I'm Olivia. I'm a perpetually hungry redheaded girl from New York. I eat, sleep and breathe Korean pop music. I speak French and am studying Korean language and business in school. This fall, I'm setting forth on an exciting and terrifying (seriously I'm so nervous I might pee) solo journey across Europe. Hopefully this experience is full of bright, fun, and exciting as well as ridiculously stupid experiences that I can share with you!
This is so sad for me, maybe it's why I've been putting it off for a couple days. As all of you know my trip is over and I'm already home, but this is going to be my last post about it! This experience was life changing for me. I feel like a different person, even though I've pretty much returned to the same routine at home. On Sunday, I'll go back to my job and in January I'll start fresh at a new school where I can finally study Korean! My next big adventure will happen in 2015, when I study abroad in Seoul.
Traveling alone has made me learn so much about myself. I've experienced loneliness and difficulties as well as some of the happiest moments of my life. I've made friends that I want to make an effort to maintain lifelong relationships with, even if it takes years before we're reunited. I'm extremely proud of myself for having gone to 19 cities and 7 countries all before I turned 20. To some it might not be a huge accomplishment, but there were so many times where I had to figure out my own way, where I had to be brave and face the world alone. I do want to say, though, that the world as I've seen it so far, is extremely beautiful in so many different ways. Please, if you ever get the chance, pack up some stuff and leave home for awhile. Sure it's scary, being on your own, but you'll learn so much and see things you never dreamed you would.
I could go on and on about this, but let's get down to what I actually did in the last couple days of my trip.
I was actually fortunate to be able to go to Nottingham for 2 days and reunite with Yi-Han, me friend from Taiwan I made while I was in Scotland. Our time together was short, but I was so happy to be able to see her again. At first when I got off the train, I had no idea where to go and no way to contact Yi-Han. Luckily she found me pretty quickly and we walked together to my hostel. I got settled and put on some makeup and we went back out to the square where Nottingham had set up it's Christmas market. I really wish we had something like this in Saratoga. I went to the Victorian Streetwalk last night, which for some reason is always a disappointment to me. It's disorganized and I never know what people are waiting in line for.
Anyway, this was probably the most adorable market I'd ever seen. There were all these fake log cabins set up covered in lights and candy canes. There were carnaval games as well as a merry-go round and an ice skating rink. There was so much food…too much food. There were stalls selling roast pork, hot turkey sandwiches, steak and ale stew (I had that the next day :P) donuts, crêpes, you name it…there was even a churro stand. Yi-Han got a venison burger and I got a hot turkey sandwich. We walked around looking at everything while we ate. We also got cadbury hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream. I went back to the hostel at around 9, but Yi-Han invited me out the next night for her friend's birthday. I'll talk about that in a second. Yi-Han made this adorable collage from the market (these is her picture, hope she doesn't mind me borrowing it!)
These are mine.
The next day I finished up some Christmas shopping for my family and did a tour of these caves underneath Nottingham. They're manmade and not that interesting, but there is a medievel tannery down there that was pretty interesting. After that I went to Nottingham Castle and went in to look at the galleries. After that I went back to the Christmas market and ate some freshly made donuts and steak and ale stew wiTh duck fat potatoes. I was pretty much full for the rest of the day.
That night I took the bus to meet Yi-Han and we met her friends at a pizza place. We walked to her friend's flat for a house party and then went out to a club. I went out all night without losing anything! I was so proud. Yi-Han and I got separated that night though because she had to go back to her place and get her ID. I checked in with her later that night to make sure she was okay, and even though we didn't get to formally say goodbye, I was still so happy to see her! I can't wait to see you in Taipei, Yi-Han! I miss you already!
The next day I left Nottingham for London. I arrived at King's Cross and took the subway to Farringdon where Ji Won was waiting for me! I stayed in her dorm with her for two nights. The first night I went to a pizza party with her and some friends. Altogether, we at two large pizzas, one medium, jalapeno poppers, and cheese sticks. After that Ji Won and I watched Harry Potter together. The next day Ji Won had class so I was left to my own devices. I decided to walk to the Chinatown and eat lunch there. The London Chinatown is huge! It's also awesome, and there are tons of dim sum restaurants. I went into a bakery there and bought this cake !
How can you resist this, seriously?
It was also really hard to choose a restaurant for dim sum, because there were so many! The one I was at definitely didn't disappoint. They give you a menu and a sheet with each item and you check off how much of each thing you want. They brought me the plates one by one, so I didn't take a photo of it all together. They do give you a whole pot of Chinese tea, too! I had prawn dumplings, fried seafood dumplings, and beef ones that slightly resembled meatballs. Each one was delicious, I really want to find a dim sum restaurant in Albany that I can go to.
After that I walked through Covent Garden which was nearby. They decorated it so well for Christmas! There were huge ornaments hanging from the ceiling and a big tree outside. There was even a topiary shaped like a reindeer.
I had a couple of hours to kill before I met Ji Won at Notting Hill Gate, so I decided to walk there. The walk was about 4 miles, and it took me through Hyde Park, which is a really, really big park…I think it might be two miles long itself. There was a huge Christmas market in the middle that I couldn't get good photos of.
I met Ji Won at a fish and chips restaurant. There was a huge group of people celebrating something, so they were all singing at the top of their lungs and shouting, so Ji Won and I got a little annoyed, but the fish and chips were really good! My phone had died at this point so I didn't take a picture. We went back to her flat and watched another Harry Potter movie.
The next morning I had to switch to new place that I was staying at for my last two days. As most of you know, I went to an Infinite concert on my last night in Europe, and the place I was staying was a lot closer to the venue. The venue was in Hammersmith, so I had to take the Hammersmith line to the end, which took abtou an hour. After that I had to walk almost a mile to the apartment where I was staying. On the way, the wheels on my suitcase broke, so I had to drag it on the sidewalk almost the whole way. The map I had was also wrong, so I went to the wrong apartment. Eventually I made it, changed clothes, and went back out to meet Ji Won at the National Gallery. Because the subway took so long and I had to change trains a couple times, I was late meeting her. I did find her eventually, and we spent about 2 and a half hours in the gallery. The gallery itself was free to go in, and they had a really amazing collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art, which is what I cared most about. After we hit the Byzantine artwork, we decided to leave. We did see Jan Van Eyck's famous Arnolfini painting, which I have always wanted to see.
After that we walked to Covent Garden and ate at a place called Shake Shack Burger. It was a little expensive but the burgers, fries, and milkshakes were so good! I got a burger with cheese, bacon, and red peppers, and a peanut butter milkshake. Ji Won got the same with a chocolate and vanilla shake, and we shared fries. The peanut butter shake was so delicious, and being in Europe for so long meant I hadn't had that much peanut butter. After that we went to a place called Ben's cookies and got some delicious cookies to take with us.
I didn't get a chance to really say goodbye to Ji Won because we were taking opposite subway trains on the same line that were both about to leave. We hugged each other tight but had to separate quickly. I was sad to not get a chance to tell her how much I'll miss her. I can't wait to see you in Korea!!!!
The next day was a pretty big day for me. It was my last full day in Europe and the day of the Infinite concert. I had to pick up my ticket at 4 pm for the box office, so I decided to take my time getting ready and walking to the venue. I got to Hammersmith station at around 1 in the afternoon. The venue was right outside the station, and even at 1 pm people were starting to queue in front of the venue. I ran to get some food and then got a place in line. Luckily, I met a really cool girl from South Korea who loved Infinite as much, if not more, as I did. We hit it off immediately, and I was so happy to have her company while waiting the 7 hours to get in. (Hi Mina!!) When I went to pick up my ticket, I met a couple other girls in the box office line who ended up waiting in line with us for the rest of the time. Unfortunately we all got separated when we got inside. I took some pictures while waiting outside. Fortunately it wasn't too cold or raining.
I'm so glad I got in line when I did, because I ended up really close to the stage. At the beginning there was a huge screen playing all of their music videos and a couple of other Woolim artists'. Here's a couple if you're curious about Infinite..
My two favorite members are the two guys in the last video…but I'll stop bombarding you with videos. My only complaint about the arrangement of the venue was that the stage was pretty much level with the crowd, and it would have been a lot easier to see if they had been raised up slightly. Anyway, I was so close to them that I could see the sweat dripping off their bodies, and their English was absolutely adorable. They sang a total of 3 hours, and at the end we sang happy birthday to Dongwoo. The members of the group actually got really emotional at the end, and I'm pretty sure they and most of the crowd were crying. Even if you don't like K pop, there's no denying that they put their heart and souls into everything they do, and that they really appreciate the love they get from their fans. One thing that was also not so cool was that as soon as Infinite came onstage, people were pushing each other. It wasn't even a mass push to the front. I was getting pushed sideways, backwards, all over the place. People were fainting from the pressure of being squished by other people. Infinite actually had to ask us to calm down after only two songs. I think they felt bad for people getting hurt. A girl right next to me collapsed. People were being lifted out of the audience in tears. Fangirls are intense. I also almost wrestled a girl for a towel one of the members threw into the audience…I never said I wasn't a crazed fangirl.
The only picture of Myungsoo I got was blurry…
They were all so cute, I couldn't handle it at all. Seeing them in real life was so surreal for me. Seeing K pop groups unless you're in Korea seems like such an unattainable goal to me because they almost never tour in America. More groups are starting to come. Infinite actually did do a concert in New York City, but I was on my trip during it. It's really funny to me that I had to go to Europe to be able to see K pop. I wanted to upload some videos too but they wouldn't work on here. :( Oh well, I'm sure everyone has seen them on my facebook already anyway, so it's no big deal.
They didn't have any merchandise for sale at the actual concert, but there were people outside selling lanyards and tee shirts. I bought two of each, one for my sister and one for me. I didn't sleep that night because I had to be up for a cab at 5 am. I carried my suitcase down the stairs at about 4:45 and was waiting outside for the taxi. A guy drove up in his van and asked me if I needed a ride. Nope, creepy van guy, no I did not. The taxi picked me up, and I got to the airport about a half hour later. I had my boarding pass, baggage checked, and had gone through security all before 7:30. I was pretty hungry, so I ate an english breakfast and then took a nap before I got on my plane. My flight home was 6 hours and 50 minutes, and I slept for maybe 2 hours of it. Getting through immigration and customs was easy, and I started to get really anxious to see my mom and dad. When I came through to the arrivals hall, I saw my mom and burst into tears. My dad had gone to park the car and when I saw him at the other end of the hall, I ran to him and cried a lot.
This whole trip has been such an amazing experience to me. I've been home almost two weeks now, and looking back on it, I can't believe I did this. My life may have calmed down a lot, but I was really ready to come home. Now, I'll go back to school and work hard to save up money. In 2015, I will study abroad in Korea. This is just the beginning for me. I have a lot of adventures ahead to share with you!