!  Below are some more of my favorite pictures of the rest of our stay! I definitely want to give credit to some of these amazing pictures to my friends Jen, Monty, and James! I didn’t take as many pictures, but now I wish I had! I was too busy getting lost and getting tattooed! 

Stay tuned to read and see the wonders of Israel! 

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Three Days in Thailand

 

        I'll always remember that wanderlust feeling the first time I went out of the country. Yes, it was in the Navy while under strict rules of where to go and how people people went with you, but it was still a magical feeling. Only a small percentage of the world's population gets to actually experience other cultures. Seeing it all in movies just isn't the same.

       Our first stop was Pattaya, Thailand. Now, naval vessels, regardless of the size, typically pull up to a dock, tie the ship down and (eventually) let everyone walk off the brow and go explore. Thailand, however, didn't have a dock big enough, so we had to anchor the ship out a few miles and have little beat-up party boats come pick us up. The boats could only hold so many of us, so we waited in line for what seemed like forever. 

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        Eventually, we were next in line. We see the little double-decker party boat come to get us, with 3 skinny, very tan Thai guys running the show. They honestly didn't really seem to know what they were doing, which made a few of us skeptical to step on. Our suspicions deemed true later on, as we passed another boat full of sailors and their boat had crashed into a bridge. Fortunately no one was hurt, and everyone had to climb up over the boat and onto the bridge to get out, which turned into an awesome story for the books!

        Pattaya is beautiful, full of bars, ladyboys, and short little Thai men shoving knock-off sunglasses in your face until you by some. Of course, the first thing we all want is beer after being out to sea for so long. With plenty of bars to choose from, we choose the biggest one we could find. All the restaurants and bars are outside, which was cool. Made it feel more open. Before we got to said bar though, I kid you not, we had at least 7 different Thai guys shoving briefcases full of everything from knock-off DVDs, to lasers, tasers, flasks, and sunglasses. You can say 'no thank you' twenty times and try to walk away all you want, they literally follow you for 2 blocks before they give up. They are the worst bargainers I've ever met, too! A cheap, fake pair of Oakley sunglasses for 60 baht is the first offer. You politely decline, then all of a sudden the sunglasses are 10 baht, now 5 baht. Which is really cheap, their dollar is only 25 cents to us, but we just didn't need sunglasses.

        Another cool thing was all the carts they had on the streets that had grubs, bugs and scorpions for you to eat. Fried, seared, whatever you could think of. I couldn't build up enough courage to try any, but I watched some of the guys literally deep throat a huge fried scorpion (gross!) and they thought that they were so badass...which I mean, they kind of were after doing that!

        Now, when you think of Thailand, one of the question that probably pops up is, "what about Ladyboys? Is it really that bad?" 

Yes.

        Mainly for the guys though, us girls just got to enjoy watching all the guys squirm as the waitresses flirted hardcore with them, but these 'girls' were obviously packing different stuff down there. That, and you could mainly tell because they were taller and you can just tell by their bodies too. They tried so hard, which was funny at first, but then we all had to get each others backs and nicely ask them to back off. They love them some sailors though! 

        Since we were only there for a few days, we tried to make the most of it. So after our night of drinking super cheap beer, we decided to go to the Hard Rock Cafe for some hangover food and figure out our next plan.

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               This is  probably one of my favorite pictures (above), I just love the colors, the lights, and the texture, just the whole aspect. This was taken that night though, as The Hard Rock became everyone's meeting point. When we walked into the lobby and wait to be seated, there's a neon sign that said NO DRUGS OR NUCLEAR WEAPONS ALLOWED INSIDE. It was a serious sign, too! It was pretty cool though, no one was expecting to see that in a restaurant. 

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               As we scarf down our burgers, we decide on the idea of going to ride elephants. It was one of the tours the ship found and offered to those who wanted to do it. So we take a truck/cart to what seems like the middle of nowhere. We end up at a little shack where these 3 women were making beautiful blankets. There was also some hand-made jewelry and knick-knacks as well. This was the first stop on our tour before the elephants. In order to get to them, we had to take a raft boat across a small body of water. We saw fish and other things coming up to say hi, and all the birds were curious as well. 

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         As we finally arrive, we see other sailors already there, up in what looks like a tree house. Wondering why they're up there, we see the elephants on their way. They are so cute!! Thai or Asian elephants aren't quite as big as African elephants, and they aren't gray, they're brown. So no big ass elephants from Tarzan, sadly. So in order to get on the elephant, we had to climb up to the platform (tree house) to step on. Two people per elephant, my friend and I step on cautiously. They tell us her name is Roxanne, and hand us a bag of tiny bananas that we're allowed to feed her. (Me and Roxanne below. She was very photogenic!)

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        As we start our journey, the little Thai guy that is riding on the front of elephant to direct it, tells us if we want to, we can give her some bananas. so we would just hold one up in the air, and she somehow knew it was there and reached her trunk up and grabbed it so gracefully. It wasn't scary at all! She loved them too! There was 6 elephants including the one I was on, that went with us. They moved slow, just like you'd imagine, but they also (on their own) try to race each other and be first. As I tried to hand Roxanne another banana, one of the other elephants snuck up and slithered his trunk into my hand first and took her banana, swung it down to his mouth and pretended to have no idea what just happened haha! They're really smart, let me just say that.

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       We came to a small part of a river that we got to cross, which was really neat, the elephants loved it as much as we did due to the hot weather.

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        As we came back to land, my elephant decided to be different and take another path through the tall grass and veered off away from the rest to go poop haha! After we made it through the grass, we see the rest of them all in a line waiting for us, and it was literally the coolest scene!

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As we headed back, with no more bananas to share, they had a dinner set up for us. Steam was seeping out of one of the two buffet lines they had set up (the other was full of fruits and desserts) and there were two long wooden picnic table to the left of all the food. They made all the Thai food you could think of, as well as fried chicken, french fries, and other Americanized food for us. It was some of the best food I've ever had! There was a little gift shop about the size of a walk-in closet that we all stopped in before we finally got on the bus and said goodbye. 

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        Thus was our Thailand adventure in the short amount of time we had, and it was a time I'll never forget! Definitely memories to last a life time! See you on my next adventure! 

A Hectic Day in Paris

          During my stay in Norway last year, one of my good friends Katie, who I served with in the Navy, happened to be visiting her cousin in London. Our paths almost crossed, being in Europe in the same month. So, we thought it'd be an awesome idea to go to France for a day, then take a train to London to go check out The Harry Potter movie set. So I buy a $70 plane ticket, and she hops on a train and we meet in the city of fashion, love and lights. After my quick plane ride from the clean, not so crowded, friendly people from Norway, I'm trying to find my way out of the airport in France and finally make it outside to the streets of Paris. Expecting to see scenes from The Devil Wear Prada, and any other movie that has parts that take place in France, I'm a little disappointed. The streets are grimy, there's tons and tons of homeless people of every race up and down the street, and it's raining. I love the rain, don't get me wrong, but in this setting, it wasn't ideal. So up goes my hounds tooth umbrella as I venture off in the rainy streets of Paris. Then, I start noticing that it is kind of like the movies. All the fancy stores that you couldn't pronounce with gorgeous clothes and jewelry that cost more than my rent for an entire year, as far as the eye could see, but as soon as you look down at the actual streets, it's the complete opposite. Trash everywhere, caked up dirt and who knows what else.

          I finally find the little cafe across the street my friend and I decide to meet at. We hadn't seen each other in a few years, but I could still spot her standing there in her rain coat with her hood up, her leggings on, and wearing her comfy memory foam shoes under her umbrella with a big smile on her face as she waits for me to cross the street. Starving, we go inside and sit down. Now, the thing with the french, and other places as well, if you don't at least try to speak french, they are 10x more rude to you than if you actually try. The french are assholes. Even if you're absolutely horrible at trying to speak their language, at least you're attempting to do it. So, sounding very American, we say every syllable of 'Merci' as they hand us our menus. Knowing we only have a limited amount of hours before we take a train back to London, we order food we know, not bothering with any french cuisine, figuring we'd get some later. So I end up getting a burger and fries, and she gets a hot dog with fries. Now, when you order a burger with fries in Paris, that's literally all you get. A pile of french fries (which was highly humorous getting french fries in France, although to them, they were just fries haha) and then literally just a burger patty on top of the fries. No bun, lettuce, onion, tomato, cheese, nothing. Same for her hot dog. Which technically is what we ordered, a burger and fries, so could we really get mad? A lot of other countries don't eat as much as Americans, and by that, I mean both how many meals a day, and food portions for each meal. Every country I've been too, has very small plates, and small food portions, which is normal, we just eat a lot.

          Katie is a very organized person, and had the entire day on an itinerary that she typed out herself, binder and all. We do the most tourist-thing imaginable, and after we get done eating our francias potatoes, we wait outside in the sprinkling rain for the Hop On, Hop Off Tour Bus. It went around to about 16 stops, all the most toursity, and well known places of Paris. Before you ask, yes, it was a double deck bus, what else?! A big red bus takes us from stop to stop, in the gloomy, foggy day. We stop at the Lourve, take our fair share of selfies (she also brought a selfie stick, which actually turned out pretty handy!) Unfortunately there's such a long line and $25 to go down inside to see The Mona Lisa, and we are on a time crunch. So we take our selfies in front of The Lourve, and continue on our adventure.

          We pass Ferris wheels, gold statues, golden gates leading to ginormous, incredibly detailed buildings, and so much more. It's all so architectural and beautifully engineered.  

          After a few hours of sight-seeing this incredible city, we finally saw it. I'll always remember how excited we got the first time we saw the Eiffel Tower off in the distance, barely visible through the fog. But, I mean, who wouldn't be pumped about that?! That's why you go to France, right? So, the Eiffel Tower is one of the stops, we just weren't quite over there yet. But we keep seeing glimpses of it when the bus turns. We eventually just have our cameras ready to be able to snap a picture of it on a moments notice. 

          As we get closer, we decide that that should be our main goal/destination, to go up into the Eiffel Tower. So, the stop finally comes and we walk up towards it, so excited, but trying not to look too touristy. But we can't help but take pictures of us with it in the back round. Everyone was doing it, with or without selfie sticks, so we don't really care anymore. There's a chain link fence around it, (like that'd stop anyone) and a security area. Security was a joke though. We stand in line for literally 5 minutes, pay $12 to go through, they look at our backpacks and wave us through.

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          Once we make it through, we can walk right under the Eiffel Tower. It's really cool, the view is insane!! It's smaller that I imagine though. It's a massive structure, but I envisioned it to be bigger, from movies. It's also a dark brown, rusty color, not black, as some people may think. I snap all the pictures of all the angles I can think of to show everyone.

          Since it's so cloudy out, we decide to only go to the second level, out of the three, the third being the tippy top. But, we wouldn't be able to see anything with the clouds looming everywhere. So we buy our tickets for $22 and wait in line to take the orange, diagonal elevator up the side of the Eiffel Tower. By far the coolest elevator ever. If the Elevator in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory was actually a thing, that went up, down, left, right, diagonal, backwards, and whatever, this was as close to that as it got. It's a short ride, but awesome nonetheless.

          As we step off the elevator, we see two tourist stores, both with the exact same souvenirs, a macaroon shop, a bar, a bathroom and the balcony. The bathroom has the longest line, which we think is pretty funny. We step out onto the balcony and it is so breath taking. The city of Paris at our feet. I mean, we are actually inside the Eiffel Tower!! How cool is that?!

         We whip out my camera and we start taking pictures of everything we just passed on the tour bus. It all looks so small. We aren't too far up, but high enough to be ale to see for miles. It all looks so crowded down there. All the buildings seem stark white, and crammed together with a few gold pieces poking out to say hi. I feel like I'm on the chimney sweep scene of Mary Poppins as they overlook the city below. We walk around the full perimeter of the balcony and soak in the historical layout of Pairs laid out below us. 

       But what would be the point of visiting Paris and going inside the Eiffel Tower without getting some legit, real macaroons and wine? So me being a fat girl at heart, and having a sweet tooth, I buy two of each kind in the little bakery/gift shop. I'm pretty sure the brand of macaroons is a famous french brand, but I have no idea how to pronounce it. It very well may be the same brand that Chuck bought Blair when he got her all those chocolates and gifts from her favorite countries. No big deal. And there's about 7 different flavors. I honestly can't even tell you the flavors now. But I figure that Katie wants to try them too, so I get two of each.

         I also have a weird obsession with key chains, so I run into the other shop and buy a tiny coin sized Eiffel Tower key chain, that I get to say I actually got in the Eiffel Tower! Once we're back on the Double Decker bus, we sit on the top, front most seats. It feels like we're front row on a roller coaster. I start shoveling the macaroons in my mouth, one at a time, comparing all the flavors. I offer the other half to Katie, who tries like, two and says she's good. Which ends up being a good idea, cause I get a stomach ache from inhaling macaroons. But they're just so good. I literally can't help myself.

          At the end of the bus tour, we decide to just stay off the bus, and walk around. We start walking across a bridge and notice it not just any bridge. It's like, the bridge. The bridge that has all the locks from couples declaring their love, and throwing the keys into the water to make it last forever. This is shit you saw in all the movies!! And here we are!! Not even trying to find it!! There's so many locks!! So many, that people started putting locks on locks, and up on the street lamps. The more we walk and take selfies, the more we see locks on the fences and gates surrounding the bridge. A lot of people must be in love!

          Naturally, we think we have mastered the art of finding cool angles to take pictures with the selfie stick, so we take our sweet time posing, and swapping cameras to get it all just right. We even carve our names in a tree with other people's names while we wait for the city bus to take us to the train station.  

         As we come to the end of our day in Paris, however, we don't let that put a damper on our adventures. Knowing we have a two hour train ride from Paris to London, we are well prepared. The quick, little convenient store has a plethora of wine to choose from. The train is just like the airport. Once you make it through security with your ticket, you can buy whatever you want at the stores by the gates. So we find baby bottles of wine and chocolate to stock up on, and last minute souvenirs for family members. You would be surprised how difficult it is to pick the right fridge magnet, and shot glass to get everyone. We stay in that shop for a good half hour, figuring out what to get, while also trying to spend the rest of our euros. We find out seats, and buckle up. We end up drinking so much wine, I don't remember much else of the train ride. Totally kidding! It's a gnarly train ride, with a mini bar in the back. It's nicer than any plane I've ever been on. 

So off to London we go!! Ready to crash at her cousin's flat and go get drunk off butter beer in the morning at the Harry Potter movie set.

 

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The Reality and Misadventures of Oslo, Norway

          Next month it'll be one year ago that I traveled to Oslo. Two weeks, by myself, with no plan. I have just enough money, and knew I'd be broke when I got back. But that's fine with me. I keep thinking, I'd rather go to Europe, while I can, and come back broke than not have gone at all. So I pack my bags, bring more shirts than I need and head to the airport with my passport in hand and hop on a plane. For 8 hours. Eight slow, nerve-wracking hours. My mind has a bazillion tabs open at once. Me, a girl, traveling alone halfway around the world with no plan on where to go or how to get there. Arriving at the airport, and lugging my enormous suitcase to the window, the lady asks me, "Do you have any friends in Oslo?" ...Um, no. Should I?? "Well, not really.." She looks at me like I'm at getting in trouble. "Honey, do you have somewhere to stay while you're here?" I hadn't considered the couple I found on Airbnb to be friends, but nevertheless, that's what she meant. She stamps my passport (that's when it really sinks in for me) and sends me on my way. 

          After a confusing train ride, I finally arrive to the main street in Oslo, and have to find the exact apartment I'm staying at, with not so clear directions. It's a good thing the street names aren't hard to pronounce, or else it would've taken me about an hour to find. Because names like Skulpturparken are easy to read, and reference, right? After walking for what seems like forever, and looking for the right street name, I see it. Typically, when you come to an intersecting street, the whole street, either left or right, is the same street. Well, the Norwegians said screw that, lets make the left side one street name and if you turn your head to the right, on the same intersection, let's call it something completely different! Sounds like a grand idea! So I had only been looking on one side of the street. But as they say, the only way to find out where you are and how to get back, is to get lost. So that's my first adventure, two hours of being in another country. Peachy.  

          As I'm lugging my three bags through the streets, I feel really small next to all the buildings looming over me. They're all so beautiful and historical, and each one has so much detail. Arriving at the right apartment, I'm greeted by the nicest people I've ever met, along with their little Pomeranian, Molly, whose dead set I'm an intruder. No shoes allowed, I kick off my red Toms and they give me a tour. They own the entire third floor, and it's literally the coolest apartment I've ever been in. The kitchen is so high-tech, if I told you how to heat up water for tea, you wouldn't believe me. The stove top alone looks like how Back to the Future thought everything would be in 2015. A laser pops up to test the pot of water for the right temperature, and to change the temperature, you ran your finger up and down a small grid. 

          The one thing I did budget for at least, was food. I'm welcome to their kitchen, but I decide to buy my own food. Let me tell you, even their food labels are hard to decipher. I'm standing in the food aisle with my Google translate on, trying to figure all the different type of cheeses, and sandwich stuff, with absolutely no shame. Note that grape jelly literally does not exist in Norway, as I tried to be the frugal traveler and get stuff for PB&J's, but to no avail. 

          As I walk around the streets, the entire time I'm in awe. Til the very last day. It never got old. I start to feel like I'm blending in, especially since I'm surrounded by blondes, and my hair is some shade of blonde. When I look around, I realize I hadn't really seen any brunettes or black hair, or redheads, and when I did see the few brunettes, they looked out of place. I do however, notice  all the blonde, sexy guys with man buns, pushing a stroller, or with a toddler on their shoulders. That was such a normal thing, and I enjoyed every second of it! 😏

      On a really sunny day, I decide to take the train to the last stop which takes me to this huge lake with trails, and nature, all the outdoorsy stuff. Deciding to be one with nature, I decide to go off the path and into the woods. It's so peaceful, beautiful, and just all around breathtaking. Norway is definitely known for their love of nature, and it shows. However, this turns into the part of the story where I thought I was going to die (not really, but I got really freaked out). So, I'll start with this. For those of you who have not seen The Blair Witch Project, these three kids try to find a witch who lives in the woods, and get lost overnight and find these creepy, man made tee pees made out of twigs and shit right outside their tent the next morning. That being said, what really freaked me out, was as I'm admiring how vibrant all the greenery is around me, I look down and see the strangest thing. It is literally 4 feet away from me, and I still have no idea what the hell it was.

          My first thought is The Blair Witch Project. This thing is about the size of a textbook with four twigs tied together in a square with some sort of rope going around it. It was just so weird. I hadn't heard any other humans possibly hiking, or seen any signs (liter, or anything) that anyone had recently been here. Yes, I will admit, if someone reads this, and ends up telling me it's just some sort of net or something, I'll feel really stupid. But maybe being all alone in the woods in Norway made me a little paranoid, my mind takes the direction of it being something bad. I very carefully take a picture of it and I cannot make this up, as soon as look away from it, my nose starts running. Like, instant snot. At first I think it's a bloody nose, figuring that's what's supposed to happen if I were in a scary movie. Needless to say, I book it out of there. Luckily, it's around midday, which makes it a little less frightening. And that my friends, is the story of how I almost thought I was going to die. 

          As I make it back onto the main road, I drink some water, eat a cliff bar, and calm myself down. I'm out in the open, I can breathe normal again. I had my daily dose of Stranger Things for the day. But, the universe decides to throw in just one more strange thing. As I'm walking down a gravel road, I pass a few jogger, my mind is more at ease being back in semi-civilization. (I'm still near the pond where the last train stop went to) I continue walking down the path with the woods on my right and a long vibrant green field running parallel to it on the other side of the road. So as I'm walking away from the lake and the train, I all of a sudden see a line of about 25 kindergarten aged kids walking, running, and doing cartwheels through the field. I was done being weirded out, So I just keep walking. Eventually, hunger gets the best of me and I turn around.

          Now the woods are on my left. The woods are really thick at this point, and you can't see into them very well. I hear children's voices and giggles are coming from the woods as I walk by, but I don't know if I want to find out what the hell is going on. But, curiosity gets the best of me, as I look for some sort of opening in the trees. After a few minutes of feeling like I'm in the Amazon, I see all these bikes, backpacks, and jackets in a pile and to the right, the kids I saw earlier are all running around with a kickball. In the trees surrounding them there's all these cool swings and ropes everywhere they had built. If you ever went to summer camp as a kid, and did those cool activities where you tie rope around trees to make a spiderweb and you have to pass through a hole without touching the rope, that's the kind of stuff they were doing. I look for an adult (hoping I wasn't the only one), and see an older gentleman helping a little boy tie his shoe. I'm not really sure if it'd be weird, or awkward if I walked up to him and said hello, but he was the one in the woods with a bunch of kids.

          So I walk past all the kids who are now staring at me, I'm hoping this guy speaks English, and I say hi and politely and curiously ask him what all this is. He tells me (in pretty good English) that this is his class that he takes here once a week after school to do outdoor activities to help them learn about science and bugs, and team work, and so on. I thought it was really neat, once he told me. A little confused though, I guess every single one of their parents signed some sort of permission slip allowing their small children to go hang out in the woods. He was very friendly, and not some psycho who kidnapped a bunch of kids, which did cross my mind due to my previous encounter in the woods a few miles back. So, I tried to play ball with some of them, but they hadn't started learning much English yet, and they didn't really understand or just didn't want to share their kickball with some random, strange, tall lady who popped up out of nowhere in the woods. Weird. 

          The rest of my stay, I definitely make a mental note to stay in public places with plenty of people around. I get two Norwegian/Viking tattoos on my arm, I go to a concert, which wasn't very good. The entire band was very obviously tripping and I think they thought they sounded better than they did. Each Saturday down by the water they have a farmer's market with everyone in their own stands selling handmade jewelry and leather bound journals. I find a lot of awesome souvenirs that day, and meet some really rad people. After trying a lot of their food, I really just want a nice, big, cheddar bacon burger from TGI Friday's. So I go in, grab a table and order my burger and a beer. The young man about 17, brings me my food, and as I look up to say thank you, I see a gorgeous blonde man making a drink behind the bar. Like, ohmygosh, he is so cute in such a nerdy way. Imagine a blonde Clark Kent. I tell him that I promise I'm not trying to be weird, but I think you are just gorgeous, and I wanted to let you know. He blushes and takes the compliment with a laugh, says thank you very much, and then informs me that he had a girlfriend. But he did tell me he thought I was very pretty, and asked where I was from. So it all turned out to be not weird at all. I knew there were plenty of other hot blondes with their man buns all up and down the streets I could gawk at..with my sunglasses on, I don't want to look like a weirdo too much. 

          My last adventure is a favor I do for a friend. He is of direct Norwegian descent, super blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes, but unfortunately he couldn't go. Being a descendant of the Vikings, he has a natural like of heavy metal and black metal music (yes they are different). He ends up showing me a documentary on how heavy metal formed over the years in Norway, and the documentary shows this building in Oslo they used to meet up at in the 1990's and have secret meeting in the basement about..heavy metal things. They spray painted the words 'BLACK METAL' on the concrete slab of the wall, which was apparently a big deal. I won't get too into it though.

          So as a favor, I walk for half an hour to find the building which since then had been converted to a record store called Neseblod. I flip through all the records, grab some for my friend, and then realize there's a winding staircase to the basement with t-shirts and other merchandise lining the stairs, inviting you to search downstairs.

          So off I go. It ends up being a ton of old CD's in boxes, and more t-shirts and records. Then, if you didn't know about it, you totally would've skipped over it thinking it was a maintenance room, or something unimportant. But I'm on the prowl. I'm all alone down here and start looking for anything from the documentary. I peek my head around the corner and there's a hallway that looks pretty abandoned, maybe they did just turn it into the water heater area. Then an employee pops up out of nowhere and says, "Hey, you know you can just walk back there, right? Everything is still there." Like, he knew. So I totally play it off, and casually walk back there. The entire structure, ceiling, floor and walls are all concrete, forming a short tunnel that leads me through a narrow hallway into a small room that contains a coffin in the dark, left corner, and some black and silver/metallic old chair and silver paintings. There's also a random coffee can with the writing "Hell Hammer's Mask! Do not open!!" Which, is a Norwegian black metal band from the 1980's. 

Then to the left is a doorway that leads to a bigger room, and I see 'BLACK METAL' on the wall, just like the documentary. Obviously I take a selfie, and send a few snapchats, making sure to save them.

          There's even a table with a cool looking journal full of people writing hello and where they're from, and how much they love heavy metal viking music. I scribble my girly 'Hello! Laura from San Diego' with a smiley face, and head back upstairs. Records in hand, I head out the door, pretty estatic that I went somewhere I saw on television a few months prior. 

          Eventually, the time has come for me to pack up everything and head home. I literally have twice as much stuff as I brought, I had to buy another giant suitcase, and somehow manage to stuff everything in it. Back to the airport, I grab one last souvenir and mentally prepare myself for the 8 hour flight back, and going through customs. The way back always seems shorter, returning from any long distance voyage. The meal they serve on the plane is literally the worst thing I've ever had, and I was living off ship food for years. After I inhale a few granola bars to fill me up after the terrible airplane meal, we have a connecting flight in Belgium. I have barely enough time to grab an actual Belgium beer before my next connecting flight into Chicago. Since that's the flight actually going into the United States, that's where we have to go through customs. Me being a U.S. citizen, made it a little easier. I still get lost and have no idea what I'm doing. Am I supposed to declare all the sweaters and fridge magnets that I'm bringing to my friends and family? Do I have to scan my passport? What if I get lost and miss my next flight? Shit, what if I have to end up spending the night in Belgium?? My mind is going crazy. 

         After a couple hours of figuring it all out, I'm back home to the familiar sights of California. I fly into LAX, my friend picks me up and we go get chicken and waffles in LA. I showed off my two new tattoos,

and told him all the crazy things that happen when you decide to wander off to other countries with no plan whatsoever. Pretty happy with having gone to Europe and back, I doze off in his truck, thinking that I'm so glad to be home with my own things (and by that I mean my stuff I brought, along with my other suitcase so full of souvenirs that is about to burst open).      

Until our next adventure!! Stay excellent!