Merry (or Happy, as the Brits tend to like to say) Christmas everyone! And yes, I am now back in the good old U. S. of A.
I’ve been home for about a week now, and already miss London severely. The day before I left was a bit hectic, turning in papers (so I wouldn’t have to mail them) and packing and saying my goodbyes. The goodbyes were the hardest. I met so many great people while abroad, and I’ll never forget them (especially our little “kitchen group”). Luckily I get to see Ali since she goes to Rutgers too, but the others are spread all over the place. I’m thankful for Facebook, which allows us to stay somewhat connected. On my last day in London, Roya and Ali helped me bring my luggage (I had to buy another suitcase) to Heathrow airport, which was very sweet of them, considering the hour-long Tube ride there and back. I bid farewell to Astor College, to Tottenham Court Road, and to the Tube (which I’ll definitely miss…so convenient). At the airport, my bags were just under the weight limit, I think one was even 22.3kg (the limit is 23 kg). Talk about cutting it close! Then I had to say goodbye to Roya and Ali, trying to stop the tears that threatened to escape my eyes. Ali is currently on her Eurotrip and I’m incredibly jealous, but she deserves this and I know she’s having a blast.
I miss my London friends. I miss the British accent of the automated elevator voice in my dorm (and the accents of the real people too). I miss the bustle of Oxford Street. I miss my professor that reminded me of Mrs. Weasley from Harry Potter. I miss the grandeur of the main building of UCL. I miss going out dancing. I miss coming home and finding friends in the kitchen, then joining them to cook dinner as we talk about anything and everything. I miss the feeling of having the world at my fingertips.
But I’m happy to be home, and very glad to see family and friends here again. This experience has been one that I’ll always remember fondly. I’m not sure when I’ll return to England, but I’m proud to be able to say that for a part of my life, I was a Londoner.
Today I woke up at 7am, and the only thing dragging me out of bed that early was the promise of an exciting day ahead! Ali, Nicole, and I booked an Evan Evans tour to visit Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. Once we found the bus at the Victoria coach station, it was smooth sailing. We were soon on our way to Windsor with our enthusiastic tour guide Daniel, who happens to be Australian and therefore was my second Australian tour guide during this term (the first being Ryan in Amsterdam). Gotta love those Aussies!
We arrived in Windsor, and I loved the town (but then I love every English town I come across). We checked out Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House (gorgeous) and the State Apartments, but unfortunately didn’t have time to see St George’s Chapel (where apparently King Henry VIII is buried). The Queen was actually in residence at the time though, she must have known I was coming and wanted to arrange a visit. Maybe next time, we were on a tight schedule.
After grabbing a quick lunch from Eat (yup, that’s the name of a food chain here) we hopped back on the bus and headed to Stonehenge. I don’t have to explain that it’s a cool place, that’s pretty much a given. It was incredibly cold out today though, so after walking around the prehistoric monument for about 45 minutes, I was ready to get back on the warm bus!
Then it was on to Bath, which I was particularly excited about (mostly because I read about it in Jane Austen novels all the time). As soon as we entered the city I knew I loved it, it just had such a cool vibe — plus plenty of shopping, which I was not able to take advantage of unfortunately. We toured the Roman Baths for about an hour, and they were lovely. I had a huge urge to take a bath, or at least find a hot tub somewhere. At the end of the tour, we were given our free sample of water from the baths. Very warm, very metallic, very disgusting. But it had to be done. When in Rome!
Then we browsed the market being held in Bath right now, and I got a banana and Nutella crepe. Pure bliss. Of course, since we didn’t have nearly as much time as we would have liked, we soon had to find our bus again and head back to London. I’m really glad I was able to take one last trip, even if it was only for a day.
Because I leave London one week from today. And I’m heartbroken.
Some of these are pretty well-known, while others took me by surprise…
- “Cheers” or “Ta” (“Thank you”)
- “You alright?” (“What’s up?”/”How are you?”)
- “Mate” (“Friend”)
- “To-MAH-to” (“Tomato”)
- “I can’t be bothered” (“I’m too lazy to do this”)
- “Flat” (“Apartment”)
- “Hob” (“Stove”)
- “Cling film” (“Saran wrap”)
- “Lemonade” (“Sprite-like beverage”)
- “Top up” (“Add to” as in adding money to one’s Oyster Card for the Tube)
- “Lad” (Seems to be the British equivalent of a “bro”)
- “Thank you for your custom” (Often seen on receipts, basically meaning “Thanks for being a customer at our establishment”)
- “Take the piss (out of someone)” (Basically means to mock/joke with someone)
- “I might do” (Whereas we Americans would say “I might” or “I might do that”)
Commonly used words in England:
- “Brilliant” (Used to describe something as being awesome)
- “Massive” (Used much more than “big” or “large” or “huge”)
- “Fit” (Used to describe someone as being attractive)
I’ll definitely think of more examples later, and will add them as I remember them!
Also, I’ve never really understood what people meant by the British dry humor until I came here. Some of them have the most straight-faced, undetectable sarcasm (like Jamie, a guy on my floor, and his friends). Being as incredibly gullible as I am, they really have a field day…
I haven’t been able to update for a couple of weeks, but that’s because I’ve been so busy. The week after my trip to Amsterdam & Brussels, I worked hard to finish up two papers because one of my best friends, Melanie, was coming to visit me for over a week! She arrived on the morning of the 18th and was able to stay until the 26th. Meeting up at the airport was much easier than I imagined it would be, so we were soon on our way back to my neighborhood. However, due to some rail trouble on the Tube, we had to get off the train and walk through Green Park to get to the next station. It was a beautiful day though, and the park is lovely, so we couldn’t really complain too much. After settling in at my place, we were off to King’s Cross with Ali to take the obligatory Harry Potter fan Platform 9 & 3/4 photo. It was somewhat difficult to find the actual place where you take the photo (it’s actually outside of the station), but we eventually got there!
Since the British Library is close by, we ventured over and took a look inside and found our gold-mine: a room full of historical items of special interest to us. I was able to see Jane Austen’s writing desk and journal, the notebook in which Virginia Woolf wrote Mrs. Dalloway, and several handwritten lyrics from The Beatles. I was in my glory. We then went to Thai Metro for dinner, which was delicious as usual, and had a quiet night in.
The next day’s plans to walk around the Westminster area were foiled due to several Tube line closures (so much construction going on), so we improvised and took Mel to Oxford Street instead for a little shopping. I got a couple cute dresses (buy one, get one half off) so I was pretty pleased. That night we went to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park with a bunch of people from my dorm. Half of us got separated from the other half due to the swiftly closing doors of the train (that almost took Ali’s nose off), but we managed to meet up again in the park. There were rides, food stands, shop stalls, and more — essentially it was a big, festive, wintry carnival. There was even fake snow falling in one area! Personally, I really enjoyed my potato pancakes with apple sauce, as well as the mulled wine I bought. Delicious! We all had so much fun there.
The next day was to be another one of shopping, this time at the Brick Lane market! Though the Tube closures made this somewhat challenging again, we figured out a detour soon enough. Finding the market itself was a bit more difficult once we were in the area, but after walking for a bit, Mel, Ali, Roya, Keerthana, and I made it there. There was a section with vast amounts of different kinds of food (I got some of the best sweet and sour chicken I’ve ever had), and beyond it were stalls selling clothing, jewelry, etc. There was also a vintage section, which was really fun to sort through. That night, our friend Jamie from our floor had a few of his friends over for dinner, and so a few of us stuck around to hang out with them. I really didn’t fully understand what people meant about dry, British humor until I saw these guys in action. Too funny, and with completely straight faces. It was pretty entertaining.
The next day, Mel and I grabbed lunch at one of the student cafes on my campus (so cheap, and good food). Then it was a quick walk over to the British Museum, where we saw Egyptian, Greek, and Roman statues, the Rosetta Stone, and so much more. You really could spend days in that place. Near closing time we basically had to breeze through most of the rooms. Gotta love free museums though!
That night we went out with some friends to Moonie’s, a nearby club. I had been meaning to check it out all semester, but only just got the chance. And it was so fun! I even found someone to salsa with, which was great, since it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to dance like that. I’ll definitely try to get back there again one night.
On Tuesday, Mel and I woke up early so we could catch a bus tour around the city before I went to class. Yay, third bus tour since I’ve been here! I like doing it though, I don’t think I could get tired of this place. We got a quick lunch, and I ran off to class while Mel headed back to my dorm to take a nap. After dinner, a few of us went to my friend Hannah’s show that night called “Now You Has Jazz” since she plays drums for the UCL Jazz Society. It was great, I especially liked their renditions of “Mambo Italiano” and “Georgia On My Mind”. We met up with her at one of the student union bars afterwards where everyone from the show was congregating, but we all decided we were tired and headed back (plus it was boiling hot in there).
The next day was pretty fantastic. Mel, Ali, Roya, and I journeyed to Abbey Road for a Beatles pilgrimage. We saw Abbey Road Studios, signed the wall outside, and of course, took pictures of ourselves crossing the famous road. However, this was much easier said than done! Locals in their cars, it seems, don’t have the same appreciation for the spot as its visitors do — they don’t stop! We got the picture, but wow was it dangerous!
Then it was off to Oxford Street again for, you guessed it, more shopping! We got incredible cookies from Ben’s Cookies, and hit up Primark and Topshop too. I picked up a few cool purchases, I couldn’t help myself. Then it was back to Astor for a late dinner and some relaxation.
The next day was Thanksgiving, and it was certainly one of my most stressful ones. That’s because I had to go to class, print out two papers, hand them in through a very complex and annoying process, and then go to another class. I was wiped out by the time I got back to the dorm, where Mel, Ali, and several others were busy cooking away for that night’s feast. I skyped with my family for a little while before joining the others in the kitchen so I could make the baked pears I had promised to contribute (thanks for the recipe Mom!). The meal was a huge success: there were about fifteen or so people there, the food was delicious, and everyone had a great time. After dessert and cleanup, several of us went out to the club Proud in Camden.
On Friday Ali, Mel, and I wanted to go to the Tower of London (I didn’t mind going again). Once we got there, though, we found out that the beefeater tours had ended for the day, and we really wouldn’t have sufficient time to see everything. Oops. Instead, we bought tickets for the next day and took the Tube to see Buckingham Palace, since neither of them have been there either. Then we eventually made our way to Harrods, which was just as cool as the last time we went there.
I even got a raspberry hot chocolate from the Chocolate cafe there, but surprisingly it was only so-so. A bit too rich for me, I think. Unfortunately Mel wasn’t feeling too well, so we headed back. Ali and I brought back some Japanese food from Wasabi, which was awesome. Ali was still hungry afterwards, so we all decided to finally try the frozen yogurt place down the street, Yog. Also not bad, even though I’m not the biggest frozen yogurt fan. We needed to get up early the next day to get to the Tower of London before Mel needed to leave for her flight, but did we go to bed at a reasonable time? Of course not, we stayed up and watched YouTube videos. Duh.
The next day, we rose early as planned and made it to the Tower in good time, making it for the first tour of the day with a lady beefeater. It was cool the second time around too, since every beefeater throws his/her own spin on the history. I think I liked the first guy better though, mostly because of how much he tried to scare the little kids. Too funny. Later we got Wasabi again for lunch (we like this new place, ok) and then Mel and I had to leave to catch the Tube to Heathrow. I was sad to see her go, and so were several of my friends who really liked her being here too. She had become a member of our group! I know she had a good time though, and I’m so glad she was able to take time off from school to visit me. It was such a great week.
Unfortunately, it seems we ran ourselves a bit ragged that week too. The next day, I realized I was sick…and so was Ali…and so was Mel. It hit me the worst yesterday, though, when I had a 102 degree fever. There went my plan of getting my papers done without being in a panicked frenzy…oh well. It’ll be a challenge getting my work done, but I’ll manage. I’m just starting to feel better now, but not completely. Hoping to rest some more while also getting work done. Tonight we had a little ice cream party with the leftover ice cream from Thanksgiving, which was nice. Well, wish me luck everyone! I’ll need it.
The title of this blog post reflects the many modes of transportation I used this past week during my fantastic trip to Amsterdam and Brussels. It was Reading Week, so for many, that means taking advantage of a week with no classes by traveling somewhere, and Ali and I jumped at the chance.
On Monday morning we took the Tube to Victoria station, where (due to a booking mishap) we each took a train (me first, Ali following ten minutes later) to Gatwick Airport. Once reunited, we found our gate and boarded the plane (they have a very different system where you only find out where the gate is about half an hour before they start boarding). The flight was pleasant enough, and we soon landed at Schiphol, the Amsterdam airport. We then grabbed a train to Amsterdam Centraal station, walked out into the refreshing night air, and promptly got lost. We asked a guy in a cheese shop for directions to our youth hostel, and found our way again soon enough. Our hostel was a place called The Flying Pig Downtown — it was in a great location, had a very chill and relaxed atmosphere, and I loved it. Sleeping in a room with ten other people really wasn’t that bad! Ali and I had some delicious pancakes/crepes for dinner and explored the surrounding area.
The next day we woke up early and happened to be in the lobby area when a tour guide came to round up people for a free three-hour tour of Amsterdam (you tip what you think the tour was worth). We lucked out in being at the right place at the right time, because it really was one of the best ways we could have seen the sights. Beginning in the Dam Square, our Australian tour guide Ryan took us through the Red Light District, past the many gorgeous canals, even dipping into a cheese shop to give us a sample, all the while cracking jokes and explaining Amsterdam’s history.
I really liked his overall theme of the tour, which had to do with the immense tolerance the people of Amsterdam have, proving (in Ryan’s words) that the city is more than just sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Then it was over all too soon, and Ali and I went to the Anne Frank House with two Australian girls we had met on the tour (there was a surprising amount of Australians). It was, obviously, heartbreaking and also very surreal, climbing through the secret entryway behind a bookcase that she used and walking through her room, looking at all the movie star pictures she glued on her walls to make it seem cheerier. I’ve never read her diary, but I definitely intend to now. It made me think of the power of words and the influence they can have, and it reminded me of the diary my dad wrote for me since I was born, which made me tear up a little. Sometimes it just takes one tiny thing to put everything else into perspective for awhile. As soon as we left the building, Ali and I happened to run into Ryan again, and wound up joining him and a guy named Hassan, who had been on the tour the previous day, for drinks at a nearby pub. It was great to get Ryan’s perspective on Amsterdam when he was off of tour guide mode too, and after an hour or so he showed us the way back to our hostel. After dinner we met a few guys staying in our hostel from Lancaster, and Ali and I spent our time talking to them trying to figure out what they were saying through their heavy accents.
For our last day in Amsterdam before catching a train to Brussels in the afternoon, we took a streetcar (the other main mode of transportation other than bikes and boats) to the Van Gogh Museum. We saw masterpieces of his like “The Bedroom” and one from his collection “Sunflowers” among many others. Then we hopped on a tram back to pick up our luggage from the hostel and bid Amsterdam adieu. We were pretty sad to go, we felt we didn’t have nearly enough time there, but the time we had was wonderful.
Once we got off the train in Brussels, a bit of a panic struck. Unlike in the Netherlands, where almost everyone speaks English as well as Dutch, Belgium seemed to be a primarily French-speaking country. I had known about this, but somehow forgot or at least imagined that they would cater to English-speaking tourists like Amsterdam had. It was somewhat tricky figuring out what underground train to take and how to get to our hostel, but I was proud of us for managing relatively well. This hostel didn’t really have as welcoming an atmosphere as our first one, but it sufficed all the same. Again, we got pretty lost trying to find this one restaurant for dinner, but found it after some searching, and I had the most delicious mint tea there. Our next stop of the night was a bar called Delirium Cafe. We ordered some Belgian beer, relaxed, and chatted before heading back to the hostel.
The next morning started with an important hunt: the search for a great Belgian waffle place. We couldn’t find the place we had in mind, and giving in to hunger, went to the nearest waffle place we saw. It turned out well — I had an AMAZING waffle with fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and warm gooey Belgian chocolate drizzled over everything.
I may have died from happiness a little bit. Satisfied and energized, Ali and I used a map geared toward young tourists that her friend had recommended and followed a self-guided tour through the city. I pretty much navigated the entire way and was very proud of myself for that, since I don’t have the best luck with following directions. We saw the Royal Palace, some beautiful parks and the European Union parliament building (since Brussels is the capital of the EU).
We also got some tasty frites (french fries) along the way. That night, it was out to dinner again and then back to Delirium to try some more Belgian beer (we’re college kids, what’d you expect?).
On the last day of our trip, we ordered more waffles (of course) in a restaurant in Grand Place, a very pretty/touristy area. We wanted to squeeze in what we thought was a tour of a beer factory, but it turned out to just be another pub. However, the bartender was extremely knowledgeable about the beers, and so we had our last ones based on his suggestions. Ali and I were glad that we had satisfied our goal in Belgium of consuming their famous waffles, chocolate, and beer (though not all at once, blech). Then it was off to catch our six hour bus ride, which was a bit brutal once I realized my iPod battery was dead and that I would definitely get carsick if I read my book. It wasn’t as bad as I thought, though near the end we were definitely ready to get out of there. It was strange to have to get off the bus and go through French customs, and then to get back on, only to get off a couple minutes later to go through UK customs. Pretty annoying. What was interesting, though, was when we took the Chunnel. The bus drove onto a train, which then brought us under the English Channel. It was cool, but I wasn’t a fan of the pressure on my ears!
After a long, somewhat grueling ride, we got back to Victoria, grabbed some food, and took the Tube back to our area. I had a great time, and highly recommend that others check out these places too!
Again, it’s been awhile since I last posted — it’s difficult to keep up with schoolwork, have a social life, and update this thing. But I know I’ll appreciate keeping a record of my time here. So, let me tell you what I’ve been up to in my absence!
After my trip to Lewes I got back into the swing of London life. However, another exciting week was soon approaching…my parents were going to visit me! They arrived on a Friday and were here for a little over a week, staying in a hotel very close to my dorm most of the time and taking a weekend trip to Bath at the tail end of their time in England. It was so great to see them! 1) I missed them, and 2) They took me out to do more touristy things and to get fantastic food. We took the Tube to the Westminster area and toured Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre — though it was built in 1997 since the original burnt down long ago, this one was built with the same kind of materials exactly the same way they would have made it back in the day. It took them awhile to get that thatched roof approved! Our guide was an actor there too, so he was very charismatic and entertaining.
On the Tube ride back, we had some time and had just arrived at the stop to get off for Buckingham Palace, so we thought, “Sure, why not?” I found it funny that we were in the position to just casually decide to visit Buckingham Palace: “Should we go get some dinner? Ok, but why don’t we just stop at the palace real quick?” To get there, we first walked through the lovely Green Park. We got to the palace at too late a time in the day to see the changing of the guard, but still got to peek at them standing outside their little boxes. I was hoping to see Kate Middleton’s dress on display, since it’s an Alexander McQueen (who’s clothing I recently fell in love with after going to the exhibit on his work at the Met during the summer). Unfortunately it wasn’t there anymore…not sure where it is now.
We also took a bus tour and visited the Tower of London (very cool, loved the Beefeater tour guide who kept claiming that he hated kids and subsequently tried to scare all the little kids on the tour).
I saw the location where Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard (wives of King Henry VIII) were beheaded, a changing of the guard, a museum of armor and weaponry, and of course the Crown Jewels. Just as I expected, my reaction to the jewels: underwhelmed. It looks like costume jewelry, which to me just looks tacky. I know they’re rare, and valuable, and yadda yadda yadda. Not my style. They were still cool to see though, especially comparing them next to pictures of the Queen wearing them. I guess I’m more interested in the people who wore them than the jewels themselves. After that we hopped aboard a boat tour on the Thames and took in the sights, which I had seen before, but not from a river view! Though a bit chilly, it was awesome.
My parents treated Ali and me to a delicious dinner at an italian restaurant on my street (I also really loved/appreciated how my parents took me out to dinner practically every night, thanks so much!) Before that, though, we checked out the famous department store Harrod’s. It was incredible, beautiful, and super expensive there.
On another outing, we took Ali with us to tour Westminster Abbey.
It was a great decision, because it was a lot of fun to geek out with her over some of the people buried there: Elizabeth I, her sister (Bloody) Mary — basically, a bunch of the Tudors, a period that fascinates both of us. We also loved the Poets’ Corner where several famous poets and authors are buried or commemorated, like Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, and more. After that we went out for a pub lunch at The Red Lion and finally ordered the obligatory fish and chips.
As many of you know, I am NOT a fan of most fish/seafood, so I was a bit hesitant. But it wasn’t bad! Though I guess frying something makes most things taste good. I wouldn’t necessarily order it again, but I’m glad I did it. Also, the tomato soup we ordered as an appetizer was phenomenal.
My parents went to Bath for a couple days, but when they got back for their final night in London, I met them for a fancy dinner next to the Ritz at the Wolseley. The interior was gorgeous (though no pictures allowed) and the place is brimming with history. We started off with butternut squash soup (with roasted pumpkin seeds), then I had my main course of (fancy name I don’t remember) chicken, potatoes, and carrots, followed by tea/coffee and a decadent dessert — some kind of chocolate raspberry stick-shaped cake. Now THAT is how a two and a half hour dinner should be done! Then it was time for goodbyes. I was very sad to see them go, but I had an incredible week with them. I hope they know how appreciative I am for everything they’ve given me and for all they continue to give. The next day after they had gone, I realized how much I missed them, but it’s nice to know I’ll be seeing them in about a month now.
As for the past couple weeks or so, I’ve been doing my fair share of work and play. I went out to a club in Piccadilly Circus on Halloween with some friends (usually called Vodpop, it was oh so cleverly called Vampop this week). I threw together a punk rocker costume, Ali was a pirate, and Tina was a nerd. While shopping at H&M on Oxford Street for some last minute costume details, though, I happened to find a really cute dress in my size on the clearance rack with a tag that said it was usually priced at 27 pounds…and I got it for 3 POUNDS. That was definitely my best shopping find of the year, maybe ever. Yesterday I agreed to help promote my home university at a study abroad fair UCL was holding, so I talked up Rutgers for 2 hours in hopes of attracting UCL students to study there. I think I did a pretty good job, if I do say so myself. Rutgers, you owe me. Also, quick weather update: it’s been pretty much sunny and in the low 60s here for the past couple weeks — it’s NOVEMBER 4TH. New Jersey just had a snowstorm. This is crazy. I’m loving it.
I’ve often read about how people living in London, when ill, would travel to the country to regain their health and revive themselves. I never gave it much credit until now. My Rutgers excursion weekend in Lewes, East Sussex seems to have cured me (other than the inevitable lingering cough). On Friday afternoon, Ali and I took the underground to Victoria Station, where we then caught a train to Lewes. We arrived in the little town after about an hour-long train ride, and from my first view I fell in love with the place.
(Disregard the parking lot, the sunlight seems to know what to focus on in this photo.) Anyway, we trekked up a steep street and turned onto another, walking straight past our hotel for a good five minutes since the sun was directly in our eyes and we couldn’t really see. After asking directions and turning around, we found it, the White Hart Hotel. We settled into our rooms and awaited the arrival of the other Rutgers girls on the trip and our guide for the weekend, Catherine. Once everyone was accounted for, we journeyed through the town (walking right through a creepy graveyard in the dark) to get to Catherine’s house for a nice home-cooked meal. I really hadn’t realized how much I was in need of a comfortable home setting until we were all gathered around her coffee table for drinks and appetizers. I like London and my dorm, but this place had such a cozy feel to it that I didn’t even know I had been craving. It felt so nice to be taken care of and to sit and talk to a new, interesting group of people in the process. Some of the girls are studying in Ireland, some in other parts of England. Most of them seemed to know each other already from the previous Ireland excursion (that I decided not to do), but they were very welcoming of the few newcomers. After a delicious meal of vegetarian lasagna, garlic bread, and homemade apple crumble for dessert, we headed back to the hotel for the night.
Saturday was a gorgeous day (not a cloud in the sky, mid 60s) and jam-packed with activities. First we went to the local cheese shop down the street where Catherine works part-time (much to cheese connoisseur Ali’s delight) and were able to sample several slices. Then we got into a little coach bus and headed to Pevensey Castle. It was awesome!
After a tasty pub lunch at the Giant’s Rest (I got African spinach, sweet potato, and peanut stew with a ginger root beer. Yum!), we stopped at Berwick Church, where a wedding was just wrapping up! What was so cool about this place is that the church commissioned artists Vanessa Bell (Virginia Woolf’s sister) and Duncan Grant to paint the interior with murals (even though they were atheists and conscientious objectors to the war). Very beautiful stuff. While traveling through the countryside on the coach, we saw some interesting chalk hill figures. One is called The Long Man of Wilmington, and another is the Lilington White Horse. Their origins are unknown, but they’ve been around for centuries!
Then we arrived at Beachy Head on the South Downs, greeted by a sky full of people paragliding. It was very serene, especially with a fantastic view of the English Channel (which is much bigger than I’d imagined).
The walk was just surreal in its beauty. We also rolled down a huge hill at one point, which was hilarious and well-documented (videos will soon be uploaded to my Facebook page). After the long walk we clambered onto the coach again and made our way to the Charleston house, the Sussex home of Vanessa Bell and her children, along with Duncan Grant and, at times, her husband Clive Bell. I was nerding out a bit again, since for one, she is Virginia Woolf’s sister (who often visited the house), and also because I’m a fan of Vanessa Bell’s artwork in general. The rooms were incredible — because the occupants and guests were friends and artistic, they painted each other’s doors, beds, etc. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any photos inside the house due to copyright laws, but the outside of the place was pretty as well.
That night we had another home-cooked meal at Catherine’s house (vegetarian chili, more garlic bread, and brownies for dessert). We trudged back to the hotel around midnight, very exhausted but very content.
On Sunday we rose early again to explore the town of Lewes as well as Lewes Castle. This one is more intact than Pevensey, and we got to go inside and all the way up to the top of the keep! There was also a dress-up room inside, where of course we all tried on some medieval costumes and pranced around.
Several girls had to leave at different times, so after the castle there were just a few of us left. We packed a lunch at Catherine’s house and she led us on a gorgeous (but tiring) walk through the country.
We gathered our things, hopped on the train, and headed back to London. I was tired, but rejuvenated and happy. I made some great new friends, and thoroughly enjoyed my time in Lewes. Now it’s back to the grind!
I’ll have to make this a quick post, since I’m supposed to meet Ali in the lobby in ten minutes. We are headed to Lewes in East Sussex this weekend for our Rutgers excursion during which we will explore the countryside. I’m still feeling somewhat sick, so I hope it won’t be too strenuous. I really am sick of getting sick all the time though. I feel like the runt of the litter that is always ill. I try to take care of myself, but no matter what I do, I always catch something. Le sigh.
Well, I guess I don’t always do the best things to take care of myself…since last night I went out with Ali and Hannah to a club called Proud in Camden Town. I know it probably wasn’t the best decision to go, but I had been staying in all week and if I stayed in my room another night I felt like I would go crazy. At any rate, I am glad I went, because it was so much fun! The place used to be a horse stable, and so the decor is sort of old-meets-new, what with the cool lights and details. Konrad had rented out a stable, so we had a private area to mingle in and meet new people. The venue is very cool, there is a section where live bands play, an outside bar, a dance floor, etc. We will definitely be going back soon!
Meanwhile, here’s hoping I can squash this sick bug.
Nothing like waking up to a fire drill at 7:30am on your birthday! The strange thing was, I predicted it would happen as I was falling asleep the night before. Very odd. With my birthday on Tuesday came the weather that London is famous for: cloudy, drizzly, and chilly. I’m not going to lie, it’s actually pretty depressing. It’s something I’ll have to get used to though, and I won’t let it put a damper on my mood if I can help it. Tuesday also kicked off my first day of class (Utopias and Dystopias in 20th century lit.), and I’m happy to report that I like it so far. It’s a small seminar with about 15 students in total (which is incredibly tiny by Rutgers standards, but my professor was shocked by how many of us there were!). That night, Ali and Hannah made me a delicious birthday dinner. Then Ali brought in the delicious chocolate cake/ice cream/peanut butter sauce creation she had concocted, and she, Hannah, and Donauld sang “Happy Birthday” to me. I loved it, such a sweet thing to do. I also got birthday cards from Lauren and Megan, which also made me very happy. Later that night I went out to a club in Soho called Madame Jojo’s with Ali, Hannah, Donauld, Tristan, Pikne, Will, Lara, Tina, Roya, and Keerthana. Yay, more new friends! The club itself was just alright, playing the same repetitive Euro dance music until we had had enough and just headed back. Not the most exciting night out, but I had fun people with me, so I still had a good time while it lasted.
On Wednesday I didn’t have any classes, so I just took it easy. To be honest, I can’t really remember what I did. I really need to update this more often!
Thursday was my busy day, and I met Hannah and Ali in the lobby for our first class together, Modern Lit. II. The class is a lecture, so we sat there for an hour while the professor talked at us (not my preferred learning style). We realized that we have no idea what the professor’s name is (he never said it and it isn’t written anywhere), we don’t know his email address to contact him, and he also never gave us any direction as to the order of the books we are supposed to read. I didn’t have any time to question this, though, because that class ends at 11am and my next one starts — also at 11am. Apparently the professors are supposed to be understanding about this, but I FREAK OUT about being late to anything, so I darted out of there as soon as it was over and tried to find my way to the next class. I should have scouted out the location beforehand though, because I could NOT find the place! Time was ticking away, and I realized I was in a building on Gordon Square and not Gordon Street. Panic-stricken, I asked around, but everyone seemed as lost as I was. Finally, two students heard me and told me they were looking for the same class, so we eventually found our way together. The professor wasn’t even there yet! It turns out, even he had trouble finding it, and when he asked a security guard in the building about the room, the guard had said that it didn’t exist! It made me feel better to know that I wasn’t incompetent, it was just a really difficult place to locate. I enjoyed that class too (it was The Short Story of Modernism), the professor is pretty funny and one of his best friends went to Rutgers! Small world. After class I had an hour to grab lunch in the Refectory, then I was off to Modern English Language with Hannah. Despite being cramped in a tiny room not large enough to hold the number of students in the class, I really enjoyed it (I love talking/learning about language — I love words!).
On Friday Ali and I ventured to the Senate House Library, the library of the University of London with which we are affiliated. We went there to pick up a few books, since I’m trying my hardest to be thrifty and not have to buy them. I’ve only bought one book so far! Hoping to keep it that way, it’s definitely my best track record. While in line to register, this guy balancing a stack of books accidentally dropped one right on the bone of my foot — ouch!! He apologized, and I said it was fine, but wow did that hurt. No permanent damage done though, I’ll survive. On the way back, Ali and I stopped at a shop called Cilantro where I ordered a hazelnut latte. It was delicious, but somewhat pricey, so that won’t be an everyday type of thing. After another delicious (and healthy) dinner that we made, we went out to one of the Uni pubs with Roya, Keerthana, and a few of their friends from Ramsay. We always seem to go to these places when there is a theme party going on that we are unaware of…this time everyone was dressed in scrubs. Apparently the med school students were having a party. Though we stood out, I danced like my usual crazy self anyway. Of course we ran into Konrad again because there is some sort of Rutgers magnet pulling us together, but no complaints! He invited us to go out with him and his friends this coming Thursday, which should be fun. We headed back for the night rather early, but that was probably for the best, since I had been feeling a little off earlier in the day.
Saturday was Sainsbury’s food shopping day. Ali and I stocked up on groceries, and I was able to sport my red peacoat with the onset of some really chilly weather. I did some reading for class (A Clockwork Orange), and then Ali and I met up again later in the day to make another tasty meal (we splurged on ground beef, our first taste of red meat in awhile). After dinner we stayed in for the night and watched the movie “The Other Guys,” which I found funny and definitely had some great lines, but I couldn’t help but notice a general misogynistic tone throughout. I can’t help but watch movies through this kind of lens now, after all the gender studies classes I’ve taken! Not many people are aware of that kind of thing (or don’t see anything wrong with it), so I feel like it’s important to point it out. At any rate, I went to bed after that because my “off” feeling from the day before took a turn for the worse. I definitely felt like I was coming down with something, and I was exhausted even though I had gotten plenty of sleep and it was only 11pm or so.
This morning I woke up and felt even worse. My head and throat hurt, as well as my ears consequentially, and I was also coughing and sneezing a bit. Ali and I had lunch together, and I started to feel even worse, so I went back to my room and tried to sleep some more. Though I couldn’t sleep, the rest helped, but the true savior was this cold and flu medicine I took that I had bought the other day. Within an hour I felt so much better, and was able to finish my book, catch up on a few episodes of shows, and eat dinner with Ali while chatting with Roya. It seems to still be working, so I hope I’ve nipped this thing in the bud! I’m so tired of getting sick. I’ll be trying my best to stay healthy for the rest of my time here. On that note, I better get to sleep!
I really should have updated this sooner, since I’ve done, seen, and experienced far more since my last post than I could possibly recount with all the detail that I would like to. After I wrote the blog on Wednesday, Ali and I visited Regent’s Park (cue my inward Virginia Woolf/Mrs. Dalloway lit. nerd freak-out) on possibly the most gorgeous day we could have gone. Take a look at this picture I took and tell me this isn’t the London version of paradise:
It’s truly breathtaking. We were getting hungry, so we found a little place within the park called The Honest Sausage where I got the obligatory bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes to you non-Brits). Not bad! We then relaxed in a grassy area, watched some guys play rugby, and headed back to the dorm. We prepared another fantastic dinner, with Ali providing bread crumbs for the breaded chicken, zucchini, and pasta. I’m really so lucky that I got to travel here with her, she’s teaching me so much about cooking, and we share many views, likes/dislikes, etc. We chatted for awhile with Will and Jamie, two British guys from our dorm. I can’t remember what we talked about, but I do remember that there was a lot of laughing involved. That night we went to a pub called Potion to meet/drink with other English students. Hannah and I got a drink called a Woo Woo (maybe this was the only thing people could say after having one too many?) — pretty tasty, and I’ll take the happy hour price.
On Thursday Hannah, Ali, and I went to the Freshers’ Fayre so that we could explore the various clubs/organizations UCL has to offer — and to get free stuff. Being a college student in an expensive foreign country, you quickly learn to jump on any opportunity that offers something for free. ”No thanks, I’m not interested in the Amateur Boxing Club. What’s that? Free pizza? You know what, I bet it could be a good idea to learn how to throw a punch…” I signed up for badminton, yoga, the women’s network, a few writing/media groups, and the chocolate society! We’ll see what I have time for (I always have time for chocolate). Later in the afternoon we went on a literary walking tour of Bloomsbury, led by our awesome guide Andy, whose memorized recitation of beautiful poetry in a super soothing voice made me consider attempting to hire him to read my homework aloud to me. On the tour we saw the homes of Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Dorothy Sayers. We also saw the workplaces of George Orwell and T.S. Eliot, the place where Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes spent the first night of their honeymoon, and the narrowest street in England! Late that night the three of us had some great conversations in Ali’s room, and once Hannah went to bed, Will joined us and we wound up talking about sports and he also showed us this hilarious standup clip that I’d seen before but had long forgotten.
Friday’s plan was to ride the London Eye, the second largest ferris wheel in the world. A bit pricey at 18 pounds, but still a pretty awesome view.
That night Ali and I went out on a whim to one of the school union bars (yes, on-campus bars…I’m telling you, it’s a different culture here regarding that). Everyone seemed to be dressed for some theme that we never did figure out, but we had a good time and enjoyed the low prices.
Due to my love for parks on beautiful days, Ali and I trekked the half an hour walk to Hyde Park on Saturday. Tired, we plopped down on a shady spot of grass in the expansive open grounds and people-watched for awhile. Ali then took a nap while I read a book. Saturday night brought with it some very…interesting occurrences. Ali, Hannah, Donauld, and I journeyed to Leicester Square to meet up with his friends to go to a club. While waiting for them in a nearby Burger King, several incidents happened. First, a gaggle of obnoxiously drunk girls stumbled down the stairs, falling all over each other before security helped them leave. Not exactly a common BK experience, but not unheard of. Then, a customer at the counter dropped some glass object out of his coat which shattered on the floor. Again, somewhat odd, but accidents happen. Finally, a very drunk man was being obnoxious and escorted out, when he wiggled his butt mockingly at the guards, who then pushed him out the door. In response, the angry drunkard threw his beer at one of the guard’s faces, who then pushed the man into the street and began punching him. It turned into this big brawl while I looked on in shock from behind the safety of the windows, a front row seat to a fight that I had no desire to watch. Just when I thought it was over, a man in a suit (seemingly associated with BK) rushed over and punched the man hard, knocking him out cold onto the ground. I was so disgusted with the entire situation: with the drunk man for being a complete jerk, and with the security who lost their tempers and resorted to unnecessary violence. I’m definitely a pacifist through and through. The police came and tried to sort the whole thing out, eventually letting the man go. At any rate, we eventually went to a club called Penthouse (sans Donauld’s friends). It was a lot of fun, tons of dancing with a fantastic view. On the walk home, though, we witnessed a young guy trying to steal the food cart of a vendor we had seen further back. They were literally in the street, each tugging at the cart. Luckily there were several other people around who came to the vendor’s aid, and the young guy eventually gave up and wandered away. But wow, I think I’ve seen enough classless/crazy/criminal behavior for one trip. Don’t worry Mom and Dad, I travel in groups!
Yesterday was a lazy day, which I really needed. Ali, Donauld, and I grabbed pizza and watched a small bit of a documentary, then watched the movie Contagion. At night I was finally able to Skype with my parents again, it’d been a while and it was good to catch up.
Today was officially the first day of classes — but I didn’t have any. Not until tomorrow! I used the day to take care of chores like grocery shopping and laundry. I finalized my classes too. In the European Cultural Studies department I’m taking “The Short Story of Modernism” and “Utopias and Dystopias in 20th century literature,” while in the English department I’m taking “Modern English Language” and “Modern Literature II.” I’m excited to get started, but definitely dreading the 8 essays I have to write in the next 2 months (essentially a paper a week).
But tomorrow is my birthday! I’m very excited, Ali and Hannah are going to make me a delicious dinner with a surprise dessert, and then a bunch of us are most likely going to a nearby club called Roxy. I can’t wait to turn 22, London-style!