Inspired by... 5 Books That I Love

I’ve been so excited to write this post because who doesn’t love talking about books?  Also, it makes me remember that I do love reading, especially when it’s not course-related, as much of a nerd as I am :).  While there are sooooo many more books that I love (stay tuned for a list of all of my favourites), here are 5 books to give you a taste!

 

1. The Century Trilogy - Ken Follett

          These books were amazing.  As someone who loves history, especially 20th century history, the fact that the books trace several different families from Britain, the US, Germany, and Russia throughout the 20th century and talk about how all of their lives intertwine, each of these books struck a perfect chord with me.  They were set against real-life events and people, too, so one of the characters works closely with President Wilson on his Fourteen Points in the first books, for example, and I think that makes the story that much richer.  

 

2. My Sister’s Keeper - Jodi Picoult

          Actually, all of Jodi Picoult’s books are works of a true master, but my relationship with Ms. Picoult began with this book.  My mom had been reading My Sister’s Keeper and I remember coming out of swim practice one day to find her sobbing hysterically in the car because she had finished the book…and I’ll leave it there.  With her books, I’m completely sucked in and I literally cannot put the book down until I’m done.  I’ve done this on several occasions and it’s such a satisfying feeling.

 

3. Harry Potter - JK Rowling

          I first picked up the Harry Potter books when I was in second grade and I whizzed through the first four books!  From there it was history and I dove into a world that defined my childhood, and is still a major part of my life today.  I was Hermione (the ultimate Smart Girl) for at least three Halloweens and I read the books and watched the movies over and over and over.  I especially loved the audiobooks, because Jim Dale’s voice is pure magic — I remember listening to the tapes on my walkman when I was about 10 — and is so soothing.  I actually listened to the first few books again this summer when I was commuting into the city and it made mornings so much better.  I could go on and on about Harry Potter, but I wouldn’t do it nearly enough justice.

 

4. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

          I’ve read all three of Khaled Hosseini’s books and they are so beautifully written! Each is set in the mid-to-late-twentieth century in Afghanistan (with some characters moving to America at some point) and as a student of the Middle East, I think he paints an incredible picture of this region and its history.  The characters are so deep and the endings are always bittersweet and they leave me feeling so fulfilled at the end and all throughout when I’m reading them.  Each has made me cry (out of joy and sadness), and gasp with a surprise plot twist, and close my eyes to picture these worlds.

 

5. Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowen

          My mom and I actually read this book together while we were travelling around France and I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.  It’s set in the 80s and is the story of two teenagers, who are misfits in their own ways and who fall completely in love with each other.  I won’t say any more about the plot because you really do have to read it to appreciate the beauty of it, but like the back cover says, it will remind you of what it was like to be in love for the first time and how it just pulls you right under.  The writing is sarcastic and smart, and clear, and it grabs at your heart and never lets go.  In fact, I loved it so much that I’m re-reading it!  HIGHLY recommend this book! :)

Inspired to be,

Katherine :)

Inspired by...Never Have I Ever

Woohoo Day 5!  Today’s prompt is to play a little solo and sober game of “Never Have I Ever” so without further ado, here goes!

Never have I ever...

 

1. Eaten fish and chips! (#BadBritishStudent)  I will be going to Brighton in the next few weeks, though, where I am determined to have the full experience of eating fish and chips from a paper cone on the beach.

 

2. Seen Friends.  Carolyn is currently cringing.  I’m sorry.

 

3. Gone farther west than the east coast of the US.  See my Travel Bucket List for future plans!

 

4. Lived in a country with a female president.  But I will.  #Hillary2016

 

5. Read Pride and Prejudice.  I keep meaning to, and how can you live in the UK and not?  On my 101 Things in 1,001 Days list!

 

6. Dyed my hair.  It’s been this colour for my entire life and I will keep it that way!

 

7. Enjoyed painting my nails.  Am I a real 20-year-old girl?

 

8. Done a handstand.  One of my top yoga goals!

 

9. Gone skinny-dipping.  Not entirely sure of the appeal but it’s in all of those coming-of-age movies, and I live in New England so I feel like it’s a must.

 

10. Knitted.  It’s been on my mind lately since it looks oh so relaxing.  Also, who doesn’t love a homemade scarf?

 

11. Taken a taxi to work.  I’ll be interning in the city this fall so this will definitely happen #GrownUpGoals

 

12. Been drunk, smoked, or really done anything illegal.  Have you met my dad? :)

 

13. Made creme brûlée. 

 

14. Pulled an all-nighter for academic purposes.  I’ve made it 3/4 of the way through my undergrad career so I’m not in any rush to break my streak now.

 

15. Run a half-marathon or a Color Run, both of which I am determined to do in the next two years. 

So, some goals, some not-goals but that’s the best part about being #KatherInspired!

 

Inspired to be,

 

Katherine

Inspired by...Final Days in Paris

My mom and I had one final afternoon in Paris, and she hadn’t been since she was in her 20s and flat broke while studying abroad, so I was determined to show her a different side of one of my favourite cities.  I’ve been to Paris three times now (I know, casual): once two years ago with my then-boyfriend and his mother, once last term with friends, and now with my mother.  Every time I go, I fall more and more in love with Paris, because each time is better than the last.  I have a friend who studied there last semester and she says that it’s much different when you’re living there, as opposed to visiting, and I’m sure she’s right, but for me, Paris is Paris and there’s nothing more romantic in the world.  

We started our afternoon near Notre Dame Cathedral at a cafe where my mom tried a croque monsieur for the first time.  It’s like a grilled ham sandwich, with cheese on top of the bread, and a fried egg on top of that, and it’s a beautiful creation.  

Also, it’s very French :)  We explored Notre Dame and all of its beauty before we moved on to the tiny side streets nearby.  We had wanted to see the memorial to the victims of deportation, but unfortunately, it was closed that day, so we just kept walking and exploring Ile de-Saint Louis, as well.  We didn’t realise how tired we were until we got to the Louvre, sat down for a moment, and almost couldn’t get up haha.  We couldn’t leave without seeing the Eiffel Tower, especially since it was getting dark and it’s gorgeous when it’s lit up, so we took the metro a few stops to Trocadero where the views are incredible.  As we got there, they were just turning the lights on, so we got to watch the tower slowly light up, which I had never seen before.  My mom had never tried a crepe before, either, so got one with nutella and whipped cream from a nearby stand, and just as we were taking our first bites, it was the top of the hour and the tower began to sparkle!  It’s always my favourite part :)

The next day, my mom was leaving from Charles de Gaulle, so I took her to the airport and had a quiet afternoon to myself — I was exhausted from two and a half weeks of travelling!  I got a baguette and a nice piece of cheese and some tomatoes from the Mouffetard market, came back to my room, and spent the evening watching Netflix on my bed with my treats.  My trip had come to an end!

Well, that's it for my European Adventure (or at least the continental part), but stay tuned for a reflection on my trip, coming soon to Katherinspired.com!

Inspired to be,

Katherine

Inspired by...Saying Thanks

Welcome to the Blog Everyday in May Challenge Day 4!  Today, I am writing a letter to say thanks to a very special lady in my life: my dear friend Farishta who I met on the first day of eighth grade and who has been my friend and sister ever since.

Dear Farishta,

We have been friends for 6 and a half years and you have made those years so beautiful.  I don’t really remember meeting you on the first day of eighth grade or even how we started talking, but one day we did, and then one night we talked on the phone for hours, and the rest is history.  Something about us clicked and you fell into place in my life and fit perfectly.  We survived the last bit of middle school together, and then I left to be homeschooled and kind of abandoned you to face high school on your own, but it didn’t matter that we didn’t go to the same school anymore because we could pick up right where we left off when we saw each other again.  I remember riding my bike to your house (#PreLicenseLife), making hummus in your kitchen, and having movie dates. 

Then, I came back to Valley at the beginning of junior year, and what a miracle because we were in the same math class!  My very first class at a real high school was with you and I was so grateful for that.  We had another survival story: Advanced Topics with Mrs. White and we came out with most of our sanity left.  Remember musical?  It was great having you there, too, especially because we got pictures like this:

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And then we had junior prom, at which we only got one picture together, but I think it’s a funny picture:

We had senior year together, too, and even though we didn’t have any classes together, you were still there through happiness and the occasional heartbreak.  We had plenty of fun times, though, like Titanic, Senior Reception (looking classy, as always!), and of course, GRADUATION!  This picture is hanging on my wall right now and I can’t believe it’s been three years since it was taken.

We’re in college now, and since I’m in London, we’re farther apart than ever, but even just texting you is enough for me because we still never run out of things to talk about.

Thank you for being more than my friend and for being my sister.  You were my friend in that horrible part of middle school when no one was my friend, you were my friend when I was homeschooled and we weren’t at the same school, you were my friend at one of the hardest most wrenching part of my life, the most cringe-worthy part of my life (a.k.a most of high school), the best parts of my life, and six and a half years later, you’re still here and I love you for it.  You have a beautiful spirit and are so strong.  You do my makeup, listen to my crazy stories, and are so kind to me, so I am grateful every single day that I have a friend like you.

I love you and miss you so much!  See you in a month!

Love,

Katie 

Inspired by...Blog Everyday in May Challenge Days 1, 2, 3

I am so excited to announce that I will be participating in the “Blog Every Day in May” challenge, organised by Belinda at FoundLoveNowWhat.com.  My friend Alex at AlexGoesToEurope.com (with whom I also go to school at LSE!) told me about the challenge and I think it will be a great way to escape from the stress of revision and give my blog a little TLC.  I really want to grow this blog, so in order to do that, I need to put some serious work into its content, hence this challenge!  I am, admittedly, starting a little late (it’s been a crazy weekend) so I am combining days 1, 2, and 3, but tomorrow we will be back on track!

Day 1: Introduce Yourself

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Katie (I also go by Kate and Katherine)!  I am a 20-year-old student at Fordham University and the London School of Economics where I am studying Political Science, Middle East Studies, and Theology, with a bit of international history.  This year, I’ve developed a concentration for my studies in democratic transitions in the Middle East and North Africa.  I am also passionate about international politics and development, women’s issues, and foreign affairs.  My dream is to work in the foreign service and eventually become Secretary of State.  I am an introvert, meaning I value my “me time” and am generally more reserved in unfamiliar situations and large groups, but I can connect with people on a very deep level, once I get to know them well.  I love to read and can spend hours in a bookstore, flipping through books, adding to my list of books to read, and soaking up the sounds of pages turning.  I am originally from Connecticut, but I go to school in New York, and have been living in London since September.  This year has been an incredible adventure for me — I’ve gotten to travel around Europe, study at one of the world’s best universities for social science, explore a beautiful city, and learn so much about myself.  Since living in London, I’ve developed a deep love for cappuccinos, though not for the caffeine boost.  Other things on my “love” list include museums, Pinterest, yoga, cooking and baking, The West Wing, blogging, chocolate, TED talks and podcasts, magazines, organising (especially with my Erin Condren planner!), and tea.

 


5 Photos That Tell My Story:

Where would we be without family?  This is me and my brother at Thanksgiving 2013, which is also the last Thanksgiving I spent with my family (I was gone for 2014!).  [Ignore the ridiculously long fringe :)].  My brother and I were very close growing up — we went to the same summer camps, made our stuffed animals go “bungee jumping” off the knee wall in our family room, and made up stories on the swings in the backyard.  Now that we’re older, we bond by driving around at night while we listen to music and talk a little.  He goes to boarding school and I’m here, so it’s hard to stay close, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job.  Also, he graduates high school in exactly 35 days and I get to be home to be there as an obnoxiously proud big sister. 

 

Smart Girls Group has changed my life.  I wish something like this had existed when I was in high school because having a sisterhood of ambitious and kind girls would have been a total game-changer.  I have had the opportunity to connect with amazing women and girls and being involved in all the ways that I am makes each day brighter.

 

This is my classic “inspired” pose and also part of my KatherInspired logo!  This was me back in October on my second trip to Paris and my friends and I had a lot of fun taking pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower :).  To me, this is my ultimate expression of joy — throwing your arms up in the air because you’re so happy and excited and inspired that there’s no other way to describe it.  I am constantly inspired by the world and throw myself into everything that inspires me, and this pose pretty much sums it up.

 

This picture was taken my third week in London when my friend Claire and I went to tea at Harrods.  What could be more English than tea with scones with clotted cream and jam?  Few things, in my opinion.  This was one of those afternoons that the sheer reality of where I was — London— really hit me.  I was in a brand new city and exploring as much as I could, I had a new friend, and we had tea with amazing scones, so life for me was complete.  I look back at the girl in this picture and I can’t believe it’s been almost 8 months since it was taken.  I have grown and changed so much in the past 8 months and it is one of the best feelings in the world.

 

This was me in Scotland when we were driving through the Highlands and we stopped to take pictures at the Three Sisters mountains.  It was rainy and freezing and the wind almost knocked you off your feet, but I was still laughing, whether it be because of how beautiful the mountains (and Scotland in general!) were, or because the whole setup here was just so ridiculous.  

 


 

My Travel Bucket List:

As you’ve seen throughout my year in London, I’ve been to 11 countries and more cities than I want to count right now, so I’d say I’ve checked quite a few places off of my travel bucket list!  I do have some places left, however:

 

Morocco:

I would love to see the sand dunes in the desert, ride a camel, and eat hummus and turmeric on pita bread while sitting on a pouf.  I’ve been fascinated by Arabic culture since high school and I can’t wait until I get to see it for myself.  I also need to learn Arabic at some point, so Morocco will be a great place to practice!

 

Italy:

I didn’t make it to Italy this year, but as a huge fan of art history, architecture, food, and Eat, Pray, Love, I will definitely be visiting Italy at some point in the future!

 

Istanbul:

I mean, how could you not want to visit the Hagia Sophia and eat Turkish food?  I’ve taken two classes on Ottoman history and even more on the Middle East, so it would be incredible to see it come to life.

 

India:

Yoga has been a big part of my life for the past two years, so I would love to study it at an ashram in India.  Also, elephants are really cool so riding one would be amazing!

 

Peru:

I took Spanish in high school and at Fordham, and while I’m not fluent, Spanish still comes pretty naturally to me.  I love the way it sounds and the way it feels to speak it!  Machu Picchu has always fascinated me, so I would really love to climb it and practice my Spanish.  

 

Southwestern USA:

My neighbour is currently living in Arizona and I can’t get over how beautiful that part of the United States is!  I want to see wide open sky, the sun shining on the desert sand, and, of course, the Grand Canyon.  

 

Stay tuned for Day 4 tomorrow!

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by...Bordeaux and San Sebastian!

We were only back in Paris for the evening because we were leaving for Bordeaux bright and early in the morning!  Our train was at 9:00, so we got up early and headed to Montparnasse Station to have a coffee and pain au chocolat before our train.  This ride was longer but we still got in with plenty of the day left ahead of us.  Our hotel was gorgeous and right near the train station so it wasn’t a long walk at all.  Once we were settled, we walked into the centre of the city to explore the markets and beautiful churches surrounding us.

 Right in the centre of the city, we stumbled across a boulangerie, because it had been quite some time since our last pastry, and we were so glad we found this place!  The croissants and pains au chocolat were gorgeous and screaming our names so we bought a few, and the moment we bit into them, we were in pure bliss.  Now, I’ve been living in Europe for quite some time now, but NOTHING I had ever eaten compared to these pastries.  

Every layer was so light and buttery and it was like nothing we had ever tasted before.  In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m dying for one of them right now :)  We strolled around a bit more and soaked up plenty of much-needed sun, before we headed back to the hotel to relax a bit before dinner.  

We got dressed up and had a glass of wine in the hotel bar before we went in search of our meal for the evening.  We found the perfect place that had on the menu something I had been wanting to try ever since I saw the movie Julie and Julia : Sole Meuniere, or sole cooked in a lemon butter sauce.  It’s even more exciting than your usual fish dish because it comes whole and you get to de-bone it before you eat it — fun, right?  After five long years of waiting, I finally got to try sole meuniere and it was AMAZING!  So rich and buttery and I was in heaven.  That, some chocolate profiteroles, and a stroll by the river with the lit-up buildings in the background and it was a beautiful ending to the day.

The next day, we were taking a day trip to San Sebastian, Spain, so we got up super early and made a 6:45am train.  This was a much longer train ride, but it was early, so we just curled up and slept :)  We got to Hendaye, which is a small town on the French-Spanish border, around 10:30 and waited to take the Euskotren to San Sebastian.  This is a tiny commuter train that would take us the rest of the way, by the way.  Finally, we were in San Sebastian, and it was gorgeous!  It was the quintessential Spanish town, with tapas bars everywhere and the beautiful blue ocean just minutes away.  

We got tapas, which are like tiny plates or sandwiches, for lunch since by that point, we were starving.  Then, it was just us and Spain for the rest of the afternoon.  It was a quiet day, mostly, since we just took in the views, poked around shops, and then relaxed on the beach until our return train.  We soaked up plenty of sun and were so relaxed by the time we got on the train to head back to Bordeaux for the evening.  Definitely a perfect little taste of Spain for the day!

Inspired to be,

Katherine

Inspired by...Bayeux, Normandy!

I cannot begin to tell you how relieved I was by this point in my journey — not only was I with my mother and therefore not completely responsible for myself, I was also staying in a hotel (can you say showers with no flip flops!), and I got to do laundry and have actual clean clothes!  On the day I met my mom (Thursday), we mostly spent the day finding a good laundromat near the hotel in Paris and getting settled in our room before having a nice dinner and catching up.

The next day, we left from St. Lazare station to take the train to Bayeux, Normandy.  I hadn’t realised this before the trip, but Normandy isn’t actually a town — it’s actually a region of France made up of smaller towns, hence the name of our location.  The ride wasn’t very long and was quite scenic, so it was a pleasant journey.  We arrived in Bayeux around 12:30 and walked to the tourist information office so we could find our hotel…which turned out to be a lot closer to the train station than we had thought.  It was such a gorgeous day, and we were dying to see the Normandy beaches, so once we were checked in, we decided to rent bikes (complete with baskets!) and ride to Omaha Beach!

 I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical at first because we only had a map and obviously spoke no French, so a lot of nightmare scenarios were running through my head… We set out and took on the French countryside!  What made it even more French is that I was in a dress (guess who didn’t bring any exercise-esque clothes) :)  The ride to the beach was amazing — the sun was shining, we biked through small country roads, and I had the urge to break out into Do, Re, Mi (because how could I not when wearing a green and white dress and riding through the countryside?).  After about an hour and a half of biking, we made it!  We had officially stormed the beaches!  We stood in the sand for a bit and took in the sea air and the history that could feel seeping in with every wave.  We had a long trek ahead of us, so we got back on our bikes (a little less enthusiastically this time) and began to head back.  By this point, we were quite tired so the ride back was much harder, but we stopped at a cafe we found and replenished with a sweet treat and some water. Let’s just say we were quite relieved when we finally got to the last downhill that would take us into the centre of town :)

That evening, we had a lovely dinner at a restaurant in the centre of town, and I actually forget what I had for an appetiser, and I know the entree was some kind of fish dish, but I do remember the chocolate mousse I had for dessert- YUM.

We slept in the next day, thoroughly exhausted from all of our travels over the past few days, and spent the day exploring Bayeux.  The weather wasn’t as nice that day, so we were glad that we had decided to bike the day before.  For lunch, we had incredible escargot and a cheese platter and it was the perfect way to top off a fun trip.  Our train left that evening, so we walked around some more, explored markets and little shops, and then made our way back to the train station to head back to Paris for the evening!

Inspired to be,

Katherine

Inspired by...Berlin!

At this point in my trip, I was on my way back to Paris to see my mom, but I had about a day extra and it’s an eleven hour train ride from Prague to Paris, which I really didn’t want to do, so I factored in an evening in Berlin to break up the trip.  We got in a bit later than we were supposed to, but I still had enough time to do a walking tour in the evening, which I enjoyed especially because I had been sitting on a train since 10:30 in the morning!

I loved Berlin!  It’s not as beautiful, so to speak, as the other cities I had been to, but it makes up for this by being historically rich, which was perfect for me.  What’s interesting about Berlin is how it’s embraced its rather unfortunate 20th century history.  They can’t escape from the horrors of the Nazis and communism, so they’ve turned the city into a living memorial for all of the victims of this period.  I saw the Reichstag first, which is the home to the lower house of the German parliament, the Bundestag ( I was having [nightmares] flashbacks of my European Politics class the whole time).  From the picture, you can almost see a glass cupola in the back, which is there to literally filter out stale air and bring in fresh air.  If you reserve a place ahead of time, you can even walk to the top which I think would be fun to do at night.  Right next to the Reichstag is a memorial to the politicians who opposed Hitler and it looks like a row of flat stones, but they also have the names of the 96 members of the Bundestag in the Weimar Republic who didn’t agree with Hitler and were murdered.  Definitely one of the more interesting monuments I had seen on this trip: simple, yet powerful.

 On that note, I then had perhaps my favourite experience in Berlin, which was walking through the Brandenberg Gate, which was a major part of the Berlin Wall.  I think I liked it so much because if this had been 30 years ago, I never would have been able to do this.  Communism isn't as far in our rearview mirror as we'd like to think.  In fact, my mom was even telling me about when she was studying abroad and travelling, Berlin was still divided.  I can't believe it's only a generation behind us!

 Also, the American embassy is just beyond the gate on Unter den Linden, so I had a glimpse of home, as well, though the security guards outside didn't look too pleased when I snapped a picture.... I walked away as quickly as I could. #expatproblems 

 Parts of the wall remain in Berlin, but for the places where it’s been taken away for practical reasons like traffic, they’ve put a double line of cobblestones on the street so you can see where the Wall once stood.

 Another surreal moment was on Bebelplatz near Humboldt University.  This is also the site of the former state library, and in the square, there’s a small framed pane of glass on the ground, where you can look through to see a room of empty bookshelves below you.  This is a memorial to the 1933 Nazi book burning and it’s eerie standing above it.

 Oh, and if you’re wondering what this little green man is, it’s Ampelmann.  In East Berlin, he was the symbol on the pedestrian lights, and it took a 10-year court battle to keep him on the traffic lights after the unification.  He’s so popular that there are stores with all kinds of Ampfelmann memorabilia.  I mean, can you blame everyone?  He's adorable!

Once I had finished my tour, I met my friend Michael and his friend for drinks since they were in the city the same time I was.  My train wasn’t supposed to leave until about midnight so I had time on my hands.  It was great to see him and catch up about our trips in a fun and very classy Van Gogh-themed bar on the river.  


Travelling got a little dicey at that point since the train was delayed by almost an hour, and I was only going to have a half hour layover in Cologne before my train to Paris.  We lost even more time overnight so we were running about an hour and a half behind schedule by the time we finally got in around 7:45.  Luckily, there was another direct train at 8:45 and after a mocha and freshening up, I was ready to head out again!  Oh, and in case you are curious about the post I put on Facebook about almost being robbed in Cologne, I also had a very fun run-in with a would-be thief who tried to take my purse (with my wallet, iPad, phone, passport, and tickets — can you say disaster??) while the train was still on the platform, but I recovered it almost immediately and spent the rest of the trip using it as a pillow out of sheer anxiety.  Let’s just say I was relieved when I finally got to Paris and the hotel where my mom was staying, at which point I was not completely on my own. :)

Stay tuned for more of the Katherinspired European Adventure, coming soon!

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by...Prague

Before I get into Prague, let’s talk about the fun journey I had (yes, that was sarcasm).  I left Muenchen at 5:00 and was thrilled with my top deck, plush seat on the train…until I was told that there was construction on the tracks somewhere in Germany, so I would have to get off at the next stop and take a coach bus to the next stop after that where I would board my train to Prague.  That was quite the trek in itself, and then the train from that station was late.  I had a whole compartment to myself until about 9:30 when a nice French woman joined me.  Then, at the stop just before Prague’s main station, we just stopped.  I waited…and waited…and waited…until I was told that the train was having problems so I would have to take the metro into the city centre.  We were already delayed so at that point, it was about 11:30 pm and I was exhausted.  I figured out the metro and finally arrived in the city centre and tried to find my hostel using my map but everything looks different in the dark…and none of the Polizei speak English.  Finally, though, I arrived at Hostel MOJO (love the name!) and got checked in and ready for bed.

I didn’t have Rick Steves’ book for Prague so I was on my own for a walking tour, but I think I did a pretty good job on my own.  I started the day in Wenceslas Square and then the Old Town Square where they have a famous astronomical clock.  I knew I was in the right place because wow was it crowded with tourists!  My mom had been to Prague a few years ago and she loved the clock…even with its rather dark backstory.  The city officials commissioned the clock I think around the 13th century, but because they were so proud of their clock, they blinded the artist who created the clock so he couldn’t make one for someone else.  Charming, right?  Despite that, the clock is beautiful and is fun to watch when it chimes.  At the top of the hour, the 12 apostles parade past the window, while below, the four anxieties of 13th century Prague are animated (Vanity, Greed, Death, and Pagan Invasion) and then the hour is rung after a rooster crows.

 I was in quite a good mood after that, and then I headed to the Charles Bridge which was incredible!  Check (Czech!) out the views from bridge:

Once I was on the other side, I got a coffee and took advantage of some free wifi before I continued on my tour of the city.  From there, I headed to the John Lennon Wall which I had been wanting to see for quite a while.  After Lennon died, fans and students began spray-painting this smallish wall near a church tucked away from the centre.  They included Beatles’ lyrics, political slogans, and a picture of the legend himself, and it’s a rite of passage to see it when you visit Prague:

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After I saw the wall, I went to Petrin Hill which is a park that, at the top, overlooks the city and the Prague Castle.  I first headed to the Memorial to the Victims of Communism which I thought was really well-done.  The memorial looks like a man deteriorating as you move along it, which is supposed to show the effects of communism.  Very powerful, right?

 Then I began a very long trek up the hill so I could see the view from the top.  It was a fun walk since the paths are all windy and lead into each other and it was a beautiful day, so I didn’t mind the huge uphill.  Check out the view!

I spent quite a bit of time in Petrin Hill, but after I left, I went back across the river (different bridge, this time) to the old Jewish Quarter where I saw a synagogue and a memorial to Franz Kafka.  There was a bakeshop that I had heard great things about, so I refreshed with a cup of tea and a piece of white chocolate raspberry cake before I  continued on my way.  I had also heard about an “expat” English-language bookshop somewhat on my way back to the hostel, and I was dying for some English, so I headed there and had some quiet time with books.  I was exhausted by that point, so I went back to the hostel and relaxed for the rest of the evening!

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by...Munich! (Muenchen)

My train to Munich left at 8 am so it wasn’t as early of a wakeup as a few days before.  It was also a much shorter trip.  By the way, Munich is called “Muenchen” in German which is just so much more fun to say :)

I was meeting my friend from high school (the one studying in Florence) for this part of the trip and it was nice to have a familiar face after solo travelling for the past few days.  We were starving but nothing was quite open for lunch yet so we took a walk along the river a little ways north of the city centre.  We came back and had lunch at a lovely healthy cafe near the city centre and started a walking tour of the city from my book.  Like my first day in Salzburg, it rained and poured during the tour, but we didn’t mind too much.  What’s interesting about Munich is that it was completely devastated by the bombing campaigns during the war, but they chose to rebuild exactly the way it was, unlike Berlin which started from scratch and modernised.  My favourite was easily the New Town Hall in Marienplatz which also has a famous glockenspiel.  This one has more movement than the one in Salzburg since it reenacts a wedding scene between a duke and duchess from the 16th century, so it’s fun to watch.  From there, we moved on to St. Peter’s church and climbed 306 steps up to the top which was completely worth the hamstring workout because check out these views!

After climbing up all those steps, we went to the Viktualienmarket where we got a German specialty: giant pretzels!  Nothing makes you feel German like a giant soft pretzel, right? :)  The rest of the walking tour was mostly churches and a huge synagogue, which were gorgeous, and a very strange monument to Michael Jackson.  When Michael Jackson would visit Munich, he would stay at Hotel Bayerischer Hof, and after he died in 2009, some of his fanatics started putting pictures of him and candles below a statue of the composer Orlando di Lasso.  They still maintain it, actually, but Hannah and I thought it was a little weird...

We finished off the day by going to the Hofbrauhaus which is one of the most famous beer halls in Germany.  It seats about 5,000 people and you have to seat yourself, so on a Saturday night before Easter, this was a little tricky.  We eventually found seats and ordered a German classic: Hofbrau beer served a litre-size mug.  WOW, right?  Hannah somehow managed to finish hers and another pretzel, but I couldn’t quite finish my mug — I was already feeling lightheaded haha.  

The next day, we took a day trip out to Bavaria so we could see Neuschwanstein Castle!  This is the castle that inspired the Disney one, as well as the castle from the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie (we were both in the musical our junior year so it was a must).  It was a long trip — about 2.5 hours by train — but it was absolutely breathtaking and it was snowing!  Once we got to the site of the castle, we had to walk uphill through the snowy woods for a bit, but it felt quite festive.  We didn’t go inside because we had seen quite a few castles and didn’t feel like paying 12 euro to get in, but we had just as much fun taking pictures on the outside.  We finished off the day with apple strudel and coffee at a nice cafe near the train.

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Hannah left the following morning, so I took a shorter day trip out to see the Dachau concentration camp.  It was a short ride on the S-Bahn and then a 15 minute bus ride.  I didn’t take any pictures since I just couldn’t a) out of respect and b) a picture wouldn’t capture it anyway.  Not only can you walk around the grounds of the camp, but there’s also a very powerful museum that talks about the history of the Third Reich and the people held in the camps.  Dachau was one of the first camps of the Nazi regime and this is what makes it interesting because it served as a model for all of the other camps.  It was mostly a camp for political prisoners, Gypsies/Roma, communists, and a small number of Jews, which I hadn’t known.  There’s memorials from the Jewish, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox faith traditions on the grounds, as well, and it was both peaceful and eerie.  Pretty heavy stuff for my last day, but I’m glad I went.

It was Easter Monday which is actually a big day and not just a Catholic school thing like I had thought, so almost nothing in Munich was open.  I walked around some more and saw the churches again before I headed back to the hostel to get ready to leave.  I had an evening train to Prague and I wanted to be ready!

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by...Salzburg!

The next day, I got up around 5:15 so I could get to the train station for my 6:40 train to Salzburg.  It was a long ride — about 5 hours — but it was easily the most gorgeous part of my trip because the whole ride took me through the Alps and there is nothing like sitting in a very comfortable train seat and going through snowy towns and by rivers and woods and such.  It was quite relaxing!

I got to Salzburg around 12:30 and headed to my hostel which wasn’t far away at all.  I think this was my favourite hostel (trying to remember all of them!) because it was pretty cheap, very clean, and it played The Sound of Music every evening at 8:00 in the lounge.  Also, it was located right near the Mirabell Gardens which is where a bit from the song Do, Re, Mi was filmed :)  After I checked in and got settled, I headed out on a walking tour of the city.  I had a fantastic tour book for this city, and the self-guided walking tour took me around all of the major sites.  The catch?  It was pouring rain most of the time…  Oh well, I had an umbrella and a rain jacket so I survived!  My book got a little wrinkled, but I think it makes it look well-travelled.  

I saw the statue of Mozart in the, wait for it, Mozartplatz, that was put there on the 50th anniversary of his death.  Salzburg, and most of Austria in general, makes a big deal out of the fact that Mozart was born there so his face is on everything!  Sometimes it’s a bit tacky, but sometimes it works.  Another one of my favourites was the Neue Residenz and the Glockenspiel, which has been around since about the 17th century and chimes in the morning and evening.  It doesn’t sound like church bells, but more like handbells and the sound is really charming.  I also climbed up the face of the Monchsburg cliff face near the festival hall to get some beautiful (albeit cloudy) views of the city — I got better ones the next day when it was sunny.  My tour book had also recommended a little bakery near St. Peter’s cemetery that is famous for its rolls which it sells for only a Euro, so after walking around in the rain for the longest time trying to find it, I stumbled upon it and was very grateful for the warmth!  It’s the oldest bakery in Salzburg and I think it’s been around since the 13th century or so.  Let’s just say it was so worth getting soaked because it was the best brioche I have had in my entire life— so light and warm and sweet, and there were a few raisins in it — I was in heaven!  I finished my walking tour and headed back to get into dry clothes for The Sound of Music!

The next day was my full day in Salzburg so I had breakfast in the hostel and set out for the city centre again.  I visited a few of my favourites from the previous day and then began a long uphill trek to the Hohensalzburg Fortress which had been highly recommended.  This has been around since the 700s and I got to see an exhibit where they have models detailing how it has grown since then.  It hasn’t been used as an actual fortress in quite some time (since 1860), but Napoleon used it as a military barracks when he was off being Napoleon.  I also got to see the fortress interior which hasn’t been modernised or lived in since the 1500s and at the end of the tour, they took us up top where I saw the Alps in their full beauty and it’s something I will never forget.    

After I had seen as much as I could of the fortress, I took a funicular down to the old city and then crossed over the newer part of the city.  I walked along the Steingasse which is full of history: I saw the alleged birthplace of the composer who wrote Silent Night (Joseph Mohr), and then a wall that had been gouged out a bit at the end of WWII because an American GI tried to get his tank up the street to visit a brothel.  Good job, guys.  

That was it for my day in Salzburg and it was quite a full day, so I was happy to relax with The Sound of Music that night…yes, again :)

5 points to Gryffindor if anyone can guess in what song (from the movie) this fountain is shown!

5 points to Gryffindor if anyone can guess in what song (from the movie) this fountain is shown!

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by...Travel Day and Zurich

So, DAY ONE!  On Monday night (the 30th), I realised that, oh my god, I was leaving for Europe the next day and I started to freak out just a bit…okay, a lot.  What had I done???  I had no choice at this point, as I had booked my hostels, my EuRail pass, and all of my train reservations, but still, it was a lot to take in.  Also, there was the whole stress of packing since yours truly in a stroke of genius decided to wait until about 9:00 that night when I had to be up at 2:30 in the morning.  BIG mistake, since I had less room than I thought I had.  Anyway, I slept a little that night but I kept thinking about getting myself to the train station and not forgetting anything major, like my passport for example.  Finally, it was 2:30am and I was dragging myself out of bed, having finally fallen asleep.  I was out the door by 3:15 and on my way to Tottenham Court Road where I would take a night bus a few stops to King’s Cross/St. Pancras International.  This was one of those moments that the Tube not running 24 hours really wasn’t fun.  I eventually made it to King’s Cross, checked in for my Eurostar train, and then waited….and waited…and waited, until it was time to board!  This was it!  I got comfortable in my seat and settled in for a 2.5 hour train ride — I was prepared with a long episode of Sherlock and my relaxing playlist so I could get some sleep.

I arrived in Paris around 8:30 am local time (Paris is one hour ahead of Greenwich time) and had about a three hour layover with no wifi, so I needed to find some way to entertain myself.  It was a gorgeous day so I took a walk and got a crepe since I only get them in Paris and it had been so long.  I was in a much better mood after that :)  Then I had a quick train Lille Europe, which I think is north of Paris, but I didn’t really pay much attention.  After another hour layover, I was on the train to Marne La Vallee Chessy, which is definitely in France, and I think it was farther south.  The layovers were getting shorter at this point, but my train to Strasbourg was delayed so I killed a little time in the station and we were finally on our way!  Luckily, we made up a lot of time on the way to Basel (on the France/Germany/Switzerland border) since this was going to be my tightest connection yet, and I had just enough time to run through the station and make my train to Zurich!  I got in at 9:00pm having travelled for just about 18 hours and I was exhausted and in desperate need of a hot shower and my bed.  My hostel was close to the train station which was lovely…but reception was on the third floor with no elevators, so you can imagine the look on my face when I got in the door. Finally, after checking in, a blissful hot shower, and sheets on my bed, I collapsed!


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And now onto Zurich!  It’s an absolutely gorgeous little city in the German side of Switzerland with a river running through it, and incredible views of the Alps just beyond the river.  Here’s the flip side, though: it’s expensive.  I found out when I went to Starbucks to get a bottle of water and a snack bar and it cost me 8 Swiss francs which is the equivalent of 7 USD.  Good thing I was only there for a day!  I mostly walked around on my day in Zurich since, while it’s a beautiful, quaint city, there’s not a whole lot to do besides poke around in churches and see the river.  I did find a market in the train station and got to sample some cheeses and pastries which was quite enjoyable, and I hiked up this huge hill to get a nice panoramic view of the city and listen to the church bells chime.  I also found a fun music store on the main street near my hostel where they let you open any CD you want (well, they open it for you) and you can listen to it with amazing Bose headphones for as long as you want!  I listened to German music for a bit, and then found a Broadway classics CD that I liked a little more :)  

Also, on a slightly unrelated note, LSE finally released the exam schedule (it got delayed because of a software issue or something so I was searching for wifi all day so I could figure out when my exams are), and I’m coming home on June 4th!  I’ll be home in time for David’s graduation which I thought was a long shot, but it worked out and I am so relieved!

After a long walk by the river and a few more pictures, I called it a day and headed back to the hostel.  The next day was going to be an early wakeup, so I needed to get some sleep!

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by...My European Adventure: The Beginning

I’m back!!!  I returned on Thursday from 17 days of travelling around Europe and I can’t wait to share it with you!  Before I go into all of the lovely pastry/Alps/castle/ beach-infused details, let’s talk logistics:

 

Who: Yours truly, the brains behind Katherinspired, the 20-something living in London for the year with a long break in between spring and summer terms who had (and still has) incredibly itchy feet.

What: Seeing the farther-away places I didn’t go last term, because how can you not when you have the perfect break in between terms?

When: March 31st - April 16th

Where: Zurich, Switzerland; Salzburg, Austria; Munich, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; Berlin, Germany; Paris, Bayeux, and Bordeaux, France; San Sebastian, Spain.  WOW.

Why: Why not?  Seriously, though, I did this trip so I could get out and explore, so I could marvel at something (Eat, Pray, Love, anyone?), so I could have an adventure beyond the adventure that this year has already been.

How:

     Travel: I had a few different options for how I wanted to travel around Europe, but I eventually chose a EuRail pass.  I love trains and the scenic views they provide, so I thought it would be a fun way to enjoy the journey.  EuRail has several options, including a one, two, or three-country pass, a flex-pass that allows you a certain number of “travel days” within a set period, or a global pass which gives you unlimited travel within a certain amount of days.  I opted for the global pass options because I didn’t want to be limited in case of train delays or anything, and because I would be travelling through so many countries.  I do think it would have been cheaper to fly (…Ryanair), but then you miss the scenery and “on the ground” interaction, I think, so it was worth it.  What I didn’t realise before purchasing the pass is that certain trains (especially ones in France and Switzerland) require you to make reservations in addition to having a pass, which also cost more money.  That was a bit frustrating, but even with the additional cost of the reservations, the pass pretty much paid for itself if you factor in the cost of all of the train tickets.  I was pretty intimidated by the idea of planning this huge trip itself, so I procrastinated a bit, but I eventually sat down one day and just began booking my trains and the dates I would be in each place, and it fell into place like a puzzle.  Best feeling ever.


     Accommodations: I was especially worried about hostels because I had never stayed in one by myself before.  Obviously, the concern here is security both for myself and my stuff, so I thought I would have to book single rooms in all of my hostels…which is really expensive.  Luckily, I found HostelWorld which is a website that lets you search for hostels using specific filters.  So, when I was looking for hostels in Zurich for the nights of March 31st and April 1st, I used filters like “luggage storage” and “hairdryers available” (trust me, it was a concern).  The website was fantastic — I was very satisfied with all of my hostels.  They were fairly inexpensive (with the exception of Zurich, but nothing in Switzerland is cheap, anyway), clean, and all were centrally located.  Also, I wasn’t expecting this, but all of them had free wifi!  If you’re going to be travelling, definitely use HostelWorld so you can get the hostel you want and need.

Touring: When you’re planning a trip like this, you want to make the best use of your time.  I was going to have between a day and a day in a half in each city, so I wanted to see all of the major sites and get as much of a feel for the city as I could.  Luckily, I live right near one of the best travel bookstores I’ve ever encountered: Stanford’s.  This place is a goldmine.  They have maps (both vintage and modern), tour books, novels about travelling, and basically everything this wanderlust-filled traveller could ever dream of.  Once I had booked all of my trains and accommodations, I popped on over to Stanford’s to get tour books on all of the cities I was going to.  Hands-down my absolute favourite were the books by Rick Steves.  This man is a genius when it comes to travelling around Europe, I promise.  He has a show on PBS, as well as an app, but I relied on his tour books because they helped me make the most out of each day.  What I love about his books is that they teach you the smart way to travel.  He has a walking tour of the city in each book with an easy-to-follow map that takes you around the major sites, while also making it logical.  Additionally, he divulges the tricks of the trade that he’s learned throughout his extensive years of traveling.  For instance, when I was in Salzburg, he had rated visiting the Hohensalzburg Fortress an absolute must, but what he also did was talk about how to visit the fortress — when I first got there, he said rather than turning right at the entrance to a certain site, turn left for fewer crowds, and things like that.  Some of my best memories from the solo bit of the trip were my walking tours so I highly recommend him!

Packing: I know some people are able to “backpack” around Europe with literally nothing but a backpack, but I am not that kind of person.  Seriously, though, how do people do that???  17 days of the same clothes from my suitcase were enough to push me over the edge so I can’t imagine.  Anyway, I digress.  I took my carry-on-sized suitcase, and a good sturdy shoulder bag and that was it.  I packed basics that I knew I would be able to mix and match since I had very little room (light sweaters, layering pieces, leggings, a good skirt, my tall boots, and a pair of sneakers, etc.) and I organised them in big ziploc bags.  This is especially useful for saving space since you can squeeze the air out of the bags, and is good to keep things clean because god forbid your shampoo spills or something.  I packed all of my toiletries, stress remedies, first aid stuff in plastic pouches (these are my favourites), and then squeezed whatever else I thought of at the last minute somewhere else in there.  My advice?  Don’t leave packing for a few hours before you have to go to bed before you have to get up at 2:30 am.  Trust me, don’t do this.  You always have less space than you think you do and you want to walk out the door feeling like you have your life together, at least partly :)

Well, that’s it for the logistics of my trip!  Stay tuned for details of my travelling day and my day in Zurich, coming soon to KatherInspired!


Inspired to be,


Katherine  

Inspired by... Reconnecting With My Roots

I’ve already told you all about my trip to Ireland, but now I want to reflect a bit on how I felt when I was there because I can’t stop thinking about it.  I felt this incredible sense of connection the whole time I was in Ireland, and it was something I had never felt before.  It took me a little while to realise why I felt this way, but I think it’s because I’ve never actually been to a place where I’m from.  I mean, I’m from the United States, but only by a few generations.  That’s still something, but Ireland is very different for me.  

 

In fourth grade, I had to do a project on my “Country of Origin.”  I had a few choices since I am Irish, French, Italian, and Russian.  I’m not sure what made me pick Ireland, but I think it was the fact that being Irish (or “of Irish descent”) has been the most prominent in my life.  I loved Saint Patrick’s Day when I got to call my grandparents and tell them “top of the morning to you!” and my some of my favourite memories come from Thanksgiving when my big family would all get together — we’re quite loud so it made for some great memories.  I do remember colouring in an Irish flag, writing a report on Saint Patrick, looking up fun facts about Ireland, and making an “immigrant bundle” of things that I would bring from home.  I was only about eight or nine at the time, but I loved this project because it was my first experience with my roots.  Going to Ireland, however, and actually being there, where I’m from, was something entirely different, however.

 

Ireland is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  It was truly love at first sight, and I can’t get the scenery out of my mind.  It’s incredibly green and the air feels so clean and fresh.  Even the accents are beautiful — I spent an entire weekend listening to brogues and it was music to my ears.  Perhaps all of these sensory experiences were a subconscious awakening of my ancestry and my roots.  I felt something so deep the whole time I was there.  It was a sense of belonging and a sense of seeing where I come from and a part of who I am.


If you ever have the chance to go to a place where you’re from, I highly recommend it!  It is something you will never forget.


Inspired to be,


Katherine 

Inspired by...Ireland!

Last week, I got to reconnect with my roots with a visit to Ireland!  Before I begin, I’d just like to point out that this trip was monumental in a few ways.  First, it was the first time I booked a plane ticket all on my own (snaps for me!).  Second, it was the first time I flew Ryanair which I believe is a rite of passage for study abroad students.  And third, I got to meet my family!

I left bright and early on Saturday morning to catch the first Tube to Liverpool Street, where I took the Stansted Express to the airport.  The flight was quick and easy and I have to say, Ryanair is not that bad at all.  Once I landed at Shannon, I was greeted with lots of hugs and welcomes from my family and we set off for the day’s adventures!

 

We stopped first at Dromoland Castle for (completely necessary) tea and scones since I was famished after the journey!  Dromoland Castle is a very high-end golf course and hotel where people have their weddings and other fancy events, so having tea in the garden made me feel oh-so chic :)

From there, we went to the Cliffs of Moher, which are on the western coast of Ireland near a little town called Doolin.  The weather was absolutely pristine that day, which was great because we went on a ferry ride to see the cliffs right from the water (the best way to see them, I think!).  The sea air felt lovely and the scenery was breathtaking.  (Fun fact: a scene from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was shot near the cliffs — can you guess which one?)  After stopping for lunch at a pub in Doolin (and watching Ireland destroy Scotland in the rugby match that day!), we began our drive along the Clare Coast and Burren National Park.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves...

Needless to say, I was exhausted when we finally got home, so I slept very well that night.

 

On Sunday, my family took me to the historic town and castle at Bunratty, which was about 15 minutes from where I was staying.  I’ve always loved historic towns — something about getting to poke around in all of the buildings and walk along the paths lets me get a real feeling for the town and its history — so we had great craic that day!  I also tried a Bailey’s coffee, which is coffee with Bailey’s Irish cream, topped with whipped cream, and it was love at first sip.  This certainly warranted a slainte! (Cheers!)  That night was Sunday dinner with almost all of my cousins and after a whole term of cooking for myself, I really appreciated the home cooking :)

Monday was quite an adventure: Eyeries to see my great-grandmother’s house!  It was about a three hour drive down to Eyeries, which is a little town on one of the “fingers” of Ireland.  Words cannot do the scenery justice, trust me.  There was something so pure about the rolling hills and the cliffs,  the tiny winding roads, and the sparkling coast and I was absolutely mesmerised the entire time.  I felt completely at ease because it was so quiet and undisturbed and the colors were so vibrant.  The scenery alone would have been lovely, but nothing could prepare me for what came next.  I got to see the very house where my great-grandmother grew up and from which she left 88 years ago at the age of 17 to come to America.  Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt the moment I laid eyes on the little house.  Can you imagine, for a second, being 17 years old, having grown up in a remote town in the mountains of Ireland, and walking out the front door knowing that you will never see your family or your home again?  I thought I was making a big leap when I came to London, but I have Skype, an iPhone, and a plane ticket home, so this doesn’t even compare.  

 

Tuesday was my last day, but it was a full one!  I sent off a bunch of postcards to family in the states, and we took a beautiful drive through the centre of Limerick.  We stopped for lunch at the University of Limerick where my uncle studied when he was about my age.  It’s a lovely campus and the music building had a beautiful mural that I simply had to capture!  We then drove to Annacotty and saw even more gorgeous scenery — I couldn’t get enough!  

After a final meal with my cousins, it was time to head to the airport, but I had had such a great time that I wasn’t even that sad to leave.  It sounds odd, but I got to do so much in a few short days, and I felt so lucky that I got to spend time with my family (who spoiled me shamelessly, by the way!), that I was in a great mood on the flight home.  Also, I’m already looking at flights to return — that’s how in love I am with Ireland!

 

Inspired to be,

 

Katherine

Inspired by...Serial

I’ll admit it: sometimes I’m a hipster.  I hear about trends and books and TV shows that everyone is raving about and I refuse to get involved.  There’s just something about doing what everyone else is doing that rubs me the wrong way sometimes and I push to be different.  And yet, I pick up that book that everyone’s reading or click on that show that everyone is watching, and I’m hooked.  It happens every time.  It happened three years ago with the Hunger Games books, it happened with House of Cards, and it happened with my latest obsession: Serial.

 

Serial is a podcast produced by NPR’s This American Life with the amazing Sarah Koenig at the helm.  Over the course of twelve episodes, Koenig unravels a murder case that happened over fifteen years ago in Baltimore, Maryland.  The victim, 17 year-old Hae Min Lee was tragically strangled and her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Sayed, was convicted of the crime.   It’s a true story, which I thought would make it gruesome and unpleasant, but it’s absolutely fascinating while still remaining tragic. 

 

Ms. Koenig takes investigative journalism and storytelling to an entirely new level in Serial.  She tracks down the individuals involved in the trial, including Adnan who is currently serving a life sentence for Hae’s murder, and interviews them about what happened on that day in 1999.  She consults former detectives to analyse the timeline of the case, looks through cell phone records and discusses their validity in criminal investigations, and even reenacts the timelines given by some of the witnesses to see if they are plausible.  I was skeptical about the lack of visual aids — I used to love shows like CSI when I was younger — but the way Ms. Koenig tells the story and the way each character’s voice is distinguishable leaves you wanting nothing.  

 

I started Serial on the Stansted Express when I was coming home from Ireland (more about that soon!) on Tuesday and I’m already on episode 8!  It’s probably a good thing that I don’t have classes right now, or else this would be a problem, but I love listening to it when I’m getting dressed in the morning, or when I have a few minutes and don’t feel like looking at a computer screen.

 

If you’re looking for something new to shake up your old Netflix routine and are as fascinated by stories as I am, definitely give Serial a listen!

 

Inspired to be,

 

Katherine  

Inspired by...Brick Lane

I LOVE curry with the most burning passion there ever was.  Indian food is not only very vegetarian-friendly, it’s also so comforting and absolutely delicious!  That’s why I was so excited when my Community and Culture class organised a trip to Brick Lane, one of the best places in London to feast on this incredible creation.  London is famous for its curry and Southeast Asian food in general (thanks, colonialism!), but this area in East London in particular is a premier hub for curry in the city.  

 

East London is typically home to immigrants and is a fascinating mix of cultures.  It’s also home to the oldest synagogue in Britain, as it is famous for its Jewish population, as well.

 

 

We met at the Aldgate tube station bright and early for a walking tour… probably to work up an appetite for what was coming in a few hours.  East London was also the hunting grounds of Jack the Ripper back in the 19th century and we saw one of the sites where one of his victims was found, but I tried not to think about that too much :)  We wandered around the tiny alleyways and through Petticoat Lane, which is a clothes market that has been running for decades.  I think I loved the windy cobblestone streets the most (this is coming from the grid-appreciating New Yorker, mind you) because they conjured this beautiful historical feeling.

 

Then came the highlight of the trip which was curry on Brick Lane!  We finally found a place to accommodate 17 of us, and the rest is a curry-filled dream.  I started with a mango lassi since I’ve always wanted to try one - it’s a lovely refreshing mango-yogurt-y drink that goes perfectly with curry. Then I got a masala dosa which is an Indian-style crepe filled with lentils and potatoes with a curry vegetable pot on the side which you put in the dosa.  I also got a little side of spiced chickpeas that went beautifully with the whole thing and I was in heaven.  The table got very quiet since we were just eating and relishing every bite.  I took the rest home with me and it made a lovely snack the following afternoon after class!  


I will definitely be back to Brick Lane as it was the best curry I have ever had and I’m still dreaming about it!


Inspired to be,


Katherine

Inspired by...Red Lips Week!

A few weeks ago, the Women Leaders of Tomorrow society at LSE held their fist ever Red Lips Week and I got to be a part of it!  

 

The Red Lips Project  was started in the UK a few years ago.  Basically, it’s centred around the concept of what makes you feel powerful.  And let’s face it, nothing makes you feel powerful quite like really good red lipstick. :)  I will make a confession that, before this week, I didn’t own red lipstick (and I’m sure my dear friend and beauty guru, Brittany, is crying as she reads this right now…), so I had to do something about that, of course!  Luckily, there’s a MAC Cosmetics right down the street from me, so I popped in on my way home from class and picked some up.  I got a great shade of bright red lipglass, since I’ve never really been a solid lipstick person, and was introduced to the world of lip liner.  Seriously, WHERE has this been all of my life?  The makeup artist at the store showed me how to line my lips before doing my lipglass and it makes such a difference in defining your lips!

 

So, Tuesday was our launch party and it was a blast!  I got to meet a ton of people and get dressed up, and we had a great keynote speaker — Connie Jackson, a LSE alum, and UK/Europe General Manager for Fashion Fair Beauty Projects.  She was incredible!  Her whole speech was very casual and was a collection of stories about finding her strength and the women in her life who have helped her realise this.  We also got to take pictures with signs saying what makes us powerful:


I also got a lovely little goodie bag with a mug, more red lipgloss, chocolate, and other fun treats.  What a great way to start my week!


Here’s my outfit for the launch party:


I opted to go for all black so my lips would pop and I liked the long blazer over my LBD  because of the different proportions.  By the way, this dress, is perhaps the greatest piece in my wardrobe and one of the best purchases I have EVER made!  It is the ultimate LBD because I can wear it for any occasion, it doesn’t wrinkle, and is so blissfully comfortable.


All throughout the week, WLT and Women Leaders in Business had a photobooth set up in the students’ union where you could take pictures with signs saying what makes you powerful as well.  I wasn’t crazy about how mine turned out, so I’m sticking from the one from the launch party :)


Friday was the closing party at a nearby bar, where we had a room all to ourselves!  For only 4 pounds, we got entrance as well as free drinks (their “Red Lips” cocktail - I think it was vodka and cranberry juice, but I can never tell…) and it was another fun night to get dressed up.  


What I loved about this week was that it was a whole week dedicated to helping people realise that they are powerful and that there are things in our lives that make us feel this way.  For me, it’s not only red lipgloss, but all of the smart people in my life that make me feel powerful.  I’ve written before about how Smart Girls Group has changed my life, and it truly has.  It’s encouraged me to be a leader, to recognise, embrace, and pass on what my “smarts” are, and has given me a sisterhood of girls who want to do the same.  Being in intellectual environments like LSE (especially) and Fordham, where I am pushed to my limits, makes me feel powerful, as well.  The thrill of exploring a new city and travelling, reading, planning for the future, dressing well, and approaching each day with a fresh mind — all are recipes for a powerful me!


Inspired to be, (powerful!)


Katherine

Inspired by...Coffee Breaks

It’s been a beautiful week in London!  The sun is shining, I’m not bundled up anymore, and big things are right on the horizon.  The past few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind, which is why I’ve been a little MIA, but I’ve missed blogging since then!  

 

I had a lovely experience yesterday.  I’ve recently discovered caffe mochas and, like cappuccinos, I don’t know where they have been all of my life!  I mean, it’s chocolate and espresso in a warm little package, so what could be better?  I took a three week break from coffee since I’m determined to not become addicted, and have been celebrating the end of that break quite a bit…  I might need to work on this.  Anyway, yesterday was a gorgeous day and I had a chunk of about 40 minutes in between finishing up some reading and my 4:00 lecture, so I treated myself to a mocha from (where else?) Caffe Nero.  I couldn’t bear to sit since I knew I would be sitting inside for the rest of the evening, so I took my coffee down to the Temple tube station to a lovely spot by the Thames.  I go walking along this path a lot, but yesterday, I just stood there and basked in the sunshine as I gazed over the river.  I was only there for a about 15 minutes, but it was such a soothing, refreshing break from my day.  In fact, I’m still thinking of that moment, which is why I simply had to blog about it!


When things are getting crazy between getting mentally beaten up every day  school, Smart Girls Group, planning for the future, and just getting through the day, I sometimes forget that I am in London.  This is my grand adventure — my year abroad in London at the London School of Economics.  It feels so normal to be here, now, that I forget that in about three months, I won’t have a Caffe Nero on every street corner, and the Thames a few blocks away from my school.  I won’t have museum lates, weekend trips to the continent, and double decker buses rumbling past me.  I am so in love with where I am and what I’m doing right now, that I forget how insanely lucky I am, and yesterday was the reminder that I desperately needed.  


I have three months left in the city that has become my home, and I plan on making the most of it. :)


Inspired to be,


Katherine

Inspired by...Museum Lates

New York, I hate to break it to you, but I think London is my new home and favourite city.  Not only is it historical, full of winding streets, beautiful architecture, cheap Indian food, and gorgeous men with British accents, but it also has this lovely little thing called “Museum Lates.”  

First off, all of the major museums (actually, the majority of the museums in London) are absolutely FREE.  You have to pay for special exhibits, but the main museums are free of charge, so you can just walk in, stay for an hour, and then come back another day.  I love this because I am a huge museum-goer, but often get museumed- out after about 3 or so hours and stop being able to focus because I am in desperate need of a break and some fresh air.  I force myself to stay, though, because I paid admission and want to get the full value of what I paid for.  This is not an issue in London, because I don’t have to feel guilty about killing an hour at the British Museum just to check out their African art galleries with every intention of coming back another day.  Some (looking at you, Ben!) may call this a socialist invention, but for the nerdy and short-on-funds study abroad student, this is a brilliant concept.  

I’m so fortunate to live right near several major museums.  The British Museum (which is really a relic of British imperialism which makes for an interesting experience) is literally a 4-minute walk from my flat, and the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery are less than ten minutes away in Trafalgar Square.  The Tate Modern is a walk down to the South Bank, and there is a lovely trio of museums - the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, and Victoria&Albert - just a short Tube ride away in South Kensington.  And that doesn’t even scratch the surface (those are just the ones I’ve visited so far - there will be more!).  London is my dream city :)

What’s even better is that the museums become a social event.  On certain nights of the week (mostly Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays), certain museums are open late, serving drinks, sponsoring special classes, or just bringing in a different crowd of people.  Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s my idea of a perfect Friday night, either by myself or on a date.  To all the beautiful, intellectual men out there, take note!  

I’ll be sure to do posts on all of the museums I’ve visited, but this is just my introduction to my quest to dive into all the museum culture that London has to offer!  For now...

Inspired to be,

Katherine