Friday, May 30, 2014

All In The Family

My family arrived in Europe nearly two weeks ago and time has been passing far too quickly! 

After a busy week spent sightseeing in London and visiting our extended family in Milan, we headed north to Ben's charming
hometown of Shrewsbury, Shropshire.
 Mom, Dad, Olivia and I were all invited to stay at Ben's family's house and I have to admit, I was a bit nervous; There would be nine of us under one roof after all, and this was the first time the parents/siblings would be meeting each other! However, it turned out I needn't have worried as everyone got along wonderfully and we had a great few days: Walking along the hills and valleys of the Longmynd, going back in time at the old country estate of Attingham Park and just relaxing at the Humphreys' cosy home with a cup of tea. 

The 9 of us on the Longmynd

Making a bridge with Church Stretton in the background

Afternoon tea at Attingham Park

The 'rents

Out for dinner with Ben's whole family

Ben and I 

Our time in the picturesque county of Shropshire was short but oh so sweet, especially since it gave Ben and I the chance to visit with both of our families at the same time. But our holiday isn't over yet! After the families/new-found friends said their goodbyes (and promised to add each other on Facebook) the four of us and Ben were off to explore some more of the UK. After a scenic drive through the Lake District of Cumbria, we've arrived in bonnie Scotland... First stop, Glasgow!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Food Is Secondary

I love ethnic food of all kinds but if I had to pick a favourite... it would have to be Italian. My family, Ben and I have been in Seregno, a city just outside of Milan, for three days now visiting our extended family and we have been eating well. (Arguably too well, as we're all under the impression that our clothes feel just slightly snugger than when we got here.) But when you're surrounded by such delicious food (and lots of it!) how can you not indulge yourself a bit? (Warning: if you're hungry, now is probably not the best time to look at these photos)

Ciocolatta con panna

Sciatt (kind of fried cheese)

Pizzocherri (regional pasta dish with cheese and vegetables)


Croissant (but unlike in France, it's sweet!)

Homemade pesto lasagne

We even had the great pleasure of going to an all you can eat pizza and risotto restaurant. Where, you know, the waitress just walks around with a variety of flavours of each and serves you the kinds you want. Yes, THAT ACTUALLY EXISTS. I literally thought I'd died and gone to Heaven.

Just one of many slices

Just one of many (many) servings

As mouth-watering as Italian cuisine is, it is without a doubt best enjoyed with good company. As my mom likes to say, 'Food is secondary' - it's who you're with that really matters, and I would have to agree. None of these meals would have been half as delightful without the company of our extended Italian family.

Friday, May 23, 2014

We Are Pleased To Inform You...

... that you have been accepted to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London!

Our time in London went by faster than you can say 'Quidditch'! Ben and I took the Eurostar from Paris last Friday (something I've always wanted to do, although to be honest it was just your standard train journey) and met up with my family that same afternoon. The five of us had a great time exploring London for a few days. I've been to London a couple of times before so I had seen a lot of the main 'touristy' things already, but one thing I hadn't done was the Harry Potter Studio Tour. My sister Olivia and I are both long-time Harry Potter fans (we got hooked around 1998 when our mom began reading them to us at bedtime) and were both very keen to see where the magic (literally) happened.

The tour definitely delivered: We got to see the original sets, costumes, props, you name it. I even got to taste Butterbeer, something I've been wanting to try for pretty much ever. Getting an actual acceptance letter to Hogwarts over a decade ago would have been the best case scenario, but taking a behind the scenes studio tour was a close second. Plus, getting to spend the day with my sister was pretty awesome too!


The Great Hall

Everybody's wands!

Dumbledore's office

The Burrow

The Knight Bus

Enjoying a Butterbeer at Number 4 Privet Drive

Olivia looking out from the bridge

Photo Blog: View From The Top

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

De Retour en France

Salut de Paris/Greetings from Paris! I have to say, everything feels very French as I'm writing this: I'm sitting in front of the window of our rented 6th floor apartment in the historical Montmartre district, sun streaming through the window and the dome of La Basilisque du Sacre Coeur in plain view with Joe Dassin's 'Aux Champs Elysées' playing in the background. I almost feel French... but my plaid pajama pants (that I'm wearing at 4:30 in the afternoon) and my lack of cigarette in hand remind me that I'm just not quite there. Oh well, it's fun to pretend!

As un-French as I am, it's wonderful to be back in France. It seems like ages ago that I spent a year studying in France but I'm pleased to find that it's exactly how I remember it: Everyone, and I mean everyone, is absolutely dressed to the nines as if they're all on their way to job interviews, people bringing their dogs inside cafes, streets lined with more boulangeries and brasseries than you can count,
the constant smell of urine invading your nostrils (the affinity French men seem to have with public urination is something I will never understand) and even the way a security guard yelled at Ben and I this morning for having the audacity to enter the Montmartre cemetry at 7:58 when it didn't open until 8:00. Were this my first time in France I might have been shocked, angry even but I just rolled my eyes, laughed and thought, it's good to be back.

Where I'm currently sitting... note the dome!

Last night's dinner

Our flat!

La Basilisque du Sacre Coeur early this morning

Montmartre sunrise

A very French (and very delicious) breakfast

Montmartre cemetery

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Under My Skin

I am once again faced with the challenge of saying goodbye to Siem Reap and I have to say, it doesn't feel any easier the third time around. 

I don't know what I can say that I haven't already said before. This city got under my skin long ago and will likely remain there forever. Arriving here one week ago honestly felt like I was coming home. 

As sorry as I am to be leaving yet again, I'm comforted by knowing that it's not goodbye forever. Siem Reap is a place that I can say with absolute certainty I will return to at some point (hopefully in the not too distant future.)

Until then, Siem Reap...