Edinburgh: the Boston of Europe

16 Nov

Don’t blame us for not posting in a while, blame our technological problems:

-Alyssa’s computer is corroding. Unclear what this means exactly and due to the lack of an Apple store in Edinburgh, we won’t know until her homecoming to Westport, CT in a month’s time. Hope her computer makes it that long–last update was that her battery had eaten her weather applications. Good thing the weather never changes in Edinburgh!

-Elaheh’s computer was stolen. Tears were shed, language pledges were broken, but most tragically, valuable footage of Cribs-style home videos was lost. Hmph.

Computer troubles + believe it or not, some of us have a lot of work abroad = not enough time to blog!

Elaheh braved Ryan Air this weekend to visit Alyssa in Scotland’s second largest city. Confirmed: Ryan Air is awful. Alyssa’s observations from the previous post remain accurate portrayals of the budget airline’s ambience. No, I would not like to buy a calendar featuring the girls of Ryan Air. Also, not okay that the flight attendant had a seriously congested nose–talk about an airborne illness!

SOEC took it to the streets of Edinburgh this past weekend. (side note, how many o’s are in Edinburgh? none.) Here are some highlights from our sejour:

  • Topshop!

Buying an outfit from Topshop makes you one line of cocaine short of being Kate Moss. We kid we kid! No, but really, did you know she has a 9 year old daughter?

Topshop is the ultimate test of a shopaholic’s self-control. As Sophie Kinsella and Alyssa like to state so frankly, the world gets better when you shop [at topshop]. A certain one of us left with a super synthetic faux leather/fur jacket (flacket?) inspired by the likes of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and the gorillas who raised Tarzan.

Tip for starving study abroad students!! If you don’t have enough pounds** to get a manicure then do what we did–slyly paint your nails using Topshop’s tester nail polishes. They have upwards of 50 colors and the store is so crowded that the chances of a salesperson asking you to stop is slim to none. Don’t bother looking for a topcoat, we couldn’t find one either.

**Jokes about “losing pounds” after spending money aren’t cool/funny/witty in the UK. Hate to break it to you Euro spenders…

Girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do...

  • St. Arthur’s Seat

We decided to take an afternoon hike up one of Edinburgh’s most famous attractions, Arthur’s Seat.

When we made it to the top, we found ourselves surrounded by tons of couples enjoying the sunset (sun sets at 3 in Scotland). Guess they all saw One Day and wanted to recreate the moment that Em and Dex (Dex and Em) had at the top. Halp. We cracked open our offensively artificial bag of Cheese Puffs to ease our nausea. Crows immediately started attacking us so we had to G.O.S.!!! (Shout out to Alyssa’s study abroad friend Brandon O’Brien for thinking of this awesome new acronym for “get out soon”).

There are no marked trails down the hill, but luckily we ran into some coordinated Scottish nationals to give us a hand through some particular sliding rock sections. We eventually made it down alive and went back to Alyssa’s flat in time for a pre-dinner snack (binge) of dark chocolate Digestives. Can’t. Stop. Eating. Digestives.


  • Book: The Hunger Games. Also, Elaheh is endorsing #1 Ladies Detective Agency penned by Edinburgh native Alexander McCall Smith. She may or may not be the only person under the age of 50 to have read the series so do with that recommendation what you will…
  • Song: anything by Kings of Leon and Halloween from Rent. Alyssa thinks it’s the most underrated song, but Elaheh thinks it rivals Tango: Maureen as the worst song from the musical.
  • Movie: No time for movies because we’re watching Justin Bieber’s Christmas music videos on repeat. Thank god his voice is getting deeper. Spotted: Selena Gomez look-a-like

Random Thought: Uggs, fad or classic? Rumor has it that #1 SOEC fan Roshan Nozari had them before ANYONE ELSE. Realllllllly?

Check back in a month for a post about our upcoming Italian EATventures!!
Youth in asia…euthansia.

“They weren’t really into my ‘American girl in Paris’ angle. New York paper. New York girl.”

20 Sep

For the 10 subscribers who have been wondering why they haven’t been receiving email updates from SOEC, for our Facebook friends who haven’t seen our wall posts, and even for the HuffPost readers who haven’t been calling us out for spamming recently (still uncalled for), we’re baaaaaack!

Now that we’re both settled in our respective study abroad locations–Edinburgh for Kfacta and Paris for Ellie, we can finally BLOG! Sorry we’re not sorry (désolées que nous ne sommes pas désolées), but SOEC is officially transatlantic. As we like to say way too often, GET AT US.

Neway, T.G. IFSA Butler encourages its participants to travel before the start of classes. Alyssa arrived in the City of Light on Friday night via Ryan Air, which according to her is the “NJ Transit of the sky.” Offensive but acceptable because we did officially compare the transit systems of the tri-state area in a previous post.

On Saturday, we conquered Paris by foot. This weekend was the annual “Journées du Patrimoine” in France, meaning that all monuments and government buildings that are usually closed to the public were open and free. Despite the excessive amount of Parisians celebrating the French Republic and taking advantage of the gratuit entry, we managed to see every monument on Ellen Doernberg’s Paris charm bracelet. These included but were not limited to:

–       The Panthéon

–      Assemblée National

–       The Louvre

–      Musée D’Orsay

–       Concorde

–       Madeleine

–       Tour Eiffel

–       Tuileries Garden (how is this pronounced? note to self: ask conversation teacher)

Distractions by pastry displays and general laziness hindered us from entering any of these monuments, but we did take pictures outside most of them, making us wonder…. how many people’s pictures do you think you’re casually standing in the background of?

Random musings on some French things:

– Striped shirts are everywhere. For realz, every Parisian seems to own a striped shirt and wears it on the same day. We wonder: how do you describe the pattern? Is a striped shirt blue on white, or white on blue? Two different styles but the same color scheme. There go the French sailors starting confusing fah-shan trends.

–  La Cure Gourmande is a bakery chain scattered around Paris that literally displays piles of cookies. When you walk into the store, an enthusiastic bilingual salesperson greets you with a box of free samples. The further you walk into the store, the higher the probability of being greeted with more free samples. In the two days that Alyssa was in Paris, we went to approximately 5 La Cure Gourmandes (some locations more than once) and tried the free samples–shortbread cookies with chocolate or raspberry filling and chocolate covered almonds that resembled olives. We finally gave in and bought some cookies. Thankfully we got more free samples at the register–chocolate covered orange slices. Yaum. And more good news: the Rue Rivoli location is hiring!!!! If your student visa says “autorise travail” then you’ve got one foot in the door!

So many free samples, so little time

– We also tried world famous hot chocolate from Angelina, which in essence is just melted chocolate. We’re not sure whether it should be interpreted as a local min or a local max that we sipped our Angelina hot chocolate while mooching free samples at La Cure Gourmande.

Honestly wouldn't mind an IV of this stuff into my body.....

– This just in (has always been in…): they don’t take pounds in Paris. Alyssa tried to pay for a crepe with a 10 pound bill. Awkward for Alyssa, the vendor, and everyone else who saw the cultural mishap go down.

– A note to future Eiffel Tower tourists: Once you enter the complicated maze-like line, it is nearly impossible to escape! We changed our minds about going up the tower once we were already halfway through and had to jump gates, limbo under chains, and dodge hundreds of eager tourists to get out. Seriously exhausting.

Daily Picks:

Books: Madeline. Can someone please confirm that she does in fact fall into the Seine?

Movies: The Ides of March starring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling. George Clooney truly DOES get better with age. If anyone is on the fence about planning a trip to Paris, they should come solely to see the massive Omega Watches advertisement featuring George Clooney’s silver foxlike visage. GOSSIP: a certain DDD who is friends with BP says that GC is gay.

Song: Aux Champs Elysées. Listen to this song at your own risk. Once you hear it, it will never leave your head. Also, not sure if we ever gave Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Chain (Live From Webster Hall)” the attention it deserves. Wow, my life.


Complaint: TABLOIDS!!! Can’t understand/identify any celebrities in the French tabloids, nor can we find any American gossip mags. Also probably a majah faux pas to read about Julianne Hough and Ryan Seacrest’s latest sojourn to Hawaii while sitting in the same cafes once frequented by Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Also, not into pay-as-you-go international cell phones. The lack of service/cost of text messaging abroad translates into a major communication fail. #abroadproblems, woof.

You just can't beat blogging by the Seine.

And to that we say, vive la france!

Keep up with us, Boston

1 Aug

Alyssa, a lifelong resident of the Northeast, had never been to Boston until this weekend. After spending 24 hours in the city of Alyssa’s dreams, we can safely say we conquered it.

We first went to Cambridge where we found ourselves surrounded by the best and the brightest—cerebral graduate students wearing JanSports and high school students donning Harvard Summer College lanyards. Alyssa accurately expressed our first impression of Harvard when she said “wow, why didn’t I go here?”

After observing Harvard squirrels in their natural environment, we went back into Boston proper and set off on the Freedom Trail in hopes of finding the first public school in the country and Paul Revere’s house. We didn’t quite make it to these historic sites, but we did stumble upon a 5-foot tall ginger outfitted in breeches and a waistcoat. We declined his offer for a free guided tour of the Freedom Trial but did ask him to point us in the direction of Beacon Hill—home to Acorn Street— the world’s/America’s/Boston’s most photographed street. See below for a pic of this “disgustingly cute” street, as described by Paul Revere 2.0.

We know it’s 2011 but we were mildly surprised to have not seen any colonial residents roaming Beacon Hill. The red brick townhouses and stone pathways helped us realize our creative writing dreams. Look out for a colonial era period piece about falling in love and churning butter on the streets of Bean Town, inspired by a soon-to-be written novella. Get at us Academy Awards.

Once a colonial girl, always a colonial girl.

Random thoughts on Boston:

  • We started counting Red Sox shirts as soon as we got into the city. Total count: 253. Bostonians seriously love their sports teams. Awesome display of nationalism/regionalism.
  • There’s nothing quite like sipping a Sam Adams in Boston. The streets were lined with signs displaying Happy Hour deals for the local lager.
  • So many medical students, so little time. Couldn’t help but notice/stake out tons of attractive, scrub clad, aspiring doctors headed to Mass General and Harvard Medical School.
  • For the record: though Boston may not be as populated as other cities, jaywalking is still frowned upon there. We tested out the “pedestrians have right-of-way situation” and this just in: they don’t on Newbury Street.
  • Food service left something to be desired. First strike: Alyssa ordered a waffle with strawberries at the Trident Book Store/Café but was only served a waffle topped with whip cream. She still ate it and enjoyed it, but the hospitality factor was lacking. Second strike: The ice cream server at J.P. Licks made Elaheh cry by giving her a frozen yogurt serving that barely exceeded the height of the cone. Nobody comes between a moody girl and her ice cream. Yaum.
  • Into collegiate street names like Dartmouth and Bowdoin.
  • Boston likes Diet Coke just as much as New York.  
  • A jaded NYC resident noted that Boston resembles more of a busy town than a city. What does it even mean to be jaded?

Daily Picks

  • Movie: Julia Roberts tribute, favs include Mystic Pizza, Erin Brockovich, Notting Hill. She gives hope to women everywhere with unusually loud laughs.
  • So much vocabulary in The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Should’ve read this when I was studying for the SATs.
  • TV show: Grey’s Anatomy. Mass Gen, Seattle Grace, so boss. Catch us watching re-runs while wearing party-favor scrubs from Bar Mitzvahs past.
  • Song: Lighters by Eminem feat. Bruno Mars. Did anyone else think that Bruno Mars was singing “scaffold of liars” rather than “sky full of liars”?
  • Activity of the week: Checking in places via iPhone. Let all your friends know where you are and what you’re doing. Snorkeling in the Charles River? Lounging casually outside of MGH? Been there, done that, check my Facebook.

Would you stop thinking about your stomach at a time like this?

25 Jul

Because there is nothing we wouldn’t do for food, we toured the tri-state area in search of the perfect pizza. After doing lots of research and taste testing, we narrowed the final two contenders down to Star Tavern in Orange, New Jersey and Naples Pizza in Farmington, Connecticut.

As we sat down to eat in the Sopranos-esque setting at Star, former hostess Ellen Doernberg informed us that it was perfectly acceptable to eat at least 3 pieces of pie. As if we needed permission—social norms rarely define the quantity of our food consumption. After careful consideration, we decided to order two pies, one with olives and one with mushrooms.

What a pie!!

*Note on vocab: Star Tavern, being the authentic second-generation Italian eatery that it is, strictly refers to its pizzas as pies. Pls abide by these rules when ordering.

True to Ellen’s word, the pizza was ah-mahzing. The waistlines of our jorts prevented us from finishing the pies during lunch, so we got the leftovers to go. Rumor has it that Alyssa finished the pizza in the backseat of the car on our way to fro yo. This has been confirmed.

Naples had more of a Gilmore Girls/Dawson’s Creek vibe than Star. In order to make an accurate epicurean comparison, Elaheh ordered a slice of pizza with olives. Not bad, but Naples simply sprinkled the olives on top of the cooked pizza, rather than cooking them into the cheese, as made at Star.

Luckily, there were plenty of house salads, eggplant fries, and kids’ portions of chicken parm to go around. The proximity of Naples to Alyssa’s alma mater, Miss Porter’s School, prohibits us from saying any negative things about the eatery. It had great food and an excellent ambience. Bias.

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(Broadway) stars, they’re just like us!

21 Jul

Last night, an SOEC benefactor gave us tickets to the musical Catch Me If You Can, starring Aaron Tveit aka Tripp Van Der Bilt from Gossip Girl. We read in our playbill that the show cost $13 million to produce. Huh? Compared to the monkeys in Wicked, CMIYC’s stage design was pretty basic for the Great White Way. Although we can see how the costumes may have raked up the budget. Our personal favorite was the male lead’s sequined pilot’s jacket and matching hat.

Definitely go see Catch Me If You Can if a. you can’t get tickets to see Harry Potter in How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying or b. you are truly a showtunes enthusiast. Each musical number had all of the components of a Broadway classic. Also worth noting that Tveit literally danced off the stage after the curtain call. There go Broadway stars, they love their jobs.

There’s nothing we like more than brushes of fame with minor celebrities, and we guaranteed one by going to the stage door after the show. We snapped some paparazzi shots of Tveit, got his autograph, and asked him to “give us a comment for our lifestyle blog,” to which he responded “you’ll have to go through our press department.” Despite being rejected, we still give Aaron a thumbs-up for being good-looking, talented, and charmingly awkward.

Can't touch this Broadway star...

Sartorial note on Aaron/Tripp: he wore imitation seersucker pants (what does that even mean?), laceless Converse, and a cryptic graphic tee—still not quite sure what was being portrayed on his chest.

Daily Picks, beetchez!

  • Movie: We’d like to pay homage to Mandy Moore and all of her artistic endeavors. Highlights include, in order of preference: A Walk to Remember, Chasing Liberty, and American Dreamz.
  • TV Show: Summerland, featuring a dashing young Jesse McCartney and Aunt Becky.
  • Book: In an intimate interview in the Cambodian jungle, Angelina Jolie  admits that she lets her children eat crickets and even has her people package them in take-out containers. In honor of her efforts to preserve the cultural traditions of Pax and Maddox, we recommend The Clay Marble by Minfong Ho. Wait, do you think she lets her non-Indochinese children eat crickets too?
  • Song: California King Bed by Princess RiRi. Great song, but it’s slightly concerning that Rihanna has resorted to singing about pieces of furniture. Life after Chris Brown just isn’t so good. Don’t think it was that good during Chris Brown either…
  • SIDENOTE: Edge of Glory by Lady GaGa. We know you’ve heard the song, but with lyrics like “I need a man who thinks it’s right when it’s so wrong,” who would have thought it was inspired by her grandfather and Bruce Springsteen?!

Live Hipsters Doing Live Things

17 Jul

After hearing about the up and coming Nolita neighborhood from an undisclosed hipster source, we decided to explore the downtown scene ourselves. One too many subway transfers later, and after a debacle in which water gushed from the ceiling of the subway car onto Alyssa, we made it to Nolita. We were starving by the time we ascended to street level but could not find a low-key place to eat. First complaint of Nolita: not enough dining options. We settled on sushi from a place so city chic it doesn’t even have a name (some like to call it Dean and Deluca—Felicity and Ben’s place of work in the previously endorsed WB hit Felicity). Although a warning to fellow Diet Coke addicts: Dean and Deluca only sells Pepsi products. If we wanted Pepsi, we would’ve stayed at Hamilton this summer solely for its vending amenities.

A Nolita alleyway

We also stopped by a Mr. Softee truck. Like chocolate dipped ice cream cones, dislike the limited soft-serve flavor options. How can they not sell chocolate-vanilla swirl? Offensive. O.O.N.L.Y.C. Our opinion, not like you care.

To conclude, we found ourselves unimpressed with the 4-block radius surrounded by SoHo and Little Italy.

Is anyone else extremely impressed with Diet Coke’s new ad campaign? “Another word for thirst is ambition,” or this one we saw in Nolita. Guess we’re the target consumers because we stopped at two vendors for dcokes in the course of the afternoon.

Can't talk, hanging out with Diet Coke.

Members of our loyal blogging community recently informed us of the dwelling locations of two larger-than-life celebrities and NYC residents. One of them is a twin who starred in Billboard Dad and the other one is a mom married to Ferris Bueller. Stay tuned for when we stake out their properties next week and observe them in their natural habitats.

Daily Picks:

  • Song: Best Thing I Never Had by Beyonce. Music video features real live footage of B at prom!!!
  • TV Show: Always felt that Will and Grace was overshadowed by Friends and Frasier.
  • Nail polish: Smooth Sailing and Looking For Love by Essie
  • Movie: Center Stage changed our lives. Also, does anyone else think that Stick It had the potential to do for gymnastics what Bring It On did for cheerleading…?

We are looking to join/start a support group for people torn up over J.Lo and Marc Anthony’s break up. Their marriage did great things for the world of Latin pop. See below. RIP.

“You look like the Fourth of July, makes me want a hot dog real bad”

5 Jul

We kicked off Fourth of July weekend by annihilating a bag of Cheetos Puffs while sitting in traffic on our way to the Jersey Shore. It didn’t dawn on us until we arrived two hours later that we would be sporting patriotic bikinis all weekend long, so we drafted a 0 calorie lunch plan. Kidding—no we’re not—here’s what we came up with:

  • pickles/cucumbers
  • PAM cooking spray
  • lettuce
  • Diet Coke
  • celery

For the record, we are not a pro-anorexia blog nor did we ever consider eating this. We had hot dogs for lunch.

We also went to Surf Taco, a classic Jersey Shore dining establishment. We recommend the Maverick’s Burrito, a flour tortilla filled with char grilled chicken and the 5 basic burrito ingredients. Worth it to add guacamole for an extra $1.75. If you can’t name the 5 basic burrito ingredients, then you have no business reading this blog. TTYN.

Delicious lunch or small child...?

Unlimited fountain soda and a salsa bar give Surf Taco an A+ in quality, but the newbie busboy who spilled salsa on us gives it a D- (isn’t that just an F?) in customer service. Also, they were giving away free stickers—unlike the Millburn Deli, we stole those.

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