Tag Archives: Audrey

DistriCt farewell

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 It sounds cliche, but it seriously seemed like last week when we were walking around with our group leaders around DC, taking in the sights and making multiple trips to Target for groceries. Three days ago, I sat for my last final and yesterday, I bade farewell to my home of five months – DC.

The final week was a whirl of meeting up with different groups of friends, trying out new restaurants and revisiting ones we’ve been before. Parties were held, apartments were cleaned and emptied. Sleepless nights weren’t because of cramming for finals, but rather the rush to pack to hit the move-out deadline.

In retrospect, choosing to do my exchange in DC was probably one of the best choices I’ve ever made. From the election rush and the slew of protests in January and February to the proximity of popular spots like Florida that came in really handy during spring break and finally to the host of lawn festivals and restaurant week when warmer weather rolled around in April and May – I constantly found ways to entertain myself regardless of the seasons. GWU presented me with an endless string of opportunities – from joining hikes with student group GW TRAILS to being accepted as a member of a co-ed fraternity to experience Greek Life to attending career fairs and related events, I had reaped immense knowledge and managed to immerse myself in a whole new experience this semester.

Perhaps one of my best memories from DC is visiting the
monuments at practically any time of day. From having picnics on the national mall and reading a book on the steps behind the Lincoln Memorial – these are experiences unique to DC/GWU students (to the envy of many). Bored at night? No problem, round up a few friends and go for a walk of the national monuments basking in moonlight. Feel like you’ve been eating too much recently? The scenic views of your running route along the national mall provide the definitive motivation.

I am grateful for the friendships forged, the memories created and the help I’ve received in navigating these 5 months of independent living. Thank you to everyone who’s made a difference!

Audrey out. (Mic drop)

Bonjour, Canada

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This past week, I took a solo trip to Montreal and Quebec City in Canada. It was about a 2 hour flight from DC, and studentuniverse had some great discounts so it was approximately 220 USD for a round trip. 

Having been to cities like Toronto and Vancouver, I initially thought Montreal and Quebec City would be similar – but boy, was I wrong. Unlike the cities I’ve been to previously, Montreal and Quebec City are the most bilingual cities in Canada – more than 70 per cent of its citizens speak English and French. In Montreal, casual conversations are often heard in French, but even more so in Quebec City. Both cities lie along the Saint Lawrence River, so I was treated to many panoramic views of the seaway and the river right in the heart of both cities.

For my first stop in Montreal, the highlight has got to be the biodome. Think of an indoor zoo with controlled conditions – that’s the gist of the biodome. Wildlife roamed right before my eyes and I got to see animals like capybaras, sloths, penguins and salamanders. It was right next to the Olympic stadium, so I managed to kill 2 birds with 1 stone in a single day.

Montreal has the highest food per square metre of any city, second only to New York City. Poutine, arguably the national food of Canada, on the surface may just seem like fries with gravy and bacon bits sprinkled on top. Here, poutine is an industry, a franchise – flavours and toppings are unlimited; even the choice of fries can be chosen. Smoked meat, is another one of Canada’s famous dish –  it is a type of kosher-style deli meat product made by salting and curing beef brisket with spices. The brisket is allowed to absorb the flavours over a week, and is then hot smoked to cook through, and finally steamed to completion.Old Cities

Both Montreal and Quebec City have old towns, namely Old Montreal and Old Quebec City. Respectively, these are the oldest living areas in both cities and are preserved till today. Stepping in felt like entering old-style Europe – colourful buildings and town squares with a centralised water fountain.  Old Quebec City also houses several UNESCO heritage sites, such as Place Royale.

In both cities, the subway is very convenient – as someone who doesn’t own a license, I was able to get around both cities really quickly. The bus is also a good substitute for the subway as it penetrates areas of the city that the subway does not serve – bus transfers are almost always complimentary within 2 hours so remember to retain your bus ticket!

Weather in DC

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DC’s weather has been quite the mystery – hitting the high 80s this week after a sharp dip to the 40s the week before. While I’m glad for warmer weather and the freedom to walk around without having to put on a thick coat, it has been a sweltering week. Taking advantage of this week’s weather, I decided to hit a few ice cream shops that were recommended to me by full-time students and professors even.

 

The Orange Cow

This place serves premium, homemade ice cream from a food truck. I know the irony is strong in this one, but the ice cream was phenomenal – totally worth the walk in this heat. I couldn’t find the exact location of the food truck online, but it’s orange in colour and was along E Street. The most popular ice cream flavour was Coffee Oreo – just the perk me up needed to walk from the truck to my apartment.

 

 

Thomas Sweet

I basically chanced upon this one evening while walking home from Georgetown – there was a long line outside this shop with huge green umbrellas and that was when we knew we had to get in line (being the tourists that we were). This ice cream place had literally one of the largest flavour selections I’ve ever seen and they allow you to sample it (which probably explains the long line). It’s located deeper in, beyond the main shopping street of Georgetown on P Street, between Wisconsin Ave and N 32nd. I got the milk cone dipped in rainbow chips while my companion got the rum and raisin (real raisins!!). They were both incredibly satisfying and I think I may go here instead of Baked and Wired for sweet treats the next time I’m in the neighbourhood.

Momofuku Milk Bar

Definitely be prepared to wait in line for this one. Located in CityCentre DC, Momofuku milk bar is the dessert branch of the ramen bar of the same name (they’re right next to each other, which makes ice cream and milk shakes the perfect dessert after downing your piping hot bowl of ramen). Besides ice cream and shakes, the small storefront also sells an assortment of pastries and I highly recommend the birthday cake pops. Its most famous outpost has got to be its cereal soft serve, which is simply phenomenal because it is both soft and creamy, yet firm and crunchy. However, the prices can be steep at this location, with a soft serve coming in at seven bucks with a cereal topping, and nine dollars for a milkshake.

I know it’s an indulgence, but the weather provides the perfect background to have ice cream for dessert. Side note, my exchange semester is quickly coming to an end – there are approximately 3 more weeks to finals and the end of the semester. I’d better find more places to eat/drink/explore in DC before then.

April’s Here

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This week, I ticked an item off my bucket list – seeing John Mayer live. Growing up in Singapore, we were never really on any musicians’ road map and being able to be in DC while he’s on tour has made me really thankful for this exchange opportunity.

Having listened to his music since middle school, he’s formed a huge part of my life since. The setlist last night was more than what I could ask for – 21 songs, including tracks from past albums and his latest release combined with the stellar seats at Verizon Center. It was indeed money well spent.

 

DC’s weather has been increasingly fluctuating – from skipping outdoors in a T-shirt and jeans to running against winds that seem to keep me from standing my ground, it has been a weird couple of weeks. We officially welcomed Spring last week, but hints of winter remained.

When the weather doesn’t go my way, I turn to food for solace and comfort. This week, I got together with the friends whom I spent spring break with and we had dinner at Bistro Bohem.

Located in a cozy corner on U Street, the store front had ‘bistro’ painted in large blue letters on the wall. The menu included classic eastern European fare, with several fusion dishes and it was actually pretty affordable, coming in the under $20 range. I had the beef goulash, which was served together with Czech dumplings. Czech dumplings are a funny thing – they’re like this cross-breed between bread and rice. The schnitzel came highly recommended and came with 2 sides of choice. I also ordered a cup of mulled wine – I believe this is the first time I actually saw mulled wine in DC.

 

In an effort to save money, I started to cook again and fortunately, I found an Asian supermarket that carried the taste of home. I’m not sure if this is the nearest one to GW, but as I was in Virginia over the weekend, Arlington has one called Good Fortune Supermarket and it is huge – it had practically everything I could find back home. Since it was pretty far from Foggy Bottom, I found myself lugging home groceries enough to last me a week.

The semester is ending and the realization that I should start saving up to travel has now hit me real and hard so I foresee myself cooking for the whole of next month! Also having a sudden mindful moment that exchange is going to end soon, what with the invitations for farewell parties and transcript submissions.

That’s all for now.

 

STUDY Abroad

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I guess you could say this week really put the study in study abroad. I guess the professors are trying to tell us that spring break is all but a faint history and it’s time to return to the daily grind.

That being said, I managed to take time out to explore last weekend. As April commences, we bid goodbye to winter and open our arms to spring. DC’s annual cherry blossom festival had its opening ceremony this week and it was nothing short of amazing. Thereafter, we took a walk along the Tidal Basin, past several monuments and admired the pink and white blossoms.

The reason for DC’s cherry blossoms dates back in history – Japan gifted DC with 3020 trees in 1912 after the first batch of 2000 sent in 1910 got infested with disease and pests. Since then, countless First Ladies have commemorated the start of the festival by planting their own cherry blossom tree. The one’s that we are seeing now are of the Yoshino variety but in another two to three weeks, the Kwanzan variety will start to bloom, giving DC residents and visitors a second chance to admire the majestic flora.

I was actually surprised to see that many of the blossoms were white in color, as opposed to the pink ones I had seen in Japan . Nonetheless, the paler color gives the surroundings a pure aura and are great for taking pictures too! While at the Tidal Basin last weekend, I actually met many people visiting from out of state, proving how popular the festival is. While our visit was short, we managed to capture some great graphics!

This week, I also took a trip to Tysons Corner in Virginia and it’s basically a huge mall where you can find practically everything. I went there for one very specific reason: Kung Fu Tea. Back home, whenever I craved it, I simply had to walk to the opposite street to get me some boba milk tea. In DC, it’s a lot more difficult to get hold of a decent cup of bubble tea and thankfully Tysons’ is an approximately 30 minute journey on the Metro, great for a quick getaway in between classes. The mall is also home to the only Uniqlo in the DC region, and I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for jackets or even basics that are of a great quality at an affordable price. I will stop talking about this now because this post is starting to sound like an advertisement.

Thereafter we headed to Dupont for tea and dinner. For now, it’s back to the daily grind at Gelman Library.

Spring Break – continued

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Fresh off our Yosemite hike, we immediately drove back to LA where we took a well-needed rest for our next adventure – traversing through the canyons. We planned on visiting Bryce Canyon, Antelope Canyon and the Grand Canyon over the next 3 to 4 days and combined, it was one heck of a drive.

Situated in Utah, Bryce Canyon is known for its crimson-colored hoodoos, or spire-shaped rock formations. We drove to sunset point, which as the name suggests, is famed for its aerial views during sunset of the canyon. As we had time to spare, we actually chanced upon another lookout point called Cedar Breaks National Monument and I reckoned this was my favorite spot in Utah not simply because of its picturesque views, but also because of its coincidental nature on our trip. Of a high altitude and bordering a ski resort, we were not dressed for this – half of us were wearing shorts because of the 90 degree AZ weather while we were driving in. Nonetheless, as we clawed knee deep into powdery snow and as the winds blew our ears numb, the view and the ensuing pictures were worth the effort.

Next up was Antelope Canyon. Do note that you’ll need to engage a tour when visiting Antelope Canyon as private campers or visitors will be barred. This formation was surreal – it actually looked like something out of Lord of The Rings or Game of Thrones; I half imagined Orcs to be marching behind us as we descended into the Lower Antelope Canyon. The tour guides were really helpful, constantly pointing out the different shapes and creatures morphed by the rock formations (although I didn’t understood like half of them, it was still fun to hear).

 

The final one is perhaps the most famous of all – Grand Canyon. The rock formation in Grand Canyon is unique due to the many layers of red rock, revealing the conditions it has weathered through millions of years. While we did not have much time at our last stop, the scenery was indeed breathtaking; I also managed to mail out several postcards from the gift shop right outside one of the lookout points.

Oh and since Horseshoe Bend was a 20 min drive away – it didn’t hurt! I mean, what is 20 min more of driving when we’ve been driving for weeks, am I right?

 

Many of my friends back in Singapore chose Europe as an exchange destination because they felt it had more to offer in terms of nature. After traversing 4 national parks in a week, I don’t think I’ve been more humbled by what Mother Nature has to offer – I’ve definitely made the right decision in coming to the United States and using Spring Break to get away from city life and into the arms (literally, in Bryce Canyon) of Gaia.

I’m thinking of doing part of the Appalachian trial in West Virginia before the semester ends. Anybody interested? (Hint: I need a driver though)

Back to the daily grind for now.

SPBK 2017

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Waking up to warm sunlight on my face and stepping onto the tarmac at SFO feeling the first hint of perspiration — Spring Break has begun.

Five of us set off on Friday morning for the West Coast, and a gruelling 5-hour flight later (the lack of entertainment really roughens it up), we landed at SFO. Day one saw us arriving late, way too late to do what we had planned: visiting the Golden Gate Bridge and taking a trip to Palo Alto. In the end, we hit SF downtown and ended up eating our way through it. I’d recommend the Cheesecake Factory in Union Square — go early though the line gets really long.

Day 2 was jam-packed from morning to night; we raced for the bridge and had time left over to shop in union square before having our dinner from Safeway right on the steps of the Caltrain station on 4th Street.  A 6 hour night bus ride later,  we found ourselves in Downtown Los Angeles. DTLA at dawn was creepy, partly because we lived in a really sketchy stretch – and mostly because anywhere that’s half decent was booked weeks ago and we only did it after midterms. As we were only there to take a short break before getting on the move again, it was still not that bad.

Ah, the highlight of California — Yosemite National Park. It was surreal, visiting after nearly 10 years, this time with friends. As it is spring, some parts of the park was closed, so we did not get to see Glacier Point. Nonetheless, we hiked 3 miles on John Muir and was rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Vernal Fall.

Growing up in an island state that is Singapore where the highest hill stands at 450m or so and with absolutely close to zero natural landscapes, Yosemite is a breath of fresh air (figuratively and literally). Daily morning jogs didn’t feel like a chore or an obligation – it was something I looked forward to once I opened my eyes at the crack of dawn. In the company of friends and companions, I was empowered to hike and see more of what Yosemite has to offer.

Three days in Yosemite were simply not enough – I’d have to come back again and do more hikes.

Part 2 of SPBK 2017 TBD.