AshleyWoods

Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Finally A New Post

In Personal, Travels on October 26, 2011 at 4:51 AM

I know, you could tell me until you are blue in the face, it has been a looong time since I have last posted even a morsel of my own existence. September was crazy though beyond my own imagination and October, well that’s just between October, me, and all that sangria that was consumed while I was in Barcelona.

I love posting new blog posts…writing them, coming up with new pictures and new ideas to craft for each individual posting. I have so many drafts all saved up and I think that I am now in place for the moment, I am finally ready to recap every part of my life so far while I’ve been abroad. I have been craving this for I cannot even tell you how long now and even writing about is making me anxious. I kind of can kick myself in the bum for this lapse of time, but the future only holds more room for more opportunities to get it done and to really do it well.

I could not have ever imagined what this trip would really mean for me. It has transformed me, shaken me up, and made me redirect the focus and purpose of my life. From the outside looking in, that’s putting too much emphasis on this trip, but when you begin to relate to your past in a completely new way, well there’s the difference that I have been waiting for. And it wasn’t about waiting….it was about making it happen for myself.

Inspiration from Nutrition Nut on the Run

A Wonderful Way to Start My 21st Year

Tags: Nutrition Nut on The Run, Dessert

Black Taxis, Cookie Crumble Galaxy Bars…and A Glimpse of Harrods

In Personal, Travels on September 8, 2011 at 10:59 PM

I never thought that the stories of  my life in England would actually ever start. And it would have been very easy to have it read like an idyllic Hollywood script….riding underneath the Tower Bridge to the beat of “London Calling” and hopping onto a Red Double Decker bus and getting to my flat in “true” British style. I don’t even know where my luggage fits into this story, oh wait, it didn’t….

Well as I hate to admit it, my parents were wrong about one thing-the amount of luggage that everyone was going to bring. Every person that I can think of on this trip paid for overage charges on their luggage-for both weight and numbers of bags. Yes, even the four boys, which contributed to the already cramped undercarriage of the coach that was booked for our group. The lack of luggage space on the first coach began the longest afternoon of my life. Terribly anxious to see the city that I had seen on television during the Royal Wedding and had idolized over for 6 months, this little bump in the road, became laughable to me. It was the tiredness and the excitement I’m sure, but I just could not help but burst out laughing. It was absolutely hilarious to me that this would already happen and we were not even in the country for 15 minutes! This is kind of stuff that you ask for secretly so that you have better stories to tell your grandchildren, but when you hope too hard they don’t happen.

I didn’t even have to try, because the story has kept unravelling for me from that very first day and throughout this entire trip. With the rain pouring down all around us, we made a roundabout and came back into the terminal, the wait seemed long, but it was a chance to really introduce ourselves to these “total strangers” that we were going to be around day and night for the next four months. Surrounded by the shops in the airport, we got a glimpse of a mini “Boots” chemists store-uhhh it is absolutely amazing, a little pricey, but CVS Pharmacy in the States cannot even compete with “Boots.” I really cannot wait to go to Paris at the end of September to see the French Pharmacies that Tessa has gotten me so obsessed with. And yes, they are indicated by a cross-like sign, which make them actually easy to find when you are craving a “Boots” spending splurge. (I will resist, I will resist)

A uniquely named “AMT Coffee” stood right next to it with banana and caramel frappuccino-like concoctions beckoning our names. There  also was a small convenience store where I officially purchased my very first item with the local currency. Any guesses? A BIG bottle of Evian water-which was relatively cheap, so I was quite shocked, (in hindsight, I should have realized this rare first exception that I encountered). Everything looked different to me: the celebrities on the front of the tabloids were almost unrecognizable and the food was packaged very differently from America. This is where the great Candy Bar excursion of London (with a point of no return)officially began. I was offered by the checkout clerk to try one of the Galaxy bars at a discounted prices. “What is a Galaxy bar?”  “What you have never tried a Galaxy bar before?!” My first purchase and I was already playing the part of the American yupee, but this was well worth it. One of the best candy bars that I have ever tried-the Cookie Crumble flavor. It rivals a Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Creme bar in the States! The water and that little bit of shared cookie crumble chocolate kept us content for a short amount of time as we finally pulled our luggage through the “car park” and got into our cabs. The best moment of the day was when we both piled into our cab and our driver got into the  “wrong” door, I was like what are you doing over there?! and then I just burst out laughing and it was really my first experience of true culture shock.

Not only did our little mishap give us an entirely new experience that was only shared among the 5 of us, plus one of Courtney’s bags (:, but it gave us our first experience of riding in a reserved taxis around London. We were all hoping for the black taxis, but these were so nice that me and Faith fell asleep at one point while we were riding into London in Thursday night rush hour traffic. The first taste of the city and I am still reminded of LA (I thought that I had sneakily escaped the horror of car traffic)! But the highlight of the first drive through London was all of the sites that we passed, “Here comes the sun” was definitely playing in my head throughout this entire afternoon. I realized just how close everything was and how easy it was going to be to get around London. It was so incredible to actually see what London looked like and get a glimpse of Knightsbridge and Harrods (!), Burberry, Topshop, Picadilly Circus, Hyde Park, the Marble Arch, Oxford Street and finally the entire area where we would be living. Breathtaking. I had held no expectations and that the probably the most incredible part because it looked like London, not like this place that I was expecting for it to be (although I have discovered that most of the places that I thought were close to each other in the movies are quite far apart!).

I was finally here, despite everything that had happened that afternoon, the hardest part was carrying my 70 pound bag up four flights of stairs. All those strength training workouts definitely came in handy at that point!

Then it was off to the pub for my first British refreshment and a taste of British pub food!

*Note: the nice iPhone quality photos that are posted here, it was raining and I didn’t want to ruin my camera already!

Yummy Cookie Crumble Galaxy Bar

The coach that never was

Heavy Cart FULL with my baggage!

The Group that Got "Left Behind" + Courtney's bag!

Faith, one of my new London flatmates

A Beauty Editor "Top Shelf" dedication to Tessa

Hopefully I will see His Majesty and Katherine at some point!

PB and J, Hard Croissant, Cadbury Vending Machines

In Personal, Travels on September 6, 2011 at 10:06 PM

After trying unsuccessfully hard to fall asleep, while I told Dina, my friend and fellow USC Londoner, how many hours were left each time she woke up, I put up my feet on my seat, scrunched myself up underneath my sweater and for 30 very short minutes I actually got some rest. I knew that that amount of rest later would be quite hard for me to function, but for the moment it was going to have to do. With the exception of my Italian neighbors, the majority of the plane was still sleeping, so I enjoyed bits of “The Lincoln Lawyer” and “Glee” as we prepared for the downhill venture of our flight.

The breakfast trolley was being wheeled down before I knew it, and a hard pre-warmed croissant and those-peel away oj cups with yogurt were thrown in my direction. My own pre-made PB &J sandwich and a banana was my pick of the day and a great start to a very exhausting evening for my little group.

And in true British style….the rain greeted our  entrance in Heathrow delaying our flight’s arrival by a good 15 minutes. Of course all of our parents knew this because they had been tracking our flight the entire time. So when I phoned my mum (hehe), she had known exactly where I was-way to spoil the fun a little of telling her that I was officially in London.

I am so glad that we got through Heathrow as fast we did, I was so scared about customs even though I ended up being perfectly fine. In fact, the hardest part: lifting our suitcases off the circus of all the other 60 pound suitcases. Finally free of the airplane, in a raining and blustery London, we waited for our coach to take us to the flat and continued to stare around at the new things that greeted our entrance into the main hall of the airport like the most brilliant invention ever-A Cadbury Chocolate Machine where every Cadbury Candy imaginable is right in front of you! If I have one weakness at Easter-it’s those Cadbury Eggs, I cannot get enough of them!

I Had Slightly More Baggage Than Audrey

Credit: Peanut Butter Fingers: Yummy PB & J Sliders!

 

 

*none of these photos are my own personal photos*

The Beauty of Being the Only One Awake

In Personal, Travels on September 2, 2011 at 8:25 AM

In the Clouds (not my photo)

If there is one thing that I will do after this experience, it’s to travel more and to a variety of different places. Even preparing for my flight prompted a new aspect of myself that I always knew existed but I had not experienced in a very long while. But my favorite part of the flight although it killed me later due to the lack of sleep that I had throughout those two days, was being the only one awake during the middle of the flight. I had already set my watch to be in the London time zone, staying up so I would later be tired, but at least actually ready to go to bed the next night with my new fellow Londoners.  I always discover these tiny little moments that life can bring sometimes and  the value of being alone at times is not lost upon me. I really love that time, sometimes it is when I drive, other times, like this when everyone is sleeping and I am still wide awake. I can actually think during that time and I feel so surrounded by so many people, but at the same time, so alone and involved in my own thoughts.

Some people will have utterly no idea what I am talking about, but it is a true experience that I cannot thrive without. And there is nothing like being up in the sky so close to heaven and the clouds while it is quite chilly outside and the rays of twilight are setting upon the plane. Those  are the moments that I will always cherish in my life and I place in the “never forget this moment for the rest of your life” box. I am so blessed to be able to go on this journey abroad. I know that it will be fun, that it will be challenging at times, that the best laughs and memories will be created here. That I am going to let GO and that getting lost is simply the best part of the journey. Here’s to thirty minutes of rest upon the plane….

*none of these photos are my own personal photos*

The 10 Longest Hours: “Water for Elephants” and A Leftover Sandwich

In Travels on September 2, 2011 at 7:13 AM

It really was the 10 longest hours of my life, I felt like I had gone through several days by the time that I had gotten off the plane. I was too nervous for anything to serious so I busied myself for quite a while writing cards and thank yous which I thought would be fantastic to say that I wrote them while flying over the States and the ocean. Five years since I was on a plane last, I could not have been more happy to be on a plane. It is so very exciting and I love the thrill of adrenaline that I get as we are taking off. I even get a little sad when we land, I love being away from the hustle and bustle of the world for that sacred period of time. No email. No Internet. No Facebook messages. No texts. It’s amazing what not having a cell phone in your hand and your face stuck to the screen can do for your mind and your entire experience aboard. It’s like yoga class, to be present there and now and only there, not trying to think ahead or run over the lists of things to do in your mind.

After finishing with my tray table full of cards, letters, magazines, books, and gum, I finally decided to clear it all off about two hours into the flight as I saw the dinner cart wheeling its way down the aisle.  A very old episode of  “Glee” was my pure entertainment while we waited for dinner and drinks. Lasagna or meat and potatoes….yum? ? Thank goodness we stopped at Mustard before, leftover “California” sandwich (w/avocado of course )and an apple for dinner. I tried some of the dessert as well which was some form of brownie, crumble, and peanut butter something….yeah still airplane food. It’s good to be back. (:

It had been such a long time since I had been on a plane that I did not even realize that you could choose your own in-flight movie on your own personal TV set! And the movies were actually quite a good selection of movies that I had not had the chance to see while they were in theaters. The airline even offered a variety of TV shows…”Glee”, “The Good Wife,” & “The Big Bang Theory.”  Makes me think of my family and the DVR battles that happen weekly if not daily….surprised “House” was not on there. I chose “Water for Elephants,” a book that I am still very interested in reading, but I couldn’t resist watching it for “free” right in front of me. It was amazing to just sit and watch a movie, no multitasking-a true rarity for me. At some point though, before I knew that my friends were going to go to sleep I walked the aisles as much as I could. The Ambien pills that everyone took preflight had finally set in and it suddenly got really quiet. But I was still wide awake and chattier than ever. I was on a 3 cups of black tea kick and I was not coming down any time soon, so I pulled out my laptop and finished the overwhelming project of updating my iPhoto. I had had that project on my to do list for two years and it felt absolutely wonderful to be done with it. Almost anti-climatic in a way since it had taken over two years. I guess that is all I needed…one good silent, non-distracted time on a Transatlantic flight. Blogging photo albums and planning: all set!

 

 

**none of these photos are my own personal photos*

A Little Last Minute Preparation for London..

Unfortunately no window seat for me...but I was quite close on the aisle seat

Sitting on a Suitcase: Lessons of The New Minimalist Traveler

In Personal, Travels on August 29, 2011 at 11:09 PM

That I am not. Plain and simple. I love the certain things that I consider  “essentials” right about me. It keeps my wits about me. I feel organized and prepared for any situation that may come my way. Others…including my own family, called it OCD hoarding. Ok so sometimes I am little big of a bag lady I must admit, that does not mean that someday that it is going to be of great benefit to me as a mother of how many numerous amounts of children I’ll have.  Here are some of the things that I considered to be “essentials” on my trip abroad to London:

Beautiful new tortoise shell Toms Wayfarers (One For One!)

Audrey Always Knows Best

Last California IN-N-OUT trip with Cait

MARC JACOBS Daisy Perfume (not my photo)

An amazing camera to take 1000s of pictures (not my photo)

James Smith & Sons: The Umbrella Choice of Her Majesty, the Queen

Or... I won't even need an umbrella at all

Hunter Wellies for the London rain (not my photo)

Just like Diana- a pair of Hunter Wellingtons

And.. a beautifully elegant dress for the Royal Opera (not my photo)

Well…the point is, sitting on a suitcase is one way to not practice being a minimalist. Not to mention, I had two bags to check. I had a lot to learn and two carry-ons that could have been big enough to check too stuffed with gum and magazines, two meals for the flight as I did not particularly prefer the choices like my “delicious” lasagna options or the hard croissant that they served for breakfast. Besides I was too antsy to eat, I had not even slept well the whole week before, I just was anxious and nervous and excited all at the same time. I felt like I was dying somehow…saying goodbye to everyone, closing up shop like it was the last day that I was going to be alive, but it was depressing. It was really exciting actually.

Driving with my parents to the airport was an entirely strange experience, I really thought that they were going to leave me at the curb and say goodbye. But alas, they didn’t and we stopped one last time at  Mustard, my favorite sandwich restaurant for my last meal in America since I had apparently done something really weird for me that day and had forgotten to eat (I was way too anxious actually). It was the same conversation that it had been for the last week: ‘Where is my customs letter?’ ‘How do I try to do everything in such a short amount of time?’…. Simple answer from my mom of course: ‘I told you where everything is and just have fun, remember where you are. So as we finally approached LAX in what the shortest drive time that it has ever taken to get up there, my heart was racing and the anxiety made me almost nauseous.

The long and pricey process of checking my bags meant that I only had very little time left before I went to the international terminal for security…this was the hard part. I was sad and excited, but something was pushing me toward being ready to leave. I knew that I could four months without my parents. Yes, for me, Ashley Woods, it was actually possible. I could get away with only a few texts from my mom every few days and the occasional Skype phone call. My laundry wasn’t an issue, I could cook for myself. I had gone from the Freshman at UCLA who never cooked and preferred cereal to someone who was proud to be quite good in the kitchen (or so I have been told). I didn’t need to call my family countless times of the day, dying for conversation and comfort, no, this was my time and every little action that had made up my life up until this point was held in this moment.

And you know I will never forget when I actually left them in the airport. I hugged my dad, told him I loved him and then my mom hugged me harder than I will ever remember. And it wasn’t long before eyes were being wiped, and then shrugged off very quickly. That was my story, but it sounds just as bittersweet  as everyone else’s until these words of advice came my way. Famous Last Words: “Just don’t come back with a husband.” Thanks Mom.

*only the top photo is my own personal photograph-the rest of these photos are not my own personal photos*