August 29, 2014 — En route to St. Petersburg


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 Seeing as tomorrow will be my first day on land in seven days, I thought it was time for my first blog post. The last week has been filled with new experiences, and lots and lots of new people.

To backtrack a little, Shannon and I spent two days in London before boarding the ship. While it was a short trip, we got to see a lot of the London we had in our heads – most of the big touristy spots – and explore more local areas as well. I LOVE Ferris Wheels, so going on the Eye was a must. We walked across a big bridge to get there, which felt a lot like walking across the Brooklyn Bridge funnily enough. The Eye is set in a cool fair-like park, with street performers, musicians, a funhouse and more. The views from the top were amazing…Big Ben, the palaces, the Thames River and more.

We also visited Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace…how insane to think people actually live there!! They were massive. There were also surprising number of cars going in and out, and not a huge amount of security, at least openly. We walked into Harrods’s, a crazy big department store that looks like a palace from the outside and has everything you could imagine and more inside (including a full grocery store). My favorite activity was tea at Harvey Nichol’s, another big department store. The restaurant was on the roof, and tea was served on a three-tiered dish filled with scones, finger sandwiches, etc. Parent Trap, anyone?

Aside from those visits, much of our two days were spent wandering and walking into random bars and restaurants to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi and lowered drinking age (it took us a bit to figure out our hotel Wi-Fi)…I learned I’m a big fan of pear cider. We ate a lot of great food, and I got my long-awaited London Indian food. The samosas and Chana masala did not disappoint.

On the ship, I’ve been adjusting to sea life and a new schedule – so far we’ve made it to one breakfast…7:30-8:30 is just a tad early for our liking. It’s definitely strange to be away from Instagram and Snapchat and sometimes see absolutely nothing but open water around you, but those aspects pale in comparison to the incredible views any time I pass a window or step out on deck.

Though the community on board is definitely majority American, there are students from almost every other continent too. It’s been so interesting to hear them share their opinions in class and lectures, of which there are many. Semester at Sea does a fantastic job of keeping the evenings full of things to do. In my travel writing class, where we are focusing on what makes a city livable as we go to different ports, the topic of class came up. Students from Egypt and Colombia talked about the complete lack of middle class in their countries; if you’re born rich, you’re rich, if you’re born poor, you’re poor. There’s no room for movement, they said. Hearing them talk definitely gave me more insight into and appreciation for the “American dream,” something that I think is easily forgotten.

We’ve had a lot of prep for Russia, including cultural and historical talks, and lectures in my classes on the education and economic systems in the country, so I’m very excited to get off the ship tomorrow morning (!!!) and explore.

Thanks for reading!




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