la belle vie

I made a blog because photographs are so much to me; they capture what I won’t remember (and I don’t remember a lot of things). I find happiness in food and makeup, but my all-time guilty pleasure is buying journals. Whenever I walk inside a book or craft store, I’m always pulled towards those leather-bound books filled with crisp cream pages just waiting to be used and worn from adventurous travel. It’s almost a life goal/bucket-list item of mine to own a journal that is messily written in, colored, abused, decorated, cherished. Funny thing is, these journals I occasionally splurge on are usually never written in. Sometimes it’s because I can’t bear to ruin its perfectly blank white pages. Most of the time, it’s just because it’s tiring to actually write in them. My thoughts race so much faster than my pen! I seem to never have the time to sit down and slowly record my life on paper. So, I come to this lovely online blog where every entry is typed with the luxury of a backspace and speed of my 21st century typing skills. Best of all, my photos get to have their own accompanying stories. This is the story of my favorite trip in Europe so far…

Last week, I got back from Paris. Beautiful, dreamy, wonderful Paris. The city I long held as the capitol of romance and art. The city of lights, whites, and stripes. My time to visit it had finally come!

There no words to describe the physical beauty of the city itself. Devoid of the skyscrapers that characterize New York, Paris is built by cream-colored architecture and extravagant decor. I am not lying when I say that every single street is beautiful to walk along, almost as if there is a French law that states “Building, you must be beautiful!” I stayed in an apartment that I and a group of six other girls rented out for the week. It was near the St. Paul metro, which is apparently a neighborhood infamous for gays and falafel aka hipster. The nice thing about living in an apartment instead of a hostel was access to a kitchen and TV. I was able to eat my own breakfast of champions (aka baguettes spread with confiture de lait, muesli croquant, brie) while watching some  show I couldn’t understand. Looking out from our apartment, the view was so “French” I loved waking up to the sight of this:

That corner restaurant on the right side of the street serves the best falafel wrap I have ever put in my mouth. It was savory with a delicious white sauce and toasted to panini-perfection in a convenient wrap that comforted me on a rainy arrival day:

In the span of 5 days and 4 nights, I managed to cram almost all the tourist activities into my time in Paris – Musee d’Orsay, Tour Eiffel, Musee Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Jardin du Luxembourg, Champs Elysees, Catacombs… I usually get bored by visiting “famous and historic” sties but I was more than happy to trot around the streets just taking the city in sight by sight.

One of the best parts was making new friends from Lausanne, Switzerland through Alexa and being reunited with Sophia and Claudia. I know some people say that traveling alone is just as worthwhile as any, but I think exploring a new city with old friends is so much more fun. Sophia’s family also rented out an apartment near us and her neighborhood was full of fancy bars and restaurants. She cooked us a delicious lamb dinner one night in her Parisian pent loft apartment and showed me what Parisian chain smoking looks like.

From all of my Paris wanderings, the most breathtaking moment was when I was standing in front of Arc de Triomphe on Champs Elysees watching Tour Eiffel sparkle. I know. I felt like I was in a dream. All that was missing was more time.

Overall, Paris is really a dream city I couldn’t get enough of. I’m sure I’ll be back again someday in the future. As this chapter in my travels has come to a close, I only have these photos and an empty box of delicious muesli cereal left from the trip, but the place sure as hell didn’t disappoint.

Here’s to a city of love from a girl with love,

S

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Everybody wants to be a chick…Tweet!

Last night, I had a dream that my a cappella group was performing in a very Glee setting. We were rehearsing and people started to file into the auditorium until it was jam packed. In our snazzy matching black dresses,we spontaneously busted out with some awesome Beyonce and TLC songs. We had so much fun and the crowd loved it. I stayed in bed a little bit longer just to hold onto that dream.

The King’s Chix (soon to be King’s Chicks, because Chix is just terrible) has been one of the best parts of my experience abroad. They’re a group of really great girls who just love to sing and perform; they welcomely took me and Oona into their group even though we’re just two Americans who came from nowhere. Trust me – if you meet people who love to sing, they are fun people. Wednesday rehearsals were pretty much just hang-out sessions with intervals of singing, nothing too serious. Gossip, food, YouTube videos – all the good stuff! As an added bonus, our set-list has such catchy songs (even mash-ups) like No Scrubs, Parachute, Lady Marmalade, and Someone Like you.

I love singing, but I’m not a singer. Yes, I can sing in tune. Yes, I can harmonize. Yes, I can read and play music. But I am in no way a talented singer that should go audition for American Idol. I auditioned to join the King’s Chix hoping to find a group that just likes to have fun, and my wish was granted! Everyone is so incredibly talented (Case in point: When I heard their rendition of Someone Like you, I teared up) but they also don’t take themselves too seriously. When they gave me a solo for Stand By Me (mashed up with Beautiful Girls!), I was kind of nervous but I knew that I was surrounded by great girls who enjoyed performing together and that was all that mattered. I can be pretty shy sometimes but, thankfully, my stage fright magically disappears when the spotlight is on me. I was so glad I was able to keep my cool during my solo at a lesbian wedding back in March while I was being recorded and watched! A wedding is a happy event to begin with, but when we sang Lucky after the ceremony as a little surprise for the guests, you could feel the mood elevate.

The best memory I have with the King’s Chix is our spontaneous perfomance in the middle of Pizza Express. Our waiter was hilarious and friendly so when we told him that we sang after our meal, he begged us for an impromptu performance. Of course, we had to sing Stand By Me and Lady Marmalade. I don’t know what happened but I forgot the lyrics to the chorus of Stand By Me, but it was still such an unforgettable night! That adrenaline rush and showing off what we’ve worked so hard to  rehearse…Unforgettable! I have one last Imperial gig with them in May. When it’s over, I won’t cry, No I won’t shed a tear! Okay, maybe a little.

Music and love,

S

Into the Wild

Have you ever had those days when things just aren’t going the way you would like them to? When you can’t seem to find a solution or escape from whatever is bothering you? Last week was like that for me, and I desperately needed to just get away from myself and my thoughts. Fortunately, my trip to Snowdonia, Wales was finally here. My phone plan also happened to conveniently expire so I was disconnected from texting and data. Hello, fate!

Two movies and a (pretty grueling) 6-hour bus ride later, we reached our destination at the Legacy Hotel. The last leg of the bus ride actually felt like we were up in the clouds! We were driving up a narrow, curved road up a mountain and fog made it impossible to see anything around us. I couldn’t wait to get off though because my bottom was starting to get numb.

First impression: Wales has more sheep than people. Sheep marked with colored paint spotted the landscape everywhere! I think someone said something about Wales being the country with the most sheep per capita. It’s pretty cool that shepherds still exist today, although I’m sure the job isn’t exactly what I picture in my head (a young male with a staff lounging in a field reading a book, or something along those lines). After a warm dinner and winning some pub quiz, I was dead exhausted. But of course, if you stick two girls in the same room, we’ll stay up talking forever, which is exactly what my friend and I did. It was like a flashback to the days of sleepovers, when you talked about everything and shared whatever was going on in your life.

The next day, I went canoeing and, despite the many warnings, managed to drop my camera into the lake right when I was getting off the boat. Boo hoo. When I saw my camera slowly sink to the bottom, I just stared at it and sighed. In retrospect, it’s actually pretty funny how I just froze and then went, “Oh well.” I swear, I’m so zen lately that nothing phases me anymore. I went mountain biking in the afternoon which was the Best. Experience. Ever. The long uphill biking wasn’t easy at all (I was panting by the end and my quads were on fire) but the view was so absolutely breathtaking. The instructor was a well-toned and good-lookin’ lad who didn’t mind staying behind with us sluggish girls. The view, the people I met, and the downhill ride was worth all the effort. Zoom zoom!

The next morning hike was much more relaxing than the day before but just as breathtaking. We came across a small waterfall and this gorgeous, old stone castle. I actually felt like I was Aragorn when I saw the view of the mountains up ahead (Wales is very New Zealand looking). A camera fails to capture what I actually saw, so I’ll have to revisit these places in my dreams.

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S

Wanderlust

When I was in high school, I held this romanticized notion that studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to uproot my life from the familiar to the unfamiliar as a means of “finding myself.” After all, treking through new cities brings new sights to see, food to taste, and friends to make. I somehow got it inside my head that living like a global Julia Roberts character would transform me to the woman I was meant to become. Me against the world! Unstoppable me!

Let’s be honest. I love traveling. As an added bonus, I’m not a very picky or stubborn person so I will never hate a place because the food isn’t to my liking or the people smell bad. Whatever. That means you can stick me in a hostel and feed me street food and I will be very, very content as long as the company is good, the sun is out, and the city is open. But if my short time away from home has taught me anything, it’s that I already have a strong identity that doesn’t need to be defined by “soul searching” and trying as many things I can. The more I go through introducing myself to strangers and making important junior year decisions for the future, the more I know that I am (relatively) well-grounded in my academic interests and life priorities. This evening, I listened to a speaker talk about how I, as a child of God, am a sheep that belongs to the Good Shepherd who stands between me and the lion. I couldn’t help but smile knowing that I would be nothing but a bumbling, dim-witted bovid if not for the wisdom brought by following Him. That joy and fulfillment, I know for certain, cannot be found in any human relationship or place.

I took my friend to Oxford for her first time this weekend. As I showed her around the colleges and little shops, I felt like I was sharing a part of my own childhood hometown, the way that I had mildly forgotten how beautiful every street and corner is. Being back there brought nostalgia, which is not normal because I only spent maybe a good three days there before!

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Someone once described me as a person who enjoys doing “lifestyle” things. I can’t argue with that seeing how much I enjoy Oxford. I will do tourist-y things and visit famous places, but I find the greatest pleasure in doing what locals do on a daily basis: hanging out at a bar, reading in a cafe, enjoying a long lunch. Yes, I love this quaint and historic city that much. Don’t worry busy London, you’re not too shabby either.

With love,

S