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Don’t Worry, Quasi, I’m Certainly Treasuring Every Instant I Still Have Out Here (Soon t

Hello! Wow I am right back where I was a few weeks ago. Starting my blog while riding along the Eurostar with its spotty wi-fi. And Claudia is attempting to sleep by covering her face with her scarf in odd positions to block the fluorescent lights. Ah well.

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It has been a non-stop five days. First visiting the stomping ground of the “four lads from Liverpool.” Now allowing my stomach to settle after a more-than-normal amount of cheese consumption this weekend in Paris with my

girl Claud (she actually liked French cheese! Sorry, ricotta). Well, maybe it was pretty close to normal now that I think about it.

ANYWAY. So Thursday morning we met up at Euston Station where I had a “porridge of the Gods” breakfast from “Leon.” I’m not kidding you, that is the name of the dish I ordered. Basically porridge with honey, ALMOND milk (Sup, LA?), dark chocolate, and bananas. Perhaps it wasn’t nectar fundamentally, but it still tasted pretty good, decadent, and slightly healthy. Hey, dark chocolate is supposed to be good for brainpower. That’s what Lils always told me 🙂 I unfortunately was not given a spoon to accompany

my happy meal, but luckily, the café on the train willingly handed one over. Who doesn’t give porridge with a spoon? How do you expect me to eat it? Drink it like a very thick, warm smoothie? That would be quite the unpleasant experience for my throat.

The train wasn’t too long, and before we knew it, we arrived in LIVERPOOL! We went as a FIELD TRIP for class. I’ve really missed out on field trips while I’ve been in college, and even high school really. They kind of stopped being a thing once you hit your teen years–aside from our once-a-year outdoor education events that made the germaphobe I am very unhappy to not be able to shower after kayaking and camping all day. Regardless, a trip exploring the sites of Beatles history was SO cool. It’s a pretty small city, but everyone seems so friendly (definitely the smoothie girl who kindly informed Claudia they were out of carrots) despite the

massive winds blowing everywhere. Think Chicago, but colder and with different accents.

We got off the train at Lime Street Station and walked along the docks to our inn on the water. Very sweet, and we all had our same roommates we have here (which means Justin and Nicole had singles. Not too shabby). A bunch of us then grabbed lunch together, all of us sitting in a giant booth at a place down the block, and at 2pm we were off on our “Mystery Bus Tour” with our tour guide Paul (yes, I found his name coincidentally convenient as well).

We saw the birthplaces and childhood homes of all the Beatles, the eponymous “Penny Lane,” including the barber shop owned by the “…barber showing photographs / Of every head he’s had the pleasure to know,” and the Strawberry Field Orphanage John lived near as a child (Yoko actually came back years later and donated quite a large sum in support of the o

rganization).

So even though there are a lot of theories as to where the inspiration for the name “Eleanor Rigby” originates (the former could be one of the actresses on the set of A Hard Day’s Night, the latter could be the name of a store Paul visited with his then-girlfriend Jane Asher in Bristol–I think that’s the city Justin told us in class!), Paul DID show us a grave in a cemetery with the name “Eleanor Rigby” scrawled on a headstone. I felt kind of odd taking a photo of a grave, but it was too cool to pass up. I mean, ELEANOR RIGBY. Possibly the inspiration for one of my favorite Beatles songs. And I was there to see it.


But the BEST part of the whole tour was when we were standing outside the hall of St. Peter’s Church where Paul and John FIRST MET when John was playing with his band “The Quarrymen” and their mutual friend Ivan Vaughan introduced them. A man, I think his

name is Graham, who works there and is friends with Paul the tour guide, saw our group and LET US INSIDE. WE WALKED IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JOHN AND PAUL. One of if not the greatest songwriting partnership we know of. Ever. As John said (and as is written on the plaque outside the hall): “-that was the day, the day that I met Paul, that it started moving.”

It all felt so surreal. I kept thinking of my uncle Michael who basically raised me on the Beatles and who I bet knows every single song like he knows how to say his own telephone number. Maybe even better. I mean, everyone knows the Beatles, has heard the Beatles or at least a few of their songs if not their entire discography, but getting the chance to be in the place where this legendary music group came to be was pretty jaw-dropping. The stage isn’t there anymore, but Graham said that it would have begun right where the orange board on the right ends and just before the red door begins!

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We had some down time for a bit before we went to check out a pretty good Beatles cover band at “The Cavern Club.” It’s a restoration of the original club that the Beatles apparently played at over 300 times and is now even further underground. Paul McCartney has played the “new” venue as well as many others including The Who, The Arctic Monkeys, and of course, my girl Adele pre-selling out 8 nights at Staples days.

When the band started playing, we couldn’t help noticing just how much they were staying true to the authenticity of cover bands. They had the formalwear. They had the voices. The Paul incarnate made the same facial expressions Paul does when he sings his “oohs” and shakes his head. But most importantly, they ALL had the Mop Top haircuts! It was amazing! Respect for your craft, guys.

And we all had fun dancing together, with Justin too!! He showed up and got a kick out of

how much we all liked the Astrid Kirchherr photo from Hamburg of the early Beatles (no Ringo yet, these were the Pete Best/Stuart Sutcliffe days) where they were all looking like they came straight out of Grease with their pompadours and leather jackets. Not sure how amused Justin (our flatmate that is) was with our admiration for their ephemeral sense of style, as he compared their edginess momentarily with that of the Jonas Brothers. No, Just. No no. But I think Claudia said it best–the leather jackets didn’t exactly go with the direction of their music. The Mop-Tops worked for them, I think.

We stayed out late dancing to “In My Life

” (got some major Monotones nostalgia), “8 Days a Week,” “Help!,” “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “Hey Jude,” “Ticket to Ride,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” You know just a couple of tunes you might recognize. It was such a blast though!

The next day, we woke up bright and early to a free breakfast at the hotel (yay black pudding!!!!). Claud and I sat with Justin (teacher Justin, yes, it gets confusing) and Kadri.

Afterwards, we went to the Titanic Museum (well, maybe it’s not officially called the Titanic Museum, but they had a whole exhibit highlighting the ocean liner that sank in 1912 and spawned the prime 90’s Leo flick we all can and duly revere, so I think my

title is warranted).

Regardless, as Liverpool is known as one of the largest British port cities (and a place of lots of Irish migrants since they’re so near each other!), the exhibit was pretty cool to check out. We saw models of the ships and artifacts taken from the seabed where the infamous ship now resides. The Titanic was actually BUILT in Liverpool. Did NOT sail from there, but instead Southampton. Belfast, too, and Cherbourg (think Catherine Denueve in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg).

Thank goodness for the Carpathia coming to try to save as many passengers as they could. Another ship saw an alert signal as well, but apparently assumed it was not a passenger ship so they ignored the warning call. Ok……also saw Molly Brown’s name on the list of survivors!!! Kathy Bates, you go girl! I do want to see The

Unsinkable Molly Brown musical, anyhow…

Afterwards, Mel, Claud, Kris, and I went with Kadri to Liverpool Cathedral, which is actually the UK’s largest cathedral! It’s very Gothic in its architectural style but was only finished being built fairly recently, in the 70s, I believe.

We walked around, smelled some delightful gingerbread-scented candles in the gift shop, and hiked up to the top to see a bird’s eye view of Liverpool!! They kindly stored my little blue suitcase at the front desk (I’m telling you, KINDNESS is the best MO for anything in life), and we took the elevator and then some stairs up to the very top. Lesson I’ve learned being abroad and going to the top of many churches/cathedrals: it is SO windy and cold up there. *Shiversssssssssss* You need a beanie, a scarf, a parka, some gloves. Heed my warning, I implore you. It was a beautiful view, and it was so nice of Kadri to spend the day with us.

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We headed back to London that night, as Claudia and I readied for….Paris!!! The next morning, we jetted off to St. Pancras bright and early for our date with the Eurostar. The ride was a breeze (no spoon issues this journey). We got in early afternoon and quickly dropped off our stuff 

so we could grab some crepes!!!! Obviously crepes were a main priority for us choco-holics (probably would’ve gotten a peanut butter one if they had one though. Mmmm banana and pb is just too good of a combo….)

As we strolled along eating our French pancakes and making some new friends who thought we looked like Hollywood actresses (ya, ok), I absolutely felt like I could’ve been transferred back to my normal route along the South Bank and wouldn’t have known the difference (well, minus the Thames, of course). The atmosphere was just as lively and had such a fun, youthful but also familial vibe. I’d probably want to live in this area if I were to adopt the life of a Parisian (highly unlikely realistically).

I absolutely jumped for joy when we finally made it to see Hunchback–or Notre Dame Cathedral, as is the proper term for one of the most famous cathedrals in Paris if not the world. It was just as beautiful as I’d remembered it from years

ago when I saw it with my family.

Before entering to explore Quasimodo’s dwelling, we walked 5 minutes past (literally) to go inside SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY! You know, the bookshop at the beginning of Before Sunset where Jesse is doing a quick stop on his promotional tour for his book about his night with Céline in Before Sunrise and where they meet again after 9 long years!!!!!! I was THERE, everyone!! Film location of my favorite movie series in existence, in addition to being a totally kitschy and novelty bookshop with old, current, and most-anything-you-can-think-of literary works. You can also reside there too if you’re a visitor in Paris FOR FREE. Totally asked all about it and if there’s space, you can stay there for a minimum of a week if you “get on” with the people who work there and help tidy around the shop during the day. You can live and sleep in a place surrounded by books for free. Is that not a form of heaven? 100% can see why you tried to stay there, Meghan. I also played some of “My Favorite Things” on the piano upstairs (love you, Kris) before we looked at some post-it notes of previous visitors to the shop lining the walls. The universality of book-lovers warms my heart.

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The most amazing part of our visit was when I found a copy of the compiled screenplays of both Before Sunrise and Before Sunset enclosed in ONE BOOK. ARE YOU KIDDING ME. AND SANS the third and most bleak film of the three Before Midnight. Was this divine intervention? It was like this beacon calling to me as I turned around and found it resting on a bookshelf just waiting to be gazed upon by

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My beloved and me (don’t mind the dark)


my soon-to-be rapturous eyes. OF COURSE I had to buy it. AND they stamp the books you purchase from them too! So cool. I was almost brought to tears from how happy I was. I can’t wait to go through it this Winter Break and annotate my copy for my favorite passages and quotes. I feel like it’s going to become one of my new prized possessions.

We then went back to Notre Dame to explore the inside of the cathedral. GORGEOUS Gothic architecture, my goodness. They didn’t let us up to the top of the bell towers because it was too late and was then closed to tours. Definite must-do if I ever am blessed with the chance to come to Paris/Notre Dame again:  book a tour to delve into the secrets and mysteries that inspired Victor Hugo’s eponymous work!!!!! Having just finished the novel a few months ago and obviously knowing all the words to “Out There” from the Disney film, being inside what I so-often refer to as Hunchback and not even “Notre Dame” as the cathedral’s name was a very humbling experience. Truly, being in Europe and visiting these places you’ve learned, read, seen, gleaned so much

about is extraordinary. There’s nothing like it.

We stayed for the 6:30pm service. Even though it was all in French, can’t deny I didn’t enjoy trying to comprehend the gist! And I even communicated with a woman by asking if two chairs were “libre” so Claud and I could occupy them. Romance languages, got to love them, right?!

PLUS, one of the leading members of the choral singers looked like he could’ve been Carter’s doppelgänger, albeit with darker hair. Too funny. Obviously, it wasn’t my dear friend, but I did have to do a double take to consider if they indeed were not twins separated at birth possibly.

After saying goodbye and heading back “Out There” onto the streets of Paris (we totally sang the song as we walked along the Seine), we went to dinner at this lovely restaurant called “Le Jacobine.” One of the best meals I’ve ever had IN MY LIFE. Claudia finally got to try her long sought-after French onion soup! I swear I’m turning into my mother in

more ways than one. I CANNOT eat onions anymore–they and my body have a mutual dislike. BUT it still tasted so, so good. AND the duck we had in mushroom sauce was unreal. Thank you, monsieur waiter for making the suggestion!!!! Greatly appreciated. The macarons we had afterwards, however, were lackluster at best. Eh, sorry, I’m not Blair Waldorf with her “major jones” for the French cookie. At least from this store.

The next morning we were up before sunrise (HA) to make it for our ride to VERSAILLES!!!! Our driver named Alex was pretty cool. He spoke Spanish with us most of the time, as the majority of our fellow passengers spoke the language. Even though I was asleep for most of the journey there (I was SO toast), I could still make sense of what he was saying. My Spanish is still there ingrained in my memory, I’m telling you! I can understand even if I can’t participate in the conversation as much as I’d like anymore. Like Claudia and Delmi say, I need practice!!!! Hopefully Barcelona this weekend will be a fine chance to put my conversational skills to use.


When we arrived, we were amazed by just how much gold and opulence decorated  the chateau. Even the gates had golden suns on the poles for the Sun King, of course. The line wasn’t too bad to get in (hallelujah), and we made our way down the halls of Versailles. That’s still so crazy for me to say. I was at Versailles!! Everyone’s heard of this place, and I was able to see it in my life. Still don’t believe it.

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In every single exhibit/room, I had to check my massive umbrella because life just enjoys being a nuisance at times. Hey, no regrets though, I’d much rather be dry and holding by viable weapon (seriously, my umbrella is massive!).

We learned about “all the glories of France,” as Louis-Philippe so projected, and saw the grand hall of mirrors where the Treaty of Versailles was signed!! Had no idea it was in that particular hall until Sunday. The most frustrating part was the massive conglomeration of tourist groups that would take 10 minutes in every space they inhabited to take an exorbitant amount of pictures. It was so hard go get any photos without their phones in them! I mean, yes, all the sights are wondrous, but come on, now! Plus pushing and shoving is not a fine mode of politeness. Not a fan.

We grabbed a spot of brunch at Rheagan’s recommendation, “Angelina.”

Dessert was first on our menu (always a great decision) and basically had a melted dark chocolate bar in the form of hot chocolate (Camden still wears the crown though) and pain au chocolat! After, we split a brie sandwich, which was also quite awesome (I’m telling you, I’m converting Claud into a cheese-lover, at least I hope so! How can you deny the “glory of France” that is brie cheese?!).

Our afternoon was spent taking the “petit train” around the gardens and other estates on the grounds. First, we went to the Grand Trianon, a pink building, perfectly coordinated with Claudia’s Pretty in Pink (even though she’s never seen the film, which must be changed) aesthetic and lodged the most

pleasant study suited to Napoleon’s taste! How I would love to sit and write there as I looked out the window upon my vast gardens. WHAT a life.

Next, we went to Marie-Antoinette’s humble abode, the Petit Trianon. You know she married Louis XVI at 16 and then became Queen at 19?! What a burden of responsibility for someone at such a young age. And her gowns and formalwear were so glamorous, perfectly in sync with the pomp and circumstance of Versailles itself. It’s such an interesting paradox to what sparked the revolution that got her and her husband beheaded–the amount of avarice in their

small insular world compared to all the poverty and starvation outside the chateau walls. Clear forewarning of the threat of extreme wealth disparities.

We headed off to the Grand Canal for a grand total of 5 minutes because it started pouring rain, and then headed back up to the main palace. We got a little worried as our bus wasn’t showing up, but we found some friends who were on our tram in the morning who huddled under our umbrellas with us. A woman–Audrey, I think?–in a bright red jacket from the agency showed up to ensure that we were not alone or in need of finding a different mode of transportation, and our bus finally showed

up a matter of minutes later than the previously scheduled time.

When we got back to the Paris city center, we met up with my girl Rheagan to grab some dinner in her new home-away-from-home in the “City of Lights.” My mom raved about the Sofitel Hotel’s amazing cheese plate (because I could eat cheese every day of my life and be happy), and we tried stopping by their bar. But apparently they changed their menu over the past 7 years, to my dismay, and the cheese plate my mom enjoyed on a fine summer afternoon was long gone. UGH, the disappointment!

BUT we made up for this lack of cheese bliss by going to the CHRISTMAS MARKET on Les Champs-Élysées. It had JUST opened the weekend we arrived, so we were so lucky to have gone at the time we did! I can never get enough Christmas. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” could play year-round and I wouldn’t necessarily mind. There were lights everywhere, Christmas trees, a Michael Jackson Thriller-themed

ride (still have NO idea why it was there), but it was beautiful and I was so excited to be there. I CANNOT wait for the OG Christmas Market in Bavaria this weekend!!! Ahhhhhhh!

I found a “cheese stand” and got a quiche-type dish with camembert, champignons (mushrooms!), bacon, and potatoes along with some cinnamon cider chaud (hot) and dark chocolate-covered strawberries. One thing I’ll definitely miss when I go home is the unbeatable quality of European street markets. Yes, we have Grand Central Market in DTLA and farmer’s markets around, but the fact you can consume a high quality-delicacy and choose from an over-abundant amount of street stands is the best catch-22 there can be. If you get one item, you can’t eat another because you’ll be too full. Or can you? Which is why I’ve been to Borough so many times! I’ll miss my chocolate chip cookies ❤

At the end of the evening, we walked along the same exact route I walked with my parents and Rachie past the Plaza Athénée to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle!

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Only thing missing is my squishie next to me!


Claud was so overjoyed that I believe she could’ve cried (think she did, just a little), and it was so nice to witness someone’s dream coming true right in front of you! She’s always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower (like her friend Scarlett’s affection for Big Ben), so the

fact she finally did is such an exciting element of her, and our, abroad experience!

We didn’t want to walk back home alone at night, so a kind bellman at the Plaza Athénée hailed us a cab!! People truly will help you if you ask politely. Miss Manners was right about minding your p’s and q’s.

The next morning we ventured to my fam’s frequented “Café La Belle Férronnière” for some delightful croque madames and some frites!! But our driver along the way got “lost,” we believe, and stuck behind way too many lights. Very wary of French cab drivers now, but more on that in a bit.

We then walked to “Tour Eiffel” and took the elevator all the way up to the tippy top! Don’t think I will EVER do that again, though. Far too high and WINDY, my goodness, for my gradually receding fear of heights to handle.

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Can you see that little speck of twin towers on the tip of my finger?!


From the second stop on the lift, you could see a beautiful (and less wet) view of Paris. I found all the way out in the distance the bell towers of the famed bellringer at Notre Dame. I was so excited. To your left, you can see me attempting to point it out to Claudia, which we struggled to capture on film. It’s all about perspective for photography (which I clearly am not adept at comprehending). While we were awaiting to descend, we conversed with another lovely couple and their friend who spoke Spanish. It’s SO fun to understand. UGH it pains me that I’m not able to respond as well as I’d like. That’s it. I need to practice. No more excuses. Claudia and I need to speak only in Spanish now. Ok

maybe that won’t happen 100% of the time, but that’s something that would be really fun and helpful to do!

We then raced across the city to make it to the Louvre before we had to be back at our hostel to retrieve our bags. USE YOUR PASSPORT if you’re a student to get FREE ENTRY into this museum with some of the finest art pieces on this earth. We saw the Mona Lisa (OF COURSE), which I’ve seen before but is still such a gift to get to see. I saw the most famous painting in the Western world. Yet another on my endless list of reasons I’m so grateful to my family and my school for offering me this time to study and grow abroad.

We managed to check the “Wings of Victory” (can’t really miss it since it’s at the entrance to the exhibitions), Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People” (and Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” album cover), the “Grand Odalisque,” the “Venus De Milo,” “Madonna and  Child with Saint John the Baptist,” “The Coronation of Napoleon,”

“The Raft of the Medusa,” and “The Young Martyr” off our list! Despite the rush, it was like an exhilarating speed race through the museum! Think Shaggy in his red-shirt adventures when he competes in the ghoulish speed race driving past monsters instead of paintings! At least that’s what I was reminded of. Something else may strike a chord with you.

After we left the main artwork area and I grabbed my umbrella I naturally had to check, I saw an APPLE STORE inside the Louvre. WHAT is UP with that?! An Apple Store. In the Louvre. This center for history and art and culture and they have the prime example of commercialization. I guess technology is

ingrained in our culture now, but it felt slightly iconoclastic.

We were exhausted and so parched after so we made a pit-dinner stop at “Le Pain!” Def thought of my girl Kat as I ordered myself a raspberry crunola parfait (the same one I got with my mom that is actually a Paris-house specialty! Love it!) and one last pain au chocolat that they had baked only minutes before!!!!! Yummmmmm.

By the time we got back to our hostel and our bags, it was well-dark out so we did not want to walk to the station alone. Two girls with their suitcases in the dark in a city with which they are unfamiliar. Bad idea.


So we asked the hotel staff to order us a cab, but when our driver arrived, he’d already pre-set the rate to 8.5 (the guy from the swanky Plaza Athénée who took us a much farther way charged NO such thing) and pretended like he didn’t speak English when we called him out on it. The ride to Gare du Nord is FIVE MINUTES. And he acted like he couldn’t understand we needed to get there by 7. And when I asked for my change of 2.10 euros, he only gave me back 1.45 because he “didn’t have a 2.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME. He had our bags in the trunk, and we didn’t want him to drive off with them or harm us in any manner, but HE COMPLETELY RIPPED US OFF. And I was furious about it.

We told Kris about it later and she said we should’ve said we were going to report him and taken a picture of his license plate number. We got through security fine and all and were waiting in the lobby for an hour, but I had to call my parents and calm down. I knew we’d

done the right thing not walking there alone and taking a cab to be safe, and my parents told me I had also, but it left such a sour taste in my mouth after such a marvelous weekend. WHAT a jerk. How dare you take advantage of two girls who just didn’t want to get mugged? That should not be too much to ask. Horrible.

Claud apologized as we boarded for showing me tough love when I was getting upset about the situation, but it’s so crazy because that’s exactly what my mom does. I’m a very sensitive person, and I guess Claud knows me so well now that she acts just like my mom! Not to say that I like that form of reverse psychology in the slightest, but it’s still comforting to know that people get you and know how to help you when you need it.

The ride back was fine, and like I said above, had some pretty horrid wi-fi, but we got home in one piece and before the clock struck twelve! No late-night returns that evening.

Yesterday, we went ice skating at the Natural History Museum after class and danced to the sounds of not Christmas music as expected, but the likes of Justin Bieber instead. Alrighty then. I surprisingly didn’t fall at all, which was so much fun and I can’t wait to go ice skating more now this holiday season while I’m still here in London and when I go back to the States!

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There are only 2 1/2 more weeks left in my semester abroad. Time has FLOWN by, and it feels like yesterday we were just taking our first group trip to Brighton!!

Even though we’re not technically celebrating Thanksgiving (my mom and I are doing a Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate when I come home), our gang is going out for one last hurrah to Munich/Barcelona this weekend!!!! Have to work on essays during my down-time (because what else would the two weeks before class ends be without assignments being due all at the same time?), but I can’t wait to embrace my inner Cheetah Girl and “strut like I mean it.” So thankful for this entire experience that will be over all too soon and for my loved ones that I can’t wait to see when I return and the new ones I’ve garnered in my time here. “God Only Knows” what I’d be without you ❤

Cheers, Tara xx

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