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California, Here We Come (Yup, Right Back Where We Started From)

Well, guess it’s time to hang up now. London called, and I indeed answered. It’s been a long four months of spotty connections and some heartfelt moments, but all in all, I’m pretty happy with how this phone call has played out–probably the most fruitful of my life, in fact.


In all seriousness, I am sitting here, at my desk with ZERO light under my loft bed that’s even higher than the one I had for my freshman dorm, and am still quite in disbelief that my semester abroad will be over in less than 24 hours. I will be at Heathrow buying my last Christmas lunch sandwich from Pret. “Right back where we started from” with Justin, Kris, Claudia and I taking our shuttle back to the airport where it all began. When Claudia

and I arrived on the group flight, it was Justin and Kristy who were still there waiting at the airport once we came through Customs. I remember saying to them, jokingly of course: “I hope we were worth the wait.” Justin assured me we were. Man, that feels like a century ago…..

Where did the time go? I remember finally having the chance to write in my journal in Hyde Park after so much time dreaming about doing just that. I remember being crowned Queen in the North in Northern Ireland. I remember RACING to make it to our Milan Malpensa flight. I remember the moment featured at the very top of this post when Claudia used her selfie stick (the only time she ever used it that I can recall this trip!) to capture our excitement and shock and amazement at finally arriving at LAX to start our study abroad journeys.

We’re still pretty much the same people (still have the blonde hair, I promise), but maybe just a little wiser. I’ve said this to my friends–I feel like I’m a lot different but also more myself than I ever would have realized. Like I’m a more “lived-in” person who can handle getting pick-pocketed and eating bad bratwurst and dealing with a kitchen that is less than ideal while also letting loose some more and soaking up every moment as much as I

can.

BECAUSE OF and DESPITE OF everything that transpired this semester, I am so, so proud to call myself a “South Londoner” and to have shared this experience with my fellow 12 Annenberg kids who definitely did not know WHAT we were getting into when we applied to this program last spring–but oh man, did Gail’s down the street from Accent appreciate our business every morning. Ooh I will SO miss their scones and cappuccinos!

Well then, how did we manage to wrap up our last week of living life on the South Bank? Prior to studying for finals, we hit up Camden Market on Friday to get our mac ‘n’ cheese on and go back for the hot chocolate with “marshmallow whipped topping” that tastes like a s’more liquidated. That night we then ventured to the transformed Hyde Park into the fantastical “Winter Wonderland.” “Warm apple juice,” although Claud hates the way that sounds (hey, it’s still delicious), has now become my drink of choice at every holiday gathering I attend, and this circus meets market meets carnival meets “Bavarian village” was no exception–no sausages this time though!

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Saturday, Claudia and I returned to “Bill’s Café” (in Covent Garden, not Brighton this time) for some much-desired avocado toast and reminiscing. You know you’ve got a good friend when you can sit and talk for hours jumping off tangents until you don’t remember from where the seed of conversation actually sprouted. Love my roomie so much!

That night, I went to the South Bank Christmas Market with my darling Sam from Brown!!! So happy we were able to reconnect and see each other again (even if we only discovered we were both in Londres so late in the semester). Also, Very Important Information: she saw JOE JONAS and SANSA STARK on the Northern Line on the way to meet me. ARE YOU KIDDING ME. AND I MISSED IT. I’VE TAKEN THAT LINE SO. MANY. TIMES. Coming home from class. Going TO class. UGHHHHHHHHHH. Oh well. Guess she’s still mad I stole her title.


Our Comm and Social Movements professor, Richard, had us over for some “sunday roasting” the next day at his home in Wimbledon! Wow. All of us with his wife and friends sharing a lovely meal and table together. Plus, HOMEMADE PUMPKIN PIE (how I’ve missed my love!). And we had these little savory biscuits but a little dough-ier called Yorkshire puddings that were delightful. I can’t believe our professor invited us into his home. Also learned that Lori wants to be a stylist–100% can see that. Have you SEEN her hair and how she dresses? Defines chic but also edgy at the same time. Also point of reference: Wimbledon is MUCH windier and colder than the London city center.

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South Bank benches are quite prophetic


Unfortunately, did NOT see any tennis.

The next day was a day of being pensive (yes, Joey Donner) doing my most favorite activity of all in London–walking along the South Bank to and back from Borough Market.

I feel so at peace and calm and blissful listening to my music and feeling the wind on my face. I get to walk by Love Actually filming locations, Shakespeare’s Globe, Gabriel’s Wharf, AND the BFI (which I of course simply must pop into nearly every time I walk past it because why not?). I get to channel my inner Adele in the “Someone Like You” video walking along the side of the river (Thames though, not the Seine) while thinking about my place in this world–whoa that got existential. Eh true though. And I get to relish in the fact that this is WHERE

I’VE LIVED for these past four months that I will NEVER forget. I will be back here in the future with my family, friends, WHOMEVER and will take them on this beautiful walk. I promise, you will feel the joy I always feel when I make this 30-minute trek at least bi-weekly (more probably, according to Britt).

THIS past Monday though on my second-to-last Borough outing, I sipped on a GREAT cappuccino before enjoying the winning combo of chicken pad thai and a giant cookie. Not the likeliest combo in the world, but that’s the glory of food markets–“if you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it”–every food stall you’d ever want or not even know you’d want but are so jubilant upon seeing at first glance. A Willy Wonka-certified food paradise, if you will. Borough Market, come one, come all.


The next two days were chock-full of finals. 2 per day. All writing. Man, I love to write my thoughts down on paper (or type them up on the computer), but repeatedly doing so in an academic setting ends up so draining. Kristy and I were struggling to get our creative juices flowing! We managed though.

In between finals on Tuesday, Britt took me to this AWESOME ham-and-cheese sandwich place on the Strand. Not your normal school lunch sandwich, not to induce skepticism. As Britt says, “It’s simple but so, so good.” Hey if you can do one thing to perfection, by all means! And this place nailed it. We STILL can’t remember the name of it though! It’s that one place by the Savoy and Dreamgirls, for future reference.

We took Richard’s and Michael’s finals on Tuesday (Comm and Social Movements/Rhetoric of London). I, naturally, came back for some more fleeting moments on the South Bank after the latter exam and to nosh on some

yummy “Three Kings” Christmas-themed pie from Pieminister on my Love Actually bench!  And that evening, before prepping for my last two finals, I started watching The O.C. again. Have to ready myself for some California sunshine somehow, don’t I? Ugh what a burden to watch television–I did write about the show for a paper though, so that counts for academic productivity, right?

Wednesday was our final day at Accent. So many days of walking across Waterloo Bridge through Covent Garden to Bedford Square in Bloomsbury. No more Gail’s. No more Planet Organic. No more Tottenham Court Road Station. No more creepy guys trying to talk to us before we try to cross the street (at least that was only early on in the semester).

The gang met up at Gail’s for one last coffee (I got a free one since my punch-card was all stamped out!) and a scone. Theirs are the BEST in London,

at least out of the ones that I’ve had. Mirabelle, you know your stuff.

We took Margaret’s exam (Comp Media) first. Before Justin’s, I went for a walk around Bloomsbury one last time. I studied for a bit at the BFI Bloomsbury location, got a box of sweet potatoes (literally just their wedges) from Planet Organic, went to this square off Russell St. that I don’t remember the name of but is very gorgeous (despite their pigeon infestation), and checked out the Parthenon remains inside the British Museum (miss you, Ruth).

What can I say about Justin’s exam (Interpreting Pop Culture) except that in my second essay I referenced the Stones, the Beatles, Adele, Frank Sinatra, and even One Direction? This class ROCKED and was probably one my favorites that I’ve ever taken. We watched the Amy documentary in class last week, ok?

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Bye, Accent!


Pretty dope. AND Justin walked with me to the entrance of the British Museum when my parents got lost JUST so they could meet? Thanks so much for an awesome semester, Justin. And to all my teachers. I did not know what to expect from UK professors, but I really valued how intimate our classroom settings were. How I felt like I formed personal relationships with all my professors, in addition to the staff at Accent. What a welcoming place to walk into every day.

That night we had our final “Farewell dinner” at the “Duke of Sussex” pub just past Waterloo Station! We all “gussied up” (Sims, anyone? Megs, I know you get me) and met up with these professors and Accent staff for a pre-Christmas Christmas meal (turkey, roast potatoes, Christmas pudding, chestnuts minus the open fire).

I sat with Sarah and Harry and we all played the game of deciding which “Desert Island Discs” (hey, I know that show!) we’d bring onto an island in addition to a novel. We went with albums to make it easier. I chose Carole King’s Tapestry along with any Disney compilation mix. Stevie Wonder’s Greatest Hits too. And for novel, at first I said Jane Eyre because I can read that over and over again and I will still remain insatiable. But then I changed it to my new Shakespeare & Co. Before Sunrise/Before Sunset book with two of the most glorious screenplays ever written. Yes, definitely that one.

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Eh, it’s alright, Harry


Meanwhile, Margaret went around the table asking everyone to state their favorite activity to do in London and favorite trip outside of London. I asked if the latter included trips within the UK too. Richard, fondly, noted how I’m always the one to ask supplementary questions. That’s quite the progress from 3rd grade where I was terrified to ask questions

for fear of arousing the fury of my most adored teacher that partly impacted my decision to transfer to Buckley, but that’s a different story entirely.

For the first part, I naturally said my South Bank walks. I had a harder time answering the second, but I had to go with Italia. I mean, hello, that gave me the BELLAS! Margaret thought I might have been the one to go with the Game of Thrones trip, but she knew it was a hard choice for me because of all my many obsessions (yes GoT, but also HP and Disney).

I love how my teachers KNOW me here! Michael even praised my leather jacket as my trademark. WHAT a compliment. And Justin wants to send my dad CD’s from his specialty music archive! It’s so nice when your professors care about you as a person and not just based on the work you produce for their class.

After dinner, we all played Cranium back at the house and Lori brought up some banana bread that she made. Yum! LOL at Justin failing at

trying to be a puppeteer. RIP Puppet Tiffy.

By Thursday, finals were over. Classes done. So, what do you do as a tourist for 3-days in London?! It was like one of our weekend trips where we were free to roam around as much as we wanted!

Well, first off, Thursday morning (mid-day really, had to get some beauty sleep for once), I met up with my fellow 26 Grains-lover Sam for porridge! She’s so sweet, she even saved me a bite of our favorite “Nordic Pear.” Best of luck with the rest of your own exams, love!

I spent the rest of the day exploring my city by foot (walked 7 miles, hey-oh!!!). I first hit up E.W. Marchpane and some of the cool shops David Mildon showed us in Covent Garden on our Theatre Walk tour. Didn’t buy anything though. I then finally made my way to the National Gallery and saw paintings I’d only seen photos of in former classes of mine. Amazing. Still in awe of the fact that nearly all museums in London are free. I

then walked over to “Said,” the Roman chocolate café hailing from Romaaaaaaaa.

I chatted with a nice Masters student from Dubai over a cup of hazelnut hot chocolate with three types of chocolate (dark, milk, and white?) spilling over the sides of the cup. Mmmmmmm. I love how you can find people from EVERYWHERE in London. I’d say that’s true of LA as well. Who wouldn’t want to come to London? Who wouldn’t want to come to LA? Both their own kinds of of La La Landdddds (MUST see that movie when I get back!).

I walked around Carnaby Street post-embracing my inner Chocoholic and then browsed inside Liberty and later Selfridge’s. The department stores in London are magnificent. And the windows on the ground floor of Liberty had displays from The Nutcracker!!!!!! I mean, hello, “Pas de Deux” is my most treasured piece of classical music of all time. Tchaikovsky, you virtuoso. And despite my affinity for “Homeslic[in’]” (you get it?), I tried “Pizza Pilgrims” for the first

time in “Kingly Court.” Not kidding you, this is the name of a tiny piazza off of Carnaby Street. These are the names of places in England, people.

I wrote in my journal as I had a yummy white pizza with mushrooms and truffles and then wandered off to check out the beauty of Westminster Abbey at night. They have a huge Christmas tree up now! I’m telling you, if you want to feel festive at Christmastime, study abroad in Europe during the fall semester. Honestly, you can even come in August and department stores will have their Christmas shops up and running (just phone “Fortnum & Mason!”).

Friday, I went ice skating at Somerset House (establishing shot from Love Actually) with Britt, Tiff, Tiff’s friend, and Lori. Tiff and Lori are SO good at it that they even went backwards a bunch of times! Ugh am not that much of an ~ice princess~ 😉

So happy we ended up going though. I really enjoyed ice skating at the Natural History Museum, but I’d wanted to go to Somerset ever since I found out you could skate there sometime during the first few weeks of the semester. The set-up is similar to Rockefeller Center. Huge tree with a building in the background and people ice skating in holiday jumpers all around. Just transport that image across the Atlantic and you’re set.

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I got one last “warm apple juice” (see, I told you how much I love it!) in Neal’s Yard before heading home to take some pics along the South Bank at 2:30. Post-photo shoot, I took the tube to Old Spitalfields Market in Shoreditch to at last indulge myself in the wonder that is the “Bleecker Black” burger from Bleecker St. Black pudding. IN A BURGER.

AWESOME. BEST I’VE EVER HAD. If you don’t like black pudding, fuhgeddaboudit. But if you do, please go “treat yourself.” Better than In N Out. Better than Shake Shack. Sorry, don’t care, it’s that good. Even their ordinary cheeseburger is ridiculous!

I made it back in time to chill for a bit before we headed out to see Charlie & the Chocolate Factory! But before we went out into a world of “pure imagination,” Claud and Kris came into my room to give me an “intervention.” They needed to bestow upon me our Bellas gift—the London bracelet I’d said I thought was adorable at Camden last week! Claud and Kris had gone to Camden yesterday morning while I was ice skating and they COMPLETELY caught me off guard when they gave me my Bellas trinket along with

a “London Calling” card (to honor my blog, of course).

I absolutely teared up. This abroad experience has given me such great friends and perspective on who is worth making the effort for and caring for as a friend. These girls, you got it.

Us 3, Nic, and Justin soon enough left to see Charlie–the glass elevator scene was the BEST! And the elevator was a London phone booth! How cute. Plus, Claud and Kris had won the TodayTix rush ticket lottery, meaning that two of the seats were in the VERY front row. Right in front of the stage. You could see the mics on the actors’ foreheads. They could see you yawn. Yes, THAT close.

And Claud and Kris were kind enough to let Nic and I sit there for the first half! The most extraordinary seats I’ve ever had for a show in my life!

Today was my last day in London. “One Day More”–litera

lly. We woke up and all made our way to Borough Market (don’t tell me you’re surprised).

Claud and I walked over together and on the way, we made a quick pit-stop at the most beloved of all the benches along the South Bank. I will so miss writing in my journal there. Looking out at the Thames and thinking there. That bench and I have been through a lot together, but at least it’s not as bad as “the total agony of being in love,” as Sam says.

Got one more “Boston Sausage” sausage on a stick. These are sausages you can trust, courtesy of Lincolnshire. We had a little bit of something old, but also something new as we tried “Padella” for lunch. Homemade pasta, how can you resist? Had some spinach ravioli with “Neal’s Yard Dairy” ricotta. Mmmmmmmmm. It looked like green eggs and ham–except without the ham.

But after lunch I had to get my favorite. Can you guess? My “Comptoir Gourmand” cookie the size of my face. Just one last one. If you ever come to London, I implore you. Please get

one of these. They will change your life. You will never think about chocolate chip cookies the same way again.

We couldn’t leave London without paying homage to the Beatles, and what better way to honor the subjects of much discussion and BuzzFeed quizzes alike (apparently I’m “psychedelic John Lennon”) this semester than by visiting the location of one of their most famous studio albums: Abbey Road? We took the tube over there right after completing our culinary duty. Must say, it was a bittersweet goodbye leaving Borough behind.

There were so many people at the fateful crossroad–would NOT want to drive around there (let alone at all in England!). Just was our resident Pete Best (or did he want to be Stuart Sutcliffe?) and took our group pic as we walked across the street. We totally got honked at, but I think that means we did our job.

So I could complete my last walk along the South Bank faithfully, I tubed back to London Bridge in order to walk home one last time. And there we have it.

Thank you all for coming along on this ride with me. I started this blog as a way to memorialize all my adventures this semester. I didn’t know what they would entail, how they would change me, how much I would wish they would never end. This is only the beginning of #myLondontale. I know it’s corny, but it IS true. London will always be here–it’s survived too many “great fires” to come tumbling down any time soon. Thank you to everyone who made this semester possible. My parents. USC. Accent. My friends. The Bellas. Borough. South Bank. Ruth. Europe. Everyone I know who has helped to shape me and challenge me. I love you, and thank you for being a part of my life.

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And thank you, LONDON. Cheers to no more fires in the near future. Don’t stray too far from the phone. Maybe I’ll pay you a call back in a couple of years.

Cheers, Tara xx

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