The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
- Saint Augustine

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Home Sweeeeeeeden Home

I made a trip to the homeland this week. Sweden. The land of crystal lakes surrounded by evergreens, pointing up towards the gold sunrises like arrows. The people stand tall, white and strong as the birch trees that surround them. The snow slightly dusting the cottages like frosting on a gingerbread house.

To say your heritage is American doesn't really fly. People want to know what nationality you were originally from. On my father's side his ancestors can be traced back to the Mayflower (Resolved White, look that sh*t up) so I solely identify with my mother's side. The Swedes.

To give you some heritage, let's start at around 1910. My great grandmother Ana, immigrated to the US through Ellis Island with her four siblings, leaving two siblings and their parents behind in Sweden. Ana was 17 at the time. Originally the move was supposed to be temporary. They were going over to get jobs and figured they'd be home in five years or so. But after two world wars, and financial issues, the seven siblings were not reunited until 1955. At which time they were well past the prime years of their life. They never saw their parent again. Ana moved to Seattle, Washington gave birth to my grandmother, Elise and the rest is history. So when I went to Sweden I went to meet the relatives of Britta, Ana's sister who stayed in Sweden when her family emigrated. 
In the old photograph there are Ana and her sister Ida taken in New York just after they arrived. Ana is on the right.

So I boarded a sleeper train up north to Ă–stersund where my Aunt Karin lived. Karin is Britta's granddaughter. Spry, quick and energetic, Karin was a blast to guide me through the small Swedish town. 

The first night she took me to the Biathlon tournament held in the town. If you've never heard of a Biathlon, I'll give you my first impression. Red faced men skiing uphill with rifles attached to their back. Then, nearly delirious with exhaustion they pull off the lethal weapon strapped to their person, set it up and shoot targets 50 meters away and then races on. This is one lap. They do this for 20 kilometers (or for you American folk, 12 miles). By the way, the Swede won! 

Thinking we were better than these Vikings, we tried out hand at the shooting range. I made zero. How ever Karin made all five shots in a row and won a prize. Here I am, looking awkward holding a rifle for the first time, and Karin beaming away after her victory.

Apparently gaming is a big thing in Sweden. Later in the week Karin prepared a delicacy, a  moose that her husband Hannes SHOT. (A friend noted, "I didn't realize Sweden had an 'Outback'")

Karin was big on me doing things my ancestors did. So one crisp morning before the snow began to fall too strongly we went for a hike around the frozen two lakes in her town. She enthusiastically explained the extraordinary principles and benefits of various Swedish shrubbery and led me to a natural spring where I drank "the purest water!"

From Ă–stersund I took an early morning commuter train down to Uppsala to stay with Karin's sister Ana. Like most families, there is one historian. And thankfully for me, Ana was that member. Her mother had saved every letter written from the siblings who had emigrated to the US in the early 1900s.

The letters, written in the colloquial "Swenglish" a fusion between the two languages, were known to the Swedish family as "The America Letters" and served as the only connection that kept the family together. 
Here Ana and I are looking through some of the documents. Included were baby portraits of my grandmother, letters of children's growth, complaints of various medical conditions, and original death, birth and wedding announcements. 

Ana has four children. Her second eldest daughter, Elsa (ironically the same name as my grandmother) who is my age, showed me around the town of Uppsala. We were accompanied by her French boyfriend Raphael. It was fairly adorable the amount of language confusion. Elsa and Raphael had met in Spain where they both studied. Therefore they are most comfortable in their second language of Spanish but were fairly good at English as well. So I would ask I question in English, Raphael and Elsa would mumble in their respective, French and Swedish, then confirm in Spanish and then answer me in English again. Needless to say I felt severely lingusticially challenged. 
My tired tour guides sitting on "the biggest bench in Uppsala!"

Finally after some hot glogg, buns, a delicious dinner and some good bonding, I slept soundly, knowing I would wake up to the last leg of my journey Stockholm. 

I took a tour of Stockholm's city hall, went to various shops to find the coveted Dala horse for my mom. It was cold; I drank glogg. 

However I did get a kindly Japanese fellow who was avidly clicking his camera in the direction of his stoic companion to take my picture with City Hall in the background. Does the fact that it was negative 3 Celsius explain the bundling?

Perhaps the coolest thing about going to Sweden (besides the weather) was that I felt as though I opened up communication with the ancestors of my age. Karin's children Frida and Olle were three years younger than me, yet we got along famously. Ana's children, Kajsa, Elsa, Hannes and Joel goofed around with me while eating ice cream and discussing Swedish films. 
We are now all facebook friends. Perhaps some day they will want to explore California, and even come to San Francisco. All I can say is they'll find a home with me. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Friends in All the Right Places


*Inhale, Exhale* Italy. The cobblestone streets, the wobbly shutters falling out from flower lined windows, clothes lines with undershirts drying in the sun, the canals winking in the morning light. Yes, I went to Italy.

The first part of the trip started with a connecting flight from Copenhagen to Latvia. During my lay over I found that people from this Eastern European country sport bedazzled light wash jeans and painted eyebrows. I enjoyed some tomato zuppe while waiting for the next part of the trip.

After my connecting flight and a train from Milan, I arrived in Florence. As my friend Christine says, "I'm off, like a heard of turtles!" meaning it takes us far too long to get anywhere. 
Waiting for me at the train station (the second train station I got off at- with no phone and no italiano, that sure was fun to find out at 7:00 at night) was my friend, Phoebe. She adapted well to Italian life. The Italian boots she skipped over to me with certainly completed the image. 

And reunited at last. 

We went out on the town the first night- attempted to eat Mexican food at a restaurant, and were off to the club that the entire cast of Jersey Shore partied at the week before. I felt very celeb status. Until we got in. A guy flashed his abs at me and then proceeded to fist pump. Yes, Jersey Shore HAD become all too real of a reality in Florence. The Italian men were quite the contrast from the clean cut danes I was used to sharing metro benches with. These blonde haired, six-foot-something gentlemen read their paper and gave a nice smile. I would assume the social equivalent to this in Italy is an ass grab. No offense, Italians. 

The next day Phoebe and I went to the michelangelo piazza. Pretty huh?

It seems the week was full of michelangelo, girl time and gelato. 

Michel A. and I actually had a little moment. I was running through the Academia Museum looking for a bathroom (if I hadn't drank two water bottles earlier that morning I would be looking at the 'Jesus on a Cross' paintings from the 1300s but my bladder made it a little difficult) and finally after rushing though a corridor, I turn to my right and boom! 

There he was.

I didn't want to move, I just wanted to stare at him all day. It was David. David in perfectly sculpted marble that captured both grace and strength. David, triumphant from slaying Goliath, but humbly accepting the praise of God. David in 17 feet of marble was staring at me. I didn't have to pee anymore. I stared at him in awe. Circling him, again and again. Finding no imperfection, no flaw, just pure, beautiful art. 
To put things in perspective I usually fly through museums. I very tactfully rush to the famous paintings and latch on to elderly tour groups to eavesdrop on some knowledge, but here, I didn't care if he was famous or not, it was just that awesome, in the original sense of the word; I was in awe. 

David and I are engaged to be married next May, by the way, and you're all invited to the wedding. 

Michel A became a regular acquaintance in my time in Florence. I saw the original "Day and Night" and "Dawn and Dusk"statues. Standing in their shadows in their stone church home made me feel small, humble, and so young, so insignificant to their greatness. 

The same goes for "The Birth of Venus" and "The Rape of the Sabine Women". The scenery from the Uffizi main hall didn't hurt either. 

Overall, a beautiful trip, with a beautiful friend in a beautiful place. 

The meat and cheese platter beautifully complementing the palate!

Ciao Italy!

And hello again Copenhagen! But when I returned home, I saw Copenhagen in a new light, because I was seeing it again through the eyes of my friend. The very dear Christine Homan came to visit me. 

As the Americans know, the third Thursday of November is Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving is a time to be surrounded by family and loved ones. Therefore, I couldn't have been more thankful than to have my best friend be by my side through my first Thanksgiving away from home!

We made gluten free pecan pie (shamelessly snacking on the pecans all the while) and my Dad's famous mashed sweet potatoes (shamelessly eating half the pan) before we packed up and met up with the esteemed hostess Brittany to set up for the dinner. 
Look how domestic we both are! 
That turkey fed 35 people and was freaking delicious. 

The Indians even came to dinner! (they're actually German and Australian, but it was their first time!)
After Thanksgiving was said and done, Christine and I promptly got into the Christmas spirit. We got to hear carolers as they lit up the Christmas tree outside my Tietgen dorm, drank mulled wine at the Christmas markets and generally were cheery the whole weekend. 

We also went to a blues bar called "Mojo" and heard a great live band called "CPH Slim"

We got some gluten free goodies at the BEST gluten free bakery in town, Naturbageriet. The banana and carrot cake, the apple tart and the chocolate brownie ball all to be enjoyed at the "hygge" coffee shop "The Living Room" (if you recall a personal favorite) while it tirelessly misted outside. And get a look at that beautiful friend of mine!

A great weekend, getting in the Christmas spirit and seeing a friend whom is such a part of my family was a wonderful experience. 

I am thankful for my family, for my friends, for my loved ones, in Santa Cruz, Pleasanton, and Copenhagen. I am thankful for my health, but most importantly for this experience. I am also thankful for the heated tiles in my bathroom.

I am leaving to visit my family in Sweden on Thursday night and couldn't be more excited about it. Hope I get to see the northern lights when I'm up there! I wonder how you say "Friggin' pumped" in Swedish? Ostersund- here I come!

Vi ses! (meaning: "See ya!" in Danish)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Disclaimer: This post contains no adventures

Perhaps it might have been overkill trying to squeeze in so many adventures into one long blog post, such as the last one.

So, disclaimer, this blog post will contain no adventures.

I was looking at my return ticket and 6 weeks from today I will be on a plane home to California. So nostalgia set in with the fog this afternoon as I went back on the photos I took for myself over the past three months.

I've stated this before, but I have class one day a week. With my internship twice a week, I have about 4 full days off to do as I please and explore with day trips. There is so much I haven't discovered yet. A few days ago my friend came over to watch a movie on our flat screen and I was JUST taught how to turn it on and connect my computer to the television. The same night I also learned how to properly use the oven (I'll leave it up to your imagination to guess what I've been eating the past three months)

But what's been great about having this free time is the time to take a step back, to take it all in and appreciate it, and to reflect. Oh yes, I certainly have time for reflecting. When it isn't raining I go for runs in the national park just outside my house (apparently Copenhagen's urban planning committee is making sure that in 10 years from now every residence will be within a 15 min walk of a park. Pretty rad) But simply walking around these parks, there must be 50 of them just in the city, while listening to some tunes is the best solution.

Below is a picture of the botanical gardens in Copenhagen's Central University.
Also the best kind of music for garden walking is either The Shins or Simon and Garfunkle. 

But for walking like complete stud I suggest Ratatat 
(I dare you not to have some bounce in your step listening to that)

As I was going for these walks, I found I also had a thing for bridges...

And when going into churches I really can't get over how much I love organs
Above left is from the smaller part of West Minster Abbey in London. 
Above right is from Hamlet's Castle in Helsinor. 
Bottom Left is from the Frederickborg Castle. 
Bottom Right is from St. Fredericks Cathedral in Malmo Sweden. 

Today at the Natural History Museum in Denmark I found my new winter outfit! (The polar bear pants are all the rage with kids these days...)

I also am slowly but surely really digging the Danish food. Which isn't a Danish (har har har) Lots of fresh fish with potatoes, curried sauces, hard boiled eggs and rye bread (which I forgo) and of course the rol polse (the big red sausage sold on street corners) 

Their tea is seriously lacking though. I had my sweet mama send me some Chai and I blew threw two boxes in a little more than a month. I'm chilling with some peppermint but I just can't get groovy with lakrids flavored anything (black licorice- what. To them it's like candy- wait, it IS their candy- but to me and most of my sweet toothed American friends it's poison. My friend Kelley once spat it back out into her hand out of disgust when she was expecting peppermint gum)


Anyway, I told you, no adventure today, just some walks and museums. 

In upcoming news I'll be going to Italy in two weeks time to visit a Phoebe Sherman and I promise to come back with painted nails and some pictures. 

Hej, hej!

Monday, October 31, 2011

We got us some castle weather.

"Darkness weep thy holiest tears"- Percy B. Shelley

Morbid? Perhaps. Creepily beautiful? Definitely. A correct representation of Copenhagen's weather? Absolutely.

Today at the office (just thought I'd throw that in there to sound like I'm mature enough to have an office job. It's scary that I almost do.) my supervisor was telling me that the cloud cover outside, that's been here for a few weeks, isn't many little clouds (oh, you foolish Californian, you never see individual clouds!) but rather one enormous cloud that spans across nearly all of Denmark. Therefore the chance of sun peaking threw is only about one in forty million. (Did you also know that 75% of all statistics are made up on the spot?) But this little tidbit of information put me in the poetical groove and I needed me some prose inspired by the divine. Shelley and his burning coal of godlike creativity smoldering deep from within was just what I needed! (If it's your first time reading this blog, I am a literature major, not a freak)

Bottom line is, he has some great poems about weather.

And as my good friend Caroline says, it's perfect castle weather! So to the castle we go!
Fredericksbrog Castle is about 45 minutes outside of Copenhagen and I tagged along with the other international students to get a free ride and admission into the castle of Christian the 4th.

Above is my friend Jahon and I in the main square. Note the pumpkins in the background! It's Halloween in Denmark too. The green roof was once a shining copper. Not too bad Christian! (BTW fun fact about kings names. They are either Christian or Frederick. They switch them each time they birth another male heir.)

Now when I say "tagged along" I mean dodged the sign in sheet people who are counting those in their class and pretended to be a student of the "Danish Culture Course". Although I doubt if they found out I wasn't enrolled they'd hardly be angry, Danes have a funny way of being thrilled when anyone is interested in their culture. However, because of these organized field trips I've been able to go to the Louisiana Museum, a canal tour and later the Opera, all paid for by the government! (take a hint America, if you want people to like you, force your culture down foreigners' throats. Maybe that wouldn't work out too well, actually)

But the church inside was really quite something.
As was the portrait of the small danish child with a rifle... Oh the Danes...

On further cultural news I recently returned from The Netherlands from visiting my bestie (shout out to Christine Homan woot!) and pretending to go site seeing at the same time.

To be honest the first night after a few dozen hugs and many "I can't believe you're here"s (and people at the train station looking fondly at us thinking we were an out and proud couple) we just settled down in her hygge apartment with some gluten-free noms and talked. Indeed, we talked so much the entire week that when I returned to the Cop-land I had lost my voice. But I had some darn good looking polished nails.

We did get out quite a bit though, and I got to see some great Dutch sights. (Remember it's the Netherlands, in which Holland is a provence- not the country- and they speak Dutch, got it?) I climbed to the top of Dom Tower, the highest church point in the Netherlands with a friend from my work back home. She quite conveniently was in Utrecht the same days and we talked about all things 'Leg'gy (back home I worked at a lingerie shop called "Legs" and developed an unhealthy appreciation for lace underthings, my friend Johanna has helped me cultivate it)
Above is Johanna and I at the top- looking a bit weary and nauseated from the climb (500 meters up)
And below the lovely Christine and Dom Tower in the back ground. 

Also in Utrecht, we visited the Botanical Gardens and felt very "zen'

Christine and I ventured out to Rotterdam, one of Europe's main ports for the day and saw some great museums, enjoyed a vino and cheese platter and generally felt like very civilized europeans. 

The picture above, of the two of us, might be one of my favorites of all time. It reminds me of when about a year ago, Christine would come from her room next to mine and sit on the edge of my bed as we would fantasize about going abroad together, what a foreign, removed concept it seemed then. It reminds me how I ran into her room screaming when I checked my e-mail at 1:00 am and saw that I had been accepted to the University of Copenhagen. It reminds me of when we would shake our heads at the (stupid) people at the foreign affair department who managed to royally screw up more of our paper work and we'd come home in near tears that this adventure would never happen. It reminds me of when a month before we left, we'd sunbathe on the front porch of our house predicting what it would be like, and how wrong and how right we were. It reminds me of when the night before I left, at our bon voyage party, she gave me the biggest hug and said, smiling "I'll see you in Europe." We made it, Christine! We're here!

After the love friendfest that happened in Rotterdam, we went to the one and only, Amsterdam.
It was loud, it was busy, tall buildings, cobblestone and mayonnaise with french fries were everywhere. As was the sweet scent of some local herb and neon titties. There was also a ferris wheel!

But we opted to take a bit of a walk outside of the main downtown and went to the Van Gogh Museum. After a polite security guard nearly karate chopped my camera from my hand, I was encouraged to take mental pictures.

Unfortunately for you, I take incredible mental pictures.

But here's one real photo I was able to take in front of the "I AMsterdam" building just outside the Van Gogh.

After the Van Gogh, we thought we'd get some culture with a Sex Museum, instead we got some 1800's porn and some questionably dressed mannequins. We also went to a lovely cafe (the owner must have been a Marley) to further experience some "culture". I find that mental photographs are also best for both of these locations.

Lastly, before I bid my friend farewell, we took a night canal tour, waving at the Anne Frank House and some pretty incredible Opera houses. We also enjoyed some Asian food (Wok to Walk!) on the tour and felt very well rounded. 

As we were walking back to my hostel in the dark, we found the Red Light District was just a block away (I only choose the finest of accommodations for myself, however, my window was less well-lit) so we took a little stroll. 

It was... strange. Part of me wanted to point and gawk because of the absurdity of it, but another part really pulled at my morality. It was like walking through a zoo. Except that these were humans. Over sexualized, made-up, silicone filled humans, but still, women none the less. I wanted to look away, but looking away wouldn't change the fact that these people exist out in the world. I began thinking that the girl in the cheetah bikini on my right knocking on the glass at a Persian fellow, might be hailing her second or third customer for the evening. She was probably a year younger than me. 

So feeling icky and fortunate at the same time, Christine and I tightened our scarves and finally said our good byes. "4 weeks until I get to see Copenhagen!" "So glad I'll be with family on Thanksgiving" (the normal mushy stuff) and I waved at her from my corner (not MY corner, I wasn't out for business) and went into my hostel above the waffle house. 

Overall great trip, and as with any trip, it was good to unload my pack into my apartment and take a nap. It was good to be home, and Copenhagen, in this part of my life, is my home. 

I get the unique ability to make it a part of both places for me. Meaning I get to spread the American traditions here, and learn some new ones.

The professors at my internship FREAKED out when I came in drinking tea from a jam jar. This one I understand people never get. I was pretty against the hipster implications of it myself upon it's rising popularity, but with an airtight lid, the perfect amount of tea on the go and the convenient purse size, I got on the coffee in a jam jar band wagon. The 50-year-old egyptologists were not quite so open-minded. 
"You don't do this?" I joked when the director looked at me like I had folded papyrus into fourths to make it "easier for travel".
"NO!" he spat incredulously, "In Denmark, we use mugs!" Even Thomas, my faithful counterculture grad student found it "a bit odd" 

On Wednesday I went over to my friend Sam's for pumpkin carving and burrito night (how American are WE) and we taught 2 germans and 4 Australians how to gut a pumpkin, roast seeds and - get this- how to wrap a burrito. 
Quote of the night "Wait, why are you putting your rice IN the burrito. Rice goes on the side!" Nej, sweetie, nej. 

The next night Brittany came over to make caramel corn and my housemates huddled around us until I finally gave in and asked if they had ever tried it. "Why are you putting caramel ON the popped corn. Doesn't it get soggy? Wait, now it goes in the oven too??" 

While us Americans have some weird things, the Danes can definitely groove with the Halloween trend. Although they lack the enthusiasm I went to a great halloween party on Saturday. 

See if you can guess. I was bloody. My name nag says Mary. I am wearing white and have celery in my hair, I am a ______ _______.

Bloody Mary

One thing I have discovered that the Americans are loved for is their candy. After burritos the other night the Australians drooled over our conversations of Snickers and Kit kats (Oreos are by far the leading favorite) while they had to explain to us what a Bounty bar was. 

Alright lastly, this is long overdue, but I have to address this issue of Robbie Williams.

Have YOU ever heard of him?

If so, props, you can live in Europe.

If not, "WHAT, it's Robbie Willams, R-O-B-B-I-E Willams, come on, "Shame, You Know Me, Bodies...?" He's Robbie Williams!"
Ok number one, repeating his name really isn't helping. Number two, if he really was that big, sorry but shouldn't we have heard of him?

The first time I encountered this reaction my friend Brittany and I were at pub in Vienna talking to some German business men at the table across from ours. We both did the shrug to each other but the men wouldn't have it and one of them played three of Robbie's songs off his iPhone and then tried to sing them. Telling him we'd never heard of him didn't stop him either. "He's like Elton John, he's your go to man! He's Robbie Williams!" 
We didn't hang out with those guys much longer after that. 

So there you have it, we put rice in our burritos and caramel on our popped corn, and Europe listens to Robbie Williams. Other than that, I'd say we're pretty much the same. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Royale With Cheese

At international trivia night last evening the question was "What is a quarter pounder called in Europe?" John Travolta helped me out with that one.

Speaking of places Vincent Vega enjoys, I am going to Amsterdam tomorrow to visit a very dear friend who lives about thirty minutes outside of the city in a place called Utrecht where she is studying. There I am looking forward to the rituals of girl bonding including (but not limited to) painting our nails (we have yet to graduate from our fourth grade mentality) cook delicious food, doing tours of the city and generally enjoy one another's company. This will be the first time that I am visiting a place where I get to not plan, but simply be guided around the city. I am extremely looking forward to it.

One thing that we do plan on doing while I am there is the NewEurope walking tour of Amsterdam. If you are doing any traveling in the major cities of europe, you seriously have to go on these walking tours. My first was in Berlin. Don't be turned off by the 4 and a half hour time frame, for I don't think it's possible to do Berlin in any less time. The tours are completely free (tips encouraged at the end) and they are lead by young students or recent graduates who are trained to make the tour a little out of the ordinary, but all the more informative and exciting. When in Berlin, we not only saw the Berlin Wall, the courtyard where book burnings during Nazi regimes happened, the "Murdered Jews of Europe Memorial" but also while walking by a parking lot we were informed we were standing on Hitler's Bunker where he later committed suicide.
Murdered Jews of Europe Memorial

Berlin Wall

The next day my friend and I decided to pay for a tour through the same company of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Although it was hard to take, the tour was tastefully lead, and very informative as well as moving. If interested in visiting a work camp while in Europe, I would recommend this tour- but only for the strong of heart. I sat out on a few exhibits because I started to feel woozy towards the end. 
The sign above reads "Work Will Set You Free"a cruel promise by the Nazi's. To a prisoner it was implied that if they worked hard enough they would be discharged, but to the Nazi officers, it was clear that they would be worked to death, and only then obtain freedom. 

On a lighter note, Sandeman's NewEurope Tours are awesome! I've included the link for your own enjoyment 
In Berlin we did the walking tour, the Pub Crawl, the concentration camp tour. In London we did the free walking tour (only 2 hours) and I also did it in Copenhagen (3 hours-although, this one is still in it's developmental stages and needs some work). 
Long story short, I am also planning on doing one in Amsterdam.

In Copenhagen, all students have this week off of classes. But do they know why? Potato picking my friends. Students were given this week off to help their families harvest potatoes before the frost set in. I made myself a potato meal to celebrate this evening. 

Because classes have been cancelled, I have been enjoying the leisure of an underworked college student. I read a book yesterday. No joke! As cheesy as the title sounds "Enduring Love" by Ian McEwan, the book is not a romance novel and actually about a psychological disorder and a stalker. It was made into a movie staring Daniel Craig in 2004.
Got to say though, after the first chapter, it kinda goes downhill. Almost worth buying just for the first fifty pages thou, Ian McEwan (author of "Atonement") has some effortlessly beautiful prose, and at just 250 pages, it's well worth the read. 
Just started "Becoming English: The Making of Mr. Hai's Daughter" which is a nice breezy memoir for a class. Also finished "In Our Time" by (the AMERICAN woo woo!) Ernest Hemingway. I find I have quite a bit of national pride when someone/ something turns out to be American. There is far too few things to be proud of here, especially when it comes to welfare. They get paid to go to college. And we get... well... metaphorically "shat" on (to use the british form of the word) 

Speaking of Britain, I went to London! We saw Wicked, went to Buckingham Palace, the National Museum, Big Ben, Chinatown, Minstery of Sound (nightclub), Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral the London Bridge, the Tate Museum of Modern Art, and London's Chinatown
Above left: Big ben and the iconic double decker bus Brittany and I had quite the night with one evening. For those of you who have never rode a double decker bus, if you've ever seen the third Harry Potter film with "The Knight Bus" that should give you a pretty realistic idea. Above right is me eating Mochi in Chinatown. 
Below is me (Where's Waldo?) in front of Westminster Abbey 
If you've managed to locate me, you can also note the tank top and skirt. It was 85 F the entire time, in October. Needless to say, I throughly enjoyed London. 

I think packing for Amsterdam might be a little different. I finally finished my scarf and am starting on another one. I also shamelessly gave in and created a profile on "Ravelry". If you're a knitter and haven't heard of this site (I can't imagine what circumstance that would be, but regardless) it's by far the best way to find patterns. Furthermore, I threw humility to the wind and took pictures of my knitted items and uploaded them. (For shame!) But here is the one for the scarf. To compare, I included the original picture. 

Besides, knitting is cool, right Russell? 
I really don't even want to know the circumstances surrounding this picture. It gets me every time. 

Another fun thing by way of European Culture was that I bar-tended for an Oktoberfest party in full apparel. My name was also Heidi for the evening. It went grand except I had to explain to a few inebriated people that I did not understand drink orders in Danish and they had to speak English to me.

Anyways, off to pack to see my lovely friend in a lovely place! I may even order "A Royale with Cheese!"