How to be an Obvious Tourist in London

When visiting another country, there can be some dead give-a-ways that you are a tourist.

Step 1: Carry a big camera around your neck all day – if you want to distract people from the camera, wear a 20 lb backpack as well.

Step #2: Have your picture taken in front of anything that screams “London!” (As these pictures demonstrate).Overlooking Tower Bridge

In a British phone booth

3: This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Take photos of everything you see, London Busfrom random buildings to Tower Bridge. I’m sure the locals think you will be a bit on the crazy side for snapping shots of general transportation and the like (imagine someone taking a picture of a city bus in the U.S), but I’m a tourist and proud of it!

#4: Almost getting run over in the streets because you can’t figure out which way to look for cars. Then you realize the instructions are painted on the street, “Look Right.” Why thank you concrete floor!

Step 5: Snap a million pictures of Big Ben or be one of many in the crowds swarming the area. The citizens of the British Isle see the clock everyday on the news or some other outlet. Tourists love the detailed architecture, but locals maintain unfazed by the landmark.

Big Ben 1Big Ben 2Big Ben 3(Can anyone tell me what that says under the clock?)

Number 6: Ask at least 4 people which train to take to get somewhere that sits just a few miles away.

Step 7: You get lost, but since you traveled the area for a few days, you actually pretty much “know” where you are located. Also, giving directions to any poor soul that asks you – I gave opposite directions to Westminster Abbey while standing directly behind the building.

8: Order fish and chips. You just gotta do it! I consider eating this food a requirement when visiting London, you shall not pass unless you devour this well known meal.

Number 9: Being appalled by having to pay to use the bathroom.

10: Walking into a pub and saying out loud “this place is awesome!” Also, being the only person coughing from the smoke.

Not to mention, not knowing anything about World Cup.

Follow these steps, and you too can be an obvious tourist.


For the Love of Barcelona

The one city that I would love to live for awhile would be Barcelona. This Spanish town has everything that I’d ever need. From the beauty of nature, the beach, sparkling waters, and a very cute shopping area, to it’s easy access to the rest of Europe, I could gladly call Barcelona my home.

I spent several days in this large city. Going along the water, you’ll see a large port of sailboats; while you walk along the waterside, peddlers lay blankets of their merchandise (mostly purses and sunglasses). The closer in proximity to the beach you arrive, you’ll hear the beat of music, see bars with their open seating areas, and find more stores selling towels and sunscreen.

The beach stays busy in the middle of the day, so I tried to show up before noon. There is nothing better than overlooking the calm Sea while soaking up the warmth of the late May sun on the beach. However, you will need to ignore the locals walking up and down the beach selling their merchandise, mostly offering massages, if you want to be left alone.

The small shops downtown, weave around like a maze, reminiscent of the streets of Venice. The stores sell anything from jewelry, souvenirs, random glass and pottery items covered in mosaics, to candies and clothing. Down the long walkway of La Rambla that travels through the city, which goes on for miles, has hundreds of stores lining it: restaurants, department stores, and old architecture. La Rambla stays occupied by entertainers dressed in costumes hoping for donations.

My hostel had easy access to La Rambla, which had access to the closer end near the beach. The hostels can be more expensive and not as nice as the rest of the places I stayed in Europe; and you will definitely need to plan on spending more on food as well, but the Spanish delights are worth the extra price. Just watch out for the shrimp on your plate, because they leave everything on. You must try the patatas bravas, what we translate to say”angry potatoes.” These spicy tapas are a must while in Spain. Here’s a recipe for the tapas if you want to give them a try without the long plane ride to Barcelona

The Athens I Know

After my intensive journey to get to Greece, my time there remained short. The hostel I stayed at cost only 11 Euros a night and everything was pretty cheap. Stopping at little stores remained a consistent habit to maintain food on hand. I would always pick up bread, and either cheese or salami to go with it to keep my costs to a minimum – I must say Greece had the best tasting products of these.

The Grecian history continues to be amplified by it’s ruins sitting on the highest hill overlooking all of Athens. When looking down from the top, the roofs of all the buildings sparkle. As with a handful of landmarks that I reached, nothing can be compared to actually seeing and walking through architecture that you have only seen in history books and on TV.

Most people know about the riots in Greece in the past few years, but when I visited downtown Athens in 2008, the later you stay out, the crazier the people you’ll see. When eating a gyro at a restaurant (by the way, they taste amazing!) some random guy stood yelling at passing cars in the middle of the street and even stopped a bus, which the bus driver came out and physically had to remove him. Even the way they park in Athens proves to be absolutely ridiculous. Cars parks on the corners inside intersections; in American this would give you an instant ticket and be towed, but in Greece, nobody cares and you could even be parked with the car bumpers pushed next to each other all over the place.

Greece held a mass amount of amazing history, crazy people, good food, however, the best part of any trip is allowing yourself to be adventurous and random.  One afternoon, I talked the people that I traveled around Greece with to go bus hopping with me. Whatever bus came our way, we took it and went wherever it took us. We got to see Greece in a way that no tourist would come looking for or see. Also, we would take back streets, and I found the most delicious lamb gyro served in all of Athens – which proves, going off the beaten path allows you experience the real culture.




Autumn Day in the UK

Day two in London only allowed me to be a tourist half the day because of my afternoon flight back to Seattle.

The morning starts off with a free breakfast in the mission hotel. The hotel was very quaint; every room had elegant detailed wall paper – reminiscent of patterns off old English teacups. I felt as if I were wandering through one of those houses from a Jane Eyre novel. Breakfast starts with a buffet style of what looked like waffles, but were actually hash browns shapes as waffles. By the way, syrup does not go well with hash browns. Welcome to another culture.

We took a path to the tube station through a park. All the trees in the park had turned amazing colors of orange and yellow, which fell to the ground to cover the sidewalks. I pranched threw the the crispy leaves acting more immature than the young school girls in their proper uniforms walking  in front of us.

The choice of sightseeing for the morning would be Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. I looked around the Abbey for several hours – there’s just so much to see. I must say no one soaked up the atmosphere more than me – I loved examining every detail of architecture from the graves in the floor, to the stained glass windows, all the way up to the intricate almost Gothic ceilings.

Before I knew it, time sent us away with a few rings from Big Ben and we had to be back to the airport. We jumped on the Tube one last time and I tried to take as many pictures as I could of anything before we reached the airport. I became enamored by London; this place felt like a second home to me. I wished I could have stayed there longer, but I made a vow to myself that I would make a trip back someday as soon as I could.


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First Night in London

I’m one of those people who need to make sure I have a window seat – that’s just how I roll. I need to see the world. The whole ride to London, and not to mention to the States, I had the advantage of sitting by the window. Flying out of Africa to London, showed me the view over the African landscapes, from jungles to the endless desert.

I overlooked the Mediterranean Sea – which looked like a long strip of leather. I flew over Spain and into England. Coming into England, you fly over perfectly manicured landscapes, over looking castles, and into the rainy weather I know so well.

I got off the plane and had go through the long line at customs, and took the tube (subway) from Heathrow into the city to enjoy our overnight layover in the city. At this point, I knew absolutely nothing about London.

My travel group and I decided that we all want an authentic English meal: fish and chips for sure. After entering several pubs to check if they serve the dish we want, we finally find a restaurant after walking across London for over an hour. That’s how I love to venture though new locations – I take my time to find exactly what I want.

The restaurant had a red and black checkered floor, the layout extended narrowly with the walls to the left and right covered in full length mirrors to give the illusion that it was bigger than it looked. The pieces of fish were as big as my hand, and remember, chips from anywhere other than America resemble jo-jos, not french fries or potato chips.

After dinner, half the group took a taxi to our Mission house hotel. The other four of us could not wait to be set loose on an adventure on foot through London to find the hotel. We went through a handful of underground stations, wandering in and out of random parts of town, and walking through downtown London at night – which I must say… gorgeous! Walking through London at night, to me, feels like walking through a fairy tale. Of course I had just spent the last two weeks in a poverty stricken place.

Around midnight, we finally find the hotel and I can’t wait to do another day of exploring in what has become one of my favorite locations in the world.


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