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You Don’t Have to Close Your Eyes, Baby (How The Fray Heals All)

Cheers, mates! So my parents are now gone, and I’m back to sitting here with my chamomile tea resting my legs after a LONG day of stair-climbing at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Don’t even remember how many steps I walked up (see-through stairs are NOT my friends), BUT my phone says I went up approximately 39 floors. Not sure how accurate that number is, but I know my calves sure are feeling all that upward mileage today.

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Last we left off, I was soaking up all the love and affection (and of course, drama) that comes along with spending quality time with my fam. What do you expect? We’re a

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The infamous London fog rears its hazy head


Jewish-Italian clan of New Yorkers! Nothing’s ever a breeze.

Thursday morning I got up bright and early at the Tipton. No Esteban downstairs waiting for me to say hello, but the French waitress DID know me by that point and already knew to bring me coffee. At least my caffeine addiction would make Lorelai Gilmore proud!

I then headed off to the Museum of Docklands in Canary Wharf for a class field trip! It was really fun catching up with my friends who I felt like I hadn’t seen in such a long while (but that’s only because I hadn’t been living under the same roof as them for a week

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But why skimp on the holiday cups?


already!!). I did finally try an obligatory pumpkin spice latte (I love pumpkin, what can I say?) from “Starbucks” and surprisingly, it was NOT as sweet as those in the US! What a relief to not have a headache after drinking one of those confections for once.

We learned all about the British side of the slave trade from a Shakespearean actor-director-turned-historian, and interestingly enough, he frequently mentioned Olaudah Equiano, whose narrative I’m currently reading thanks to the kindness of my Comm and Social Movements professor to have leant it to me earlier in the semester! I promise to return it by the time I leave London!

Justin’s class was all about the enigmatic Lady Gaga (watched her Carpool Karaoke later that night–nailed it). Afterwards, my parents got lost walking over to Accent to try to meet him, but Justin so wonderfully walked over with me to the British Museum so they could all be introduced! He and my dad spoke all about The Rolling Stones and my dad’s experience at Woodstock as a 6-year-old (lots of tents).

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My parents still wanted to see my school though, so I showed them the right way to walk (they

were nearly there! Too many confusing turns!), and the guys on staff luckily let us in even though it was after-hours. My mom loved finding out where everyone sat in the class and was surprised to find out we have every class in that room. My dad sat in my seat pretending to be a student. Rachel was not amused.

Once we arrived back at the hotel, of course, my computer chose to malfunction. Ever try to turn on your computer and a folder pops up on the screen with a question mark inside it? You too? Ya well, that totally

freaked me out and flabbergasted me as to how technological mishaps just seem to be attracted to my ineptitude as fixing electronics.

I was so upset that I’d have to spend my last day with my family trying to fix my computer, but they assured me it was better they were in town to handle it.

They’re right of course, and that’s just one of the reasons why I love them despite all their zaniness.

Although my dad and I did not have the best week (as often happens on family trips, certainly in our family), we were able to reconcile well enough to enjoy our last day together, as he traveled from store to store with me until they were able to replace a cable in my computer. Don’t know which one, don’t know what it does. Probably should, but as you can tell, I’m not the most tech-inclined.

While we waited near Mac 1 (AWESOME repair shop, like Mac Enthusiasts on Pico! HIGHLY recommend!), my dad and I eased on over to Liberty’s. Such a fabulous department store–what is Britain’s DEAL with department stores? And their shop windows? And the fact that every single one of them has a Christmas shop open even before Halloween? There’s a reason I’m in London for the fall term. Still have to check Selfridge’s off my list though! Especially since I watched Love Actually this weekend and Karen and Harry go there to buy their mothers Christmas scarves (obviously, Love Actually locations organize my list of London tourist site visits).


Next, we checked out Carnaby Street, where The Stones would hang out, apparently. My dad said how it’s not “as cool” as it was back then, but I still think some of their shops were pretty rad. Amsterdam-based Scotch & Soda, hello!

Once my computer was all set, we headed back to the hotel for some R&R (I always think of

Christian’s line to Tai in Clueless when I say that). And guess what! I voted for THE NEXT FEMALE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Hope my mom mailed in my absentee ballot by now! What did you think? I wasn’t going to vote just because I’m in London? Who do you think I am! Of COURSE I’m going to exercise my right to vote. Elizabeth Cady Stanton didn’t advocate for women’s rights for nothing!

Rachel was dying to go on the “ferris wheel” (aka The London Eye), and it’s so funny that now I’ve adopted my LA mentality of not doing touristy things because I am technically a ~Londoner~. I’d never visited the Hollywood sign till last summer when I hiked there with Shan (who’s from out of town). And I hadn’t gone on the London Eye this term till last Friday when my sissie (certainly from out of town) wanted to go on! Nuts

how that transfers over.

But before we took to the air by means of glass circular capsule, we stopped for photos in front of Big Ben, in order to honor the Darling children and Peter Pan standing on the ticking hands! According to our taxi driver, it’s called “St. Stephen’s Tower” and the bell inside is actually Big Ben. Who knew?

My mom managed to get us to the front of the line (SUPERWOMAN), and we headed up into the sky–thanks to Coca-Cola (The London Eye’s sponsor now, apparently). The view was awesome, and I could even see my flat and the IMAX from up above!!! We went on The London Eye the last time we were in London–not my mom, or this time either, because claustrophobia. But it’s so interesting to compare your perspective from your first experience doing something to revisiting it at a latter time. The capsule actually felt smaller (well because I’m bigger, as my mom so aptly clarified).

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We went to our final fam dinner at this Italian pizzeria called Delfino in Mayfair. Loved

their pastina-style pasta! Made me feel like I was a little kid again (my mom swore she’d make me some come December!).

Our last night in the hotel was a hard one. We were all trying to keep it together–goodbyes are always harder than hellos. I was playing music from my computer for Rach, with the usual suspects including Taylor Swift and Tarzan. But then she requested for me to play “Baby close your eyes.” BABY CLOSE YOUR EYES.

You have to understand, I grew up playing music by The Fray all the time. My family heard it so often

coming from my room–“Never Say Never,” especially, as it’s my favorite song of all-time that always manages to calm me down–that they now affiliate their music with me. Like my mom said, their songs have memories attached to them for the Bitran clan.

Anyway, all week my sister had been hearing my alarm play in the morning, and that song is “Syndicate” by The Fray. The opening line of my alarm is “Baby close your eyes.” SO, the fact that THAT’s the song my sister requested punctured my heart right at the core. Even though we can’t chat like typical sisters can, we have a bond that runs so, so deep.

Once I figured out what song she was singing, I started bawling, and then my mom followed after I told her the revelatory song choice. We hugged and cried and hugged some more, but we

discussed how it’s just a month left. JUST ONE MONTH. We can make it. I’ll see them on December 11th. And I should enjoy as much as I can of this fabulous city while I’m still here–hence the reinvigorated London bucket list.

And now that I think about it, the opening line of the song “Syndicate” itself is “Halfway round the world lies the one thing that you want.” Ugh, how my sister can break my heart.

The next day was our last family breakfast together.

We said farewell to the Tipton and hopped in a taxi cab. We had to say a “quick goodbye,” since the driver dropped me off right in front of Harvey Nichols, but that doesn’t mean it was any less filled with love and tear-stricken faces.

We then texted as I tried on the dress that made me channel my girl Cher in Clueless when she walks along Rodeo realizing her feelings for Josh but stops herself when she sees a grey dress, pondering: “ooh, I wonder if they have that in my size!” This dress looked JUST like that one from the movie, but was unfortunately not as cute. Ah well.

I took the tube home, holding back my tears on the way there. I was warmly received by

Claudia and Scarlett when I entered the flat, and they even brought me back one of the big chocolate chip cookies from their trip to Borough Market to make me feel better! If those aren’t sweet girls, please enlighten me.

I then watched Love Actually in order to cheer me up, but also for a school assignment. Ironically, it’s for my not-so-favorite class, but hopefully my professor likes the subject matter better this time, unless you’re like Alliyah who does not “eat up the cheese” of the glorious holiday rom-com that Carter and I adore.

The book-end scenes at Heathrow Airport where all the families are reunited definitely made me reflect on what

it would be like arriving back at LAX in time for Christmas myself and the fact that my family was on their flight back right at that very moment. But you know what? I WILL see them soon. I’ve already Facetime’d with them numerous times since Saturday. It’s fine. It was fine before they came, it’s fine now. Hugh Grant’s monologue at the beginning of the film is 100% right: “If you look for it, love actually is all around.” I see it. I feel it in my fingers. I feel it in my toes. Love is here–back at home but also here in my new home.

That night, Claud, Kris, Scarlett and I went to see Lin-Manuel Miranda’s self-reflective In The Heights. He was apparently at one of the performances here in London in September. Can’t believe we missed that….

The show was so incredible (Bri, you CALLED it), and Gabriela Garcia (Nina) had such a beautiful voice! Wow, her range and ease with which the words flow out of her no matter

the note were such a pleasure and wonder to hear as an audience member. Plus, it was also fun to see a show set in America (and New York at that!)–it made us all feel like we were back at home for a while.

Justin met up with us, and we headed off to Zoo Bar for a night of dancing. In The Heights was so lively that dancing was the perfect post-show activity! The music was a mix of 50’s/60’s rock and Motown, contemporary pop, and Halloween favorites, of course! Can’t believe none of my friends have seen Rocky Horror. That MUST be remedied when we return to LA….

The next day, I slept in for the first time (not in forever, but) in a week until Justin and I went to Camden Market for the day. That place is MASSIVE. Franks was so right in urging me to go check the area out (it’s where Amy Winehouse is from, actually). It has food and stores and clothes and tchotchkes and anything you’d ever think of wanting to possibly purchase when visiting a market.

BEHOLD. THE BEST HOT CHOCOLATE YOU WILL EVER HAVE IN YOUR LIFE.

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“Chin Chin Labs,” nestled inside the aforementioned market, has the most delectable hot chocolate concoction Justin and I have both ever consumed. The gooey marshmallow topping certainly makes it, though. You have to get the marshmallow to get the full effect. Ugh, can’t express how yummy this was. And the chocolate was so rich! Mmmmm going back here too.


I also got some Italian-meets-Sunday morning breakfast quesadillas from “Killadilla Quesadillas” (salami, mozzarella, and HASH BROWNS! ok).

We walked around there for hours before we came back home, where I was actually productive in completing some work…until I watched Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire for some much-needed nostalgia and to celebrate Halloween since my Céline costume was sadly NOT put to use this year (and I didn’t have any candy either! Guess my hot chocolate will have to count as my chocolate treat).

Monday though, the actual Halloween day, was FILLED

with activity–of the necessities variety. Academic essay writing, room cleaning, grocery shopping, project completing, class scheduling, WHAT HAVE YOU. NOT the most fun Halloween I’ve ever had, but still pretty jam-packed!

Tuesday, as a reward for our hard work after our presentations for Comp Media (Taryn and I did ours on London Rom-Coms. Love Actually was featured, obviously), Claud and I went to “Homeslice” to have a very autumn-inspired meal: sharing a half mushroom/chilli/ricotta/pumpkin seed and half butternut

pumpkin/broccoli/pecorino/crispy onion pizza. Ridiculously good. Totally reminded me of the butternut squash and ricotta pizza (that Nic and I discovered we both love just this evening!) from my dear “Urth.”

We both finished our papers for class, registered for classes, and now today headed back over to Canary Wharf for another class field trip! Lots of walking–we even made it over to the “River Lea.” Yes, the very same river that Adele sings about on 25. Naturally, her song was my reference point walking by the water.

Post-walking tour, Just, Claud, Kris and I then went to try “Nando’s!” My first time visiting the place where “Cheeky Nando’s” hails from. I still don’t even know what that phrase means. It wasn’t bad, and I was fondly reminded of how much Ed Sheeran loves the place (yet another British musical reference point but for this local chain instead of a geological site).

In the afternoon, it was time for our final tour with the glorious Ruth Polling. If you’re ever in London, seek her out as a tour guide. She knows EVERYTHING and makes every story one that makes you sit on the edge of your cathedral-choir seat wanting to hear more (and drown out the organ player). We walked throughout the gorgeous magnum opus of Christopher Wren’s and all the way up the stairs to the top! As someone who’s terrified of heights, don’t know how I managed. Guess I’m growing up? Or I just braced myself? Eh, who knows, but I’m so glad I did it though. I mean, LOOK AT THIS VIEW.

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Best one in London of London, I reckon.

Well, we’re certainly far past the halfway point by now, on that final stretch. One month (and a week?) really isn’t that much time left. And I’m gone for 3 of the weekends! I truly am enjoying living life as a Londoner, at least for a while. But I’m starting to get that Dorothy leaving Oz feeling that there really is “no place like home.” Whether that’s here or in LA, well, that’s no question. All I have to do is think of “baby close your eyes.”

Cheers, Tara xx
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