Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekend in Sheffield

It's Sunday night and I am thoroughly exhausted from a very fun weekend in Sheffield visiting Anna. I left Friday via Megabus for the trek north.  The trip started off as a bit of a debacle.  I got to the bus station and realized I had bought tickets for March 26th, not February 26th.  Major blunder on my part, major hassle to fix.  I ended up taking the next bus at 3 pm which ended up coming into Sheffield 45 min late. Gah! Well eventually I made it (4.5 hours later) and met up with Anna.  We explored the mall attached to the station and then headed towards Anna's place via tram.  First impressions of Sheffield: Man there are a lot of hills! Anna is going to have very toned legs by the end of the semester! We got back and got ready to go out.  We hung out with a bunch of Anna's housemates and some boys Anna knows.  Everyone was super welcoming and friendly.  We went out to a club called Space which was a blast.  We danced to til the wee hours of the morning, ate some noodles, and called it a night.  It was so much fun. 

Saturday was devoted to spring break planning.  After much, much debate Anna and I have decided to go to Brussels for the weekend and then to the south of France for the remainder of the week.  In Brussels we will be staying with Nancy Koeppel (sp?), a family friend.  So we will have free lodging which is awesome.  I was thinking about our trip on the bus ride home today and I realized I know very very little about Belgium.  Here's what I associate with Belgium: waffles (yum), chocolate (double yum)...And that's about the extent of it. So clearly it will be an eye-opening experience.  Then we will take a train to Nice and spend the rest of the trip doing day trips from there to places like Cannes and Marseilles.  So excited for warm weather! The South of France for spring break?! I can hardly fathom that it's even an option let alone our destination.  Stoked. Very stoked.  From there I will head to Florence for part two of my European extravaganza.

We spent most of the day planning the trip, went to a pub for an early dinner, and just hung out.  We ended up going out to another bar again with Anna's housemates.  Then we came back, ate some cheesecake, and watched Benny and Joon. Bizarre but cute movie btw.  I'd never seen it.  Sunday we slept in and I headed back to the bus for the trip home.

Some thoughts on Sheffield: It's a great college town.  I can totally see Anna having a blast there.  It's very grey.  Clouds all weekend, thereby making London seem colorful by comparison.  I have become so accustomed to everything being so nearby.  In London, the far grocery store is a 15 min walk.  In Sheffield that is the closest option and you have to walk up a massive hill. So I'm definitely learning to appreciate how close everything is.

I've only got three weeks left in London. It's time to make them count.  I'm planning on heading to Oxford this weekend and doing a bit of exploring. I still haven't seen Buckingham Palace! It's a travesty! I have a list of things to accomplish/see between now and "the end" so I will be kept plenty busy.  This upcoming week looks a bit daunting.  Lots of class and lots of papers due. Ick. I'm starting to dislike the homework part of studying abroad? Can't I just explore and have fun all the time? No? Bummer.

Bummer about USA loss to Canada. I was skyping mom when it went down.  I think I heard Jamie screaming at the tv from upstairs! Home does not seem so far away with skype.  Gotta love technology.

Tired. Really Tired.  Goodnight loves.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Steps and St. Paul's

It's Friday morning and I've got about half an hour before class so I thought I'd update.  On Wednesday I only had class in the morning so I had a good deal of time to do some exploring.  I hoped on the Tube and went over to South Kensington to see the Natural History Museum.  The building was incredible.  Seriously, ever single museum I've been in over here is architectually spectacular.  The Brits do museums right.  The museum was filled with fossils and volcanoes and 'how to save the planet by recycling' posters.  It was a really neat museum.  As I was walking around with yet another musical blasting through my ears I started to realize that I really don't like science.  I really appreciated the space and the exhibits but I just wasn't that into it.  Give me an art museum anyday.  After the museum I did a little grocery shopping and came back to get some reading done for class.  It was a pretty peaceful night.

Yesterday was a very busy day.  We started off with class at St. Paul's Cathedral, which yet again, is incredible aesthetically.  We got to see the crypt and a memorial to William Blake (!!) and then our teacher said it was time to head up.  There are 580 steps to the top of St. Paul's with a couple of floors to pause at in between.  Now, I don't consider myself to be afraid of heights, but I am totally afraid of falling.  The first 400 steps or so were fine, but the last 180 were on a steel spiral staircase.  I kept having images of tripping and slipping.  Urgh.. But I was totally determined to make it to the top.  And once I got up there it was breathtaking.  The views were beautiful.  Although every time I see the skyline I notice how few tall buildings there are in this city. It's a far cry from Chicago's skyscrapers.  After taking some photos, we started the descent.  Not going to lie, I was totally shaking all the way down.  I have no idea how someone hasn't killed themselves falling down all those stairs yet.  Reaching solid ground much appreciated.  We grabbed some lunch in the crypt cafe.  Yes, right in the middle of the crypt there's both a cafe and a bookshop.  Can you imagine? Oh yeah, so and so is buried right behind that trashcan over there.  Not exactly a quiet resting place.

We had to rush out of St. Paul's to make it over to see a production of Jeruselem.  This play is totally sold out, a complete hit in London.  The lead actor is one of the best of his generation according to some.  And oh yeah, he's totally from Milwaukee.  Score one for America.  Also in the play was the pirate for Pirates of the Caribbean who keeps losing his eyeball. Remember him? The play was about the degenerates of British society.  It was so different than any other play we've seen so far.  I really really enjoyed it.  It was really funny, really unorthodox, and was a breath of fresh air. 

After the play I headed home, made some dinner with my roommate, and settled in to write a paper about King Lear.  Now, I'm all packed and ready to head off to Sheffield immediately after class this afternoon.  It's about a 3.5 hour bus ride north so I've got a good book and my iphone all charged and ready to go.  For class we're going the Victoria and Albert Museum.  I think it's another art museum. Should be interesting.  Well, I'm off.  Can't wait to see Anna again.

Oh, and on a side note, what is with all of these really sad stories coming out of the Olympics?  An ice skater's mom died, death on the skeleton? So bizarre.

Until next time...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stars and Shakespeare in Stratford upon Avon

I just got back from an overnight field to Stratford upon Avon, aka Shakespeare's birthplace.  It was AWESOME. I totally loved it! Okay, I'll start from the top.  Monday we boarded the two hour train to Stratford.  It started out pouring buckets in London and as the train moved away from London the rain become snow and we started to get a little worried about the crazy weather that might be in store for us.  I did not pack warm enough for snow.  It was as cold as feared but a quick stop at H & M (they're everwhere here) supplied the perfect sweatshirt to keep out the chill. 

Stratford is adorable.  When we got off the train we immediately saw buildings from the 1500s next to modern day buildings, all squished together.  We stayed at a really nice B & B for the night.  After dropping off our stuff and settling in, we ventured out to explore the town.  We wound up at Shakespeare's daughter's home as well as the his granddaughter's home that used to stand next to the house that Shakespeare died in.  That building was knocked over in a weird property dispute thing in the 1700s.  The garden was beautiful and can only imagine how stunning it wouldbe in the spring or summer.  I can say the same thing about the whole of Stratford.  It must be insanely beautiful when the flowers bloom.  After a bit of exploring we headed to a pub to grab a pint and some dinner.  I had a MadGoose beer which is apparently brewed locally.  Good friends, good food, good fun.  Then it was time to get ready for the theater so we headed back to the B & B.

Then we were off to see King Lear.  It was insanely good, crazy crazy good.  We had pretty decent seats but at intermission my professor asked if I'd like to move down to the main floor because he found a couple of empty seats close to the stage.  So I was in the heart of the action, only a few rows from the stage.  The performance was so well done.  The lighting and stage were perfect for adding the necessary drama.  And I literally squirmed in my seat watching Gloucester "get his eyes plucked out." So gross, soo good.  The acting was incredible.  I could go on and on, but I'll spare you.  After the performance we headed to the Dirty Duck, a local pub where the actors go after the show.  My program had arranged that we be provided with food at this point and we carbo-loaded beyond limit. Yum.  It was a really solid way to end the evening. 

On the way back we walked through the silent streets of Stratford.  It was so peaceful, so quiet.  We saw stars! London tends to hide them.  Who knew I'd miss stars? I'm such a country girl at heart, I was so excited to see them.  The streets were completely empty so a friend and I copied that scene in The Notebook where Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams lay down in the middle of the road.  No worries, completely safe (we had spotters and no cars in sight).  Such a cool moment.  I think somebody has a picture of the whole thing. I'll have to get a copy.

This morning we had a delicious breakfast in the B & B. Warm croissants, yogurt, toast, orange juice, YUM.  Then we began the trek to Anna Hathaway's house (No, not the actress, Shakespeare's wife).  It was about a mile or so away from us and so we saw a lot of suburban Stratford along the way.  It was very cool and we went on a nature hike once we got there.  I still can't wrap my mind around the crazy amount of history in the places we went today.  Astounding.  Then we headed back to town and to Shakespeare's birthplace.  So many famous authors and presidents and people in general have visited this sight. Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens to name a few.  We of course then had to sign the guest book ourselves, cuz who knows? We might just be famous too someday. :)

From from the birthplace we headed to the gravesite.  Shakespeare is buried with a few family members in a beautiful old little church in a nook in Stratford.  Shakespeare is quoted all over Stratford upon Avon.  Every corner has some line written on its walls.  The grave site was certainly not an exception and it was a quiet moment to sit and ponder a bit.  We headed back and jumped on our train home.

I've been home for a few hours now.  Made some dinner, satisfied a sweet tooth by buying some chocolate cake, and watched Sister Act II with my roommate.  Certainly can't complain.  I just finished writing some postcards and will head to bed soon.  Class and some museum exploration tomorrow. 

This trip really reinforced and reminded me of my love for Shakespeare. I was thinking about what the world would be like without Shakespeare and cannot even imagine how profound an impact one man has had on the world.  Can you imagine effecting generation after generation like that in such a deep way? I certainly can't.  This particular blog has been so full of exclamations of beauty and wow factor that I hardly can take myself seriously.  But, for real, the past two days were wonderful and a great start to the last few weeks of my time in London.

Happy in London tonight.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sweatpants Sundays

I have a love/hate relationship with Sundays. Back at school, Sundays usually involve 12 hours in the library and, man, I wish that was an exaggeration. I always have a ton to do and Sundays can be very stressful. But there is something about the lazy pace of a Sunday that I love. I love that you can sleep in, go to/make brunch before the day gets started. Sundays for me have always been personal days. Time to take care of business and have some alone time. I have a commitment to not wearing makeup on Sundays and spend most of the day in sweats, hence the title of this blog. So what about today? What am I up to on a random Sunday in London? Well, let’s see… Got up rather early and went to brunch at the Troubadour. The Troubadour is a pretty famous pub/bar about a 5 min walk from me that Bob Dylan used to frequent and allegedly the princes (yay) grab a pint at every once in a while. Anna and I met up with Rohan, a friend of a friend….long story, who is a New Zealander that lives in London. We had a big English breakfast and got to catch up with Rohan. Then Anna and I hightailed it to the Tube in order to make it to St. Pancreas for Anna to catch her train back to Sheffield. We literally ran through the train station to her platform and we made it right on time. Hug goodbye and I headed back to Earl’s Court. I dropped off my laundry at Suds (It’s a pound more for someone to do my laundry for me; time is money so I love just dropping it off and picking it up only a few hours later). Then it was off to Tesco for a pretty epic grocery trip. I didn’t actually get much but what I did get was massively heavy. Damn my addiction to Diet Coke!

For the rest of the afternoon I’m going to do a bunch of reading for school and generally take it easy. My Sunday of errands is not all that exciting so I’ll move on to what has happened since I last blogged.

Thursday night I went to see a production of Dunsinane, which like I said before, is an entirely new play. It was really really good. It was about the English invading Scotland to “rescue it from a tyrant” and the conflict that ensued. The whole thing is a metaphor for the war in Iraq so dissecting the layers of the play was pretty cool. A lot of the theater that I’ve seen is a bit political and it is so interesting to look at the world through the British perspective. The actors and plot were great. There was stage combat and a love story. How could you go wrong? Anyway, a very satisfactory night at the theater.

Friday I had back-to-back class in the classroom. Final projects for our classes in London were assigned and I will have plenty of work to do in my final month in London. My professor Sarah brought the cutest pug ever to class with her. I’m not normally a big dog person but this thing was adorable. He even took a nap at my feet. Class ended and I rushed off to the train station to pick up Anna who came for the weekend.

Cousins reunited. :) It was soo lovely to see her. (A note on the word lovely: It has come to my attention that I use this word a lot, although I was unaware of it. So I got to thinking about why that is exactly. I don’t think I use it very much at home. I guess I feel it’s appropriate because it’s a softer word than beautiful or wonderful or whatever. And I guess I feel that works because I think the Brits are generally a softer, calmer, quieter people. Call me crazy but that’s my psychoanalysis of my word choice.) Anyways…After giving Anna a tour of 270 I took her to Bourough Market. It’s this really neat food market and we got the best grilled cheese ever. We explored the market, walked over Millennium Bridge. It was freezing so we headed home. Once we got home a couple of girls were headed to High Street Kensington to do a bit of shopping so we joined them. I bought a red shirt with frilly sleeves and Anna found some major steals. We headed back and got ready to go out for the night.

The night, for most of my fellow 270ers, turned out to be rather disastrous. People couldn’t go out cuz someone got so sick from drinking too much, others were just like beyond drunken idiots, and somebody else decided to smash things and create general chaos. Anna and I, on the other hand, had a very good night. We went to this club called Koko which is a giant theater space that was made into a club. We saw two different bands, danced, and had a blast. We even figured out the bus system for the first time in order to get home.

On Saturday I bought so croissants for breakfast, finished writing a paper, and talked to mom and Aunt Kathy for a bit. Then it was off to Portobello Market in Notting Hill which has a bunch of cheap clothes and antiques. Normally getting there is super easy, only two stops away. But it turned into debacle due to construction on a large number of tube lines. After a tube and bus ride we finally made it there. After that Anna and I headed to the British Museum. THIS PLACE IS INCREDIBLE! It’s MASSIVE! Absolutely unreal. We saw mummies and statues and paintings. I have a ton of photos to post. It was exhausting. I will most definitely need to go back before my time in London is through. After the museum we grabbed dinner at a local pub by me, O’Neill’s. Delicious. Then we went out as a massive group to Aragon which was really fun. We called it a night kind of early and made it back on the last tube ride. This brings us back to Sunday and I’ve already babbled on about that.

It was soo great to see Anna. I’m headed to Sheffield this coming weekend and we are going to be traveling during my spring break together. We are thinking of going to Belgium and then maybe the south of France. I don’t know, we’ll see. But we must book soon, so hopefully by next weekend we will have our planes figured out.

Since I’ve now been here a month I’m starting to miss a few comforts of home. For example:

• I miss Chipotle. I haven’t had good fake Mexican food in a month and I’ve been craving it. I even googled it to see if there are any outside of the U.S. and found out that one is being built in London…in April…FAIL

• I miss grape jelly. I’ve only been able to find strawberry and it just doesn’t do it for me. Given that a large part of my diet is pb and j, this is a bigger deal than it sounds.

• I miss driving and singing at the top of my lungs.

• I miss privacy. Living with so many people right on top of one another is fun to a point, but I need some space.

• I miss American breakfast. The Brits don’t really do pancakes. I miss pancakes and syrup that doesn’t cost 5 pounds.

• I miss reliable internet. That would probably be my biggest complaint about living here right now. The damn internet service is atrocious.

• I miss my millions of pillows on my bed. One pillow simply ain’t that comfy.

• And I miss my friends and family. The people who know me best and make me laugh the hardest. Skype is good, but it drives me nuts not being able to really talk to those who don’t have it.

Yes, I know all of these things will be there waiting for me when I get home. And when I get home I know I’ll be lamenting the things I miss about Europe, like how fresh the food is here, even the frozen food. But alas, there it is. I’m really having a truly wonderful and lovely time here so I hope my list doesn’t sound ungrateful. Not intended that way by any means.

I head to Stratford-upon-Avon tomorrow with my class. For those non-English nerds, that’s where Shakespeare lived. We’re staying the night at a B &B and going to see King Lear. We’ll get to tour a bunch of historical landmarks regarding Will Shakespeare. I am sooo excited.

Until next time, air hug.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Other Misc Thoughts

Here are some last minute random thoughts:

Baked potatoes are called Jacket potatoes here.  I've been making baked (or microwaved) potatoes for lunch a lot because they are sooo cheap and delicious.

I realized yesterday was Ash Wednesday which led to two thoughts: A. I really need to find a good church to attend a couple of times while in London.  B. I'm giving up KitKats for Lent.  They've become my chocolate of choice.  For some reason they are soo much better here than at home. I think it's the quality of chocolate.  Anyways, once I had finished half the package I bought from Tesco only the day before I realized I had a bit of a problem  Knowing me, I'm sure I'll find a replacement soon enough.

I love all of the live music here. I feel like everytime I go out I get to see live music which is so fun. Next, I'm in search of a good karaoke bar.

I'm on my fourth week here. I can't believe I'm halfway through my time in London.  Where has the time gone?

Lady Gaga was in my neighborhood this past weekend for the Brit Awards.  There's this giant concert space about a 10 min walk from me. So mad we didn't know about it until the day after.  And on the topic of celebrity news, Alexander McQueen, the designer, killed himself in the same neighborhood I was in a last week on the same day I was there. Crazy coincidence and sad news.  London Fashion week starts on Friday.

Oh, and finally, I totally miss the Olympics.  I'm rooting in spirit though.

Dublin and Back Again

Well let’s see, it has been a week since my last post. I’m certain to get an angry email from mom inquiring about my lack of blogging so if I ever get proper internet to post this, I hope all parties will be satisfied.

Last Thursday night (wow I do need to blog more. I feel this is going to be a long one) my class saw Nation which was pretty awesome. It was the first of the plays that we’ve seen that has been, well, kid friendly. We sat behind a row of 10 year-olds and I found myself enjoying the production as much as they did. It certainly wasn’t the plot or script that was so compelling, but rather insanely cool special effects and music. It was ridiculously visually compelling. Although, WARNING SPOILER (though I doubt any of you will be hopping the pond to see it) the ending was sooo British. What I mean by this is that the two young lovers must separate. The girl chooses duty to England over her true love who she never sees again. Now, I totally rewrote the ending in my head. Had this been an American production, there is no way in heck the girl would have chosen country over her true love. I suppose we just don’t think that way.

Anyway, after the production ended we headed back home for an hour. We packed our bags and hopped on the tube to go to the bus station. There we needed to board a bus to go to London-Stansted airport where our flight to Dublin was. We got to the bus station at 12 am. Normally they run every half hour, but do to a major accident on the roads we ended up having to wait 2 hours in the freezing cold. The experience was brightened by a fellow waiting passenger pulling out his guitar and providing the frozen crowd with U2 covers. Finally the bus came as we drove the 1.5 hours to the airport. Now it’s about 3:30 am and we are starving. We grab some food and floor space to wait til our counter opened. After another 2 hours we finally boarded the airplane. We flew RyanAir which is super cheap but it’s a crazy experience. No one is assigned seats so its absolute insanity as you check in. We got to Dublin around 8:00, took an hour long bus to our hostel. We were told our room wouldn’t be ready until 1 pm so we weary travelers went in search of breakfast. My friend Claire has an Irish friend who met up with us for breakfast. She was awesome, had a really fun accent, and played a good tour guide. We walked about a bit and then crashed at our hostel for a 3 hour nap.

Showered and rested we met up with our new Irish friend, Denise, and her roommate who is a Spanish guy working as a civil engineer in Dublin. We went to this really cool converted church for dinner and then went out on the town. We got to see real Irish pubs and people. There was live music everywhere which was so much fun.

Saturday was a bit frustrating. I didn’t get to see everything that I would have liked and there was some friend drama. I won’t get into the details but it wasn’t pleasant. But as frustrating as Saturday was for me I think it was helpful. I know how I like to travel and made up my mind to start doing things my way. I only get to have this experience once and I don’t want to regret what I didn’t see or do. We flew back Sunday morning and had a very lazy rest of the day.

Monday we went to see The Caretaker which is a rather odd play. Jeremy (maybe?) Pryce was in it and he’s a hugely famous actor here. I think he was the dad in Pirates of the Caribbean or something. Anyway, it was a pretty compelling play. I’m actually procrastinating writing the paper I have due about it by writing this blog. The acting was absolutely incredible and the set design truly enhanced elements of the story I hadn’t picked up on by reading the script alone.

Tuesday…hmmm…I don’t really recall what I did on Tuesday. It must not have been very exciting so anyways…Moving on…

Yesterday was a lot of fun. For class we went to White Hall which is the location for a former palace. It’s now home to military buildings but certain parts of the palace remain. We went into a Banqueting Hall that was simply breathtaking. It was huge and had these giant murals on the ceilings. I swear I spent an hour craning my head upwards because they were soo beautiful. It was this room that Charles I walked through on his way to his beheading. This is ironic for a number of reasons, but that would require a major history lesson which I’ll spare you. I’m learning so much about British history. Mom, I think about you a lot and how much you would totally love all this stuff given your infatuation with this time period and royalty.

After class I decided to go to the National Portrait Gallery by myself. I had already been there for class but didn’t get to see nearly enough. So I put on my headphones, blasted the Spring Awakening soundtrack and had an absolutely wonderful time exploring the gallery. The pieces there are stunning and I found an entire room of portraits of writers of the Romantic period. English major nerd out session ensued big time. After thoroughly exhausting the gallery I decided to go to a bookstore that I found. It was just so nice to be around all those books. I still need to find a good library here. I resisted buying a Virginia Woolf book but I have some books with me that I have yet to read. George Eliot first, then onto Virginia Woolf. I came back, made some dinner, and read some King Lear for class. It was an absolutely lovely day.

Today I had a city walk for class. Unfortunately the weather is freezing and raining so it was not the most enjoyable experience. We went inside The Monument (in dedication to the great fire in 1666) and climbed the 300 plus stairs to the top. The place was packed and I had some severe claustrophobic moments, but it was worth it when we got to the top. Plus, when you come back down you get a cute little certificate stating your accomplishment of making to the top. We walked around the city some more and headed home. Which brings us to now, me procrastinating and attempting to defrost.

Tonight we are going to see Dunsinane which is an entirely new production being put on by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The script is brand new so it should be very interesting. Tomorrow I have a couple of classes and then ANNA IS COMING TO VISIT! So excited. It will be so lovely to see a familiar face.

This should be a very fun weekend in London.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


It has gotten cold here in London. It has snowed (though really sporadically) the past three days. Though I know the weather is nothing like back home, it still has me asking Where's the Love London?! I attribute this latest turn of temperatures to giving me a cold. And a doozy of one. Fingers crossed that I will feel much better by Friday in time for Dublin.

Let's see...Monday I went to see a performance of Three Sisters by Chekhov at the Lyric Theater. It was a modern interpretation of this early 20th century play. Let me begin by noting that we had to read the play beforehand and I was not a fan. So with little anticipation we headed off to the theater. It was interesting...there were very odd choices made in terms of costume, staging, lighting, characters, etc. To put it frankly, it was very WEIRD. The class had very mixed reactions to it and I think I fell on the side of a negative response. Something just didn't work for me. It was also the only play we've been to so far in which most of the seats weren't full. We were told we could move up in the theater because of how empty it was. Probably not a good sign to begin with. Started to feel sick during the production too.

Tuesday I had class at Hampton Court, a former tudor castle/homestead of Henry VIII. It was massive! I took lots of pictures, but facebook is currently not cooperating and allowing me to post them. So as soon as I can they will be up. The whole experience was pretty cool. They had an actor dressed as Henry VIII walking around. The grounds surrounding the castle were stunning. Absolutely breathtaking. Yeah, I think I could wake up to that in my backyard everyday. We ran through the maze in the backyard and had a generally good time. Unfortunately, it was beyond freezing all day and I had woken up with a massive cold. So physically I was pretty miserable. When we got home we ordered Domino's (YUM) and very quickly afterword I went to bed. Homesickness struck a bit at this point. Nobody likes to be sick without the comforts of home. Heck, I don't like to be sick in the Forest without having mom to take care of me. But I talked to mom and Meg at tried to sleep it off.

Woke up today feeling marginally better. We had class for a bit, and then my friends I decided to explore Soho for a while. Again, due to the frigid temps and my desire to recover quickly we headed back. Now, I'm working on a paper, getting organized for Dublin, and trying to write postcards. It will be an early to bed night for sure. This will likely be my last post till Sunday at some point, as I will not be bringing my computer with me on our trip. Tomorrow is a very busy day. Off to the National Portrait Gallery and another play tomorrow night.

Bon voyage.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Two Weeks In

As of yesterday I've officially been here two weeks. It's odd because the time has seemed to fly by, yet I feel so settled that I feel like I've been here for a very long time. Bizarre. Well let's see...On Friday night we wound up at a jazz bar/club thing. There was a great live band. The place was really fun; we'll most definitely have to try to get back there. It was a blast. There were six girls and 4 boys so it was a fun mix. Dancing, laughing, all made for a good time. Wound up getting home around 3 am. Lovely lovely night.

The late night made for a slow start on Saturday. But eventually a couple of girls and I decided to go to Harrod's. It was amazing, incredible, stunning. I could go on and on. I tried on a beautiful leather jacket. It turned out to be 800 pounds. Considering that would take away nearly all of the money in my bank, it was a no go. Sad. After exploring Harrod's for quite a while, we decided to shop around in the area. I found an awesome vest. It's got fringe and metal dots all over it. Sounds awful in theory but is so rock/glam cool. LOVE IT. We shopped around bit more and headed home.

Made some dinner (delicious 5 cheese tortellini) and got ready to go out. I feel like I live solely on pasta and pb & j. But as long as it tastes good, I'm not picky. We partied a bit at home and went to this really great pub/club that our housekeeper bartends at. There was yet again live music and then later a great dj. 4 girls and 6 boys went out last night. We were very glad to have the boys out with us. There were a few characters in the crowd so it was nice to have a few fake boyfriends for the evening. We had a blast. After a stop at the local kebob joint we headed home.

It's been a crazy couple of nights. Today is all about taking care of business. I dropped off my laundry, bought groceries, and need to read a play tonight. It's Sunday so that means "family dinner" night aka some boys cook for a group of us girls. Family dinners are really lovely and a good way to start/end the week. Tonight is fajita night. Yum. I haven't had meat in about a week so this a treat.

A local bar that we have all become patrons of is going to stay open so that we can watch the Superbowl. Starting time is 11:25 pm. I think everyone in the program will be going to watch the game which will be really fun. The group is usually pretty divided in half in terms of who hangs out with who. Human nature certainly, but hanging with the whole group should be a very good time.

Still need to plan spring break. This is going to be a very busy week.

Dublin on Friday!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Shakespeare and Ricotta Cheese

It's FRIDAY! WOOT. This officially means I won't feel bad/guilty about spending money by going out, cuz it's the weekend and I'm allowed. Got to talk with Anna yesterday. Glad she made it safe and sound. She told me about the ridiculously cheap drink prices over there and needless to say, I'm sooo jealous. Going out here is super expensive no matter what you do, so I'm doing my best to budget my spending. I've got big things to save for. Ireland in a week and a half, a friend's 21st, and hopefully a trip to Sheffield soon. London, my friend, love you lots but wish you were cheaper and not eating away at my college student sized funding.

Anywho, Wednesday I went to see Twelfth Night at the Duke Theater being put on by The Royal Shakespeare Company. Now, I've mentioned before that I've seen this play in Chicago as well, and I've gotta say, Chicago totally beat London on this one. The play was adequate, but some weak links in major characters had me a bit frustrated. Feste, for example, had a weak voice when singing is sooo essential to the character. Gah! But it was a fun night out nonetheless.

Yesterday, I didn't have class until two because due to the nature of our field trip that day, the group was broken into two, a morning and afternoon group. I had the room all to myself! So, I blasted Sister Hazel, took my time getting ready, printed a paper, and had an overall very lovely morning. Then it was off to the National Gallery. It is beautiful. By the end of class, we all really weren't totally really in an art mood so we grabbed some gelatto (mint and chocolate chip :)) and headed back to Earl's Court. I went grocery shopping and came back to hang out. Dinner was delicious. I made spinich and ricotta tortellini and a friend contributed some veggies. Soo good. We spent the night in, just hanging out with some boys from the program. Watched some Ellen Degeneres and George Carlin standup, talked to mom on skype and called it a night.

Today I have a short class at 10 and then will spend the rest of the afternoon writing a paper for my theater class that's due on Saturday. There is noo wayy I'm spending Saturday writing a paper so, it's got to get done today. Staying in London this weekend. I want to explore. Still have seen Buckingham palace so that 's a definite stop on the list. Well I'm off to make some eggs and get the day started.

Shout out to Meg, cuz well, I just miss ya kid.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Really Long Plays

So this is the week of really long plays. Last night we got a backstage tour of National Theater. It was AMAZING. There are three dynamically different stages within the theater. We got a chance to see all of them, go behind the scenes to see where sets are made, rehearsal rooms, and got hands-on time with props. Our tour guide was really informative and funny. There are over 900 people working there permanently. And this doesn't even include the actors and directors that rotate in per play. The enormity, creativeness, and sheer technical possibilities of this theater are incredible. I have no idea how this people do it, but both shows that I have seen here so far have been pretty cool.

Speaking of which, last night I saw The Pitment Painters written by the same guy that wrote Billy Elliot. I have a mixed reaction to the play. The actors were fantastic. The set really worked for the production. It was really really funny. I guess my only issue with it was, having read the play prior, there seemed to be some disjointedness and incongruity that was slightly distracting. My professor made a comment to me during the interval (what they call the intermissioni here) that made me notice the disjointedness even more. Plus, it was really really long. I expect a 3 hour play out of Shakespeare, but this was pushing it. It was a solid play but left me wanting something a bit more.

After the play we ended up at a kebab spot down the road from home. Had some fun and called it a night. Today is a chill day because tonight we are going to see Twelfth Night. I'm so excited. I love this play and have seen it before in Chicago. So it will be really cool to see it and compare to my prior experience with this play.

Glad to have gained another Finley in the country!

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Few Observations

Oh! I forgot that I was going to post a few observations about the British and London. Some thoughts:

  • Everything is green here! Even in the dead of winter, the grass and a number of the trees remain green. It makes everything a bit lovelier. There are parks everywhere around here too which makes the city feel, well, less like a city. When we drove out to Bath this past weekend, I was reminded a bit of home. I think I'm a country girl at the end of the day.
  • The British are much quieter than us Americans. Walking down the street or sitting on the tube, the chatter is kept to a minimum. Needless to say, we often stick out like sore thumbs even unintentionally.
  • Food often costs differently if you're eating in or "taking away" which has been odd getting used to. Also, at most of the pubs there are no waiters. You go up to the bar to order food and then somebody brings it out to you.
  • The British don't seem to ever be cold. People can be seen eating outdoors no matter the weather.
  • Instead of saying "pay attention" to something the Brits say "Mind the..." For example, every time the tube stops a woman comes over the speaker as says "Mind the Gap."
  • People can be seen running in very little clothing at all times of the day here. I swear, we went out on a Friday night and there were a couple of joggers out at like 9:30. Bizarre.
  • Refridgeration practices are different here. The first time I went grocery shopping, I couldn't find the eggs for like 10 minutes. They weren't in the refridgerated section.

Just some random ponderings on a lazy afternoon.

Hot Chocolate and Church

It's midafternoon here. We just got back from a Sarah class. I've made some grilled cheese and a hot chocolate for what I must say was a very satisfying lunch. It's cold today, really bone-chilling cold. I'm not going to say the temperature for those back home in the midwest in the single digits because it sounds rather wimpy by comparison. But nonetheless it's cold. The temperature explains why I am back at 270 in the middle of the day. Normally after a Sarah class we do a bit of exploring on our own but today a group of us were frozen solid and too cheap to buy lunch out so back to the homestead we came.

For class today we went to Westminster Abbey. Beyond beautiful. I cannot believe the history and significance aesthetically, politically, and otherwise contained within its walls. We saw the tomb of Edward the Confessor who founded the abbey. Monuments to Keats and Eliot and Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth (!) were all there! As well as countless others. The beauty of this place has been unrivaled to me as far as man-made structures are concerned. So, for now we're resting up and defrosting. Might go explore the Tate further or head over to Notting Hill to take a look around. I'll let you know if I see Hugh Grant out and about. :p

Tonight I've got to write a paper about the Thames River. This is the start of a very busy week!

Oh, and I don't know if I mentioned it earlier but I am all booked to got to Dublin in two weeks! We have a 3-day weekend so some girls and I are headed to the land of the original Finleys.

With fingers crossed for warmer days.