Tuesday, January 31, 2012

London Calling

I'd like to start this post off with a lovely British joke:

How many British people does it take to change a light bulb?
Five; one to change it and four to stand around and talk about how 
much better the old one looked.

This joke, which I may not have entirely understood a month ago, is a testament to how the British, to an extent, value tradition and consistency rather than modernization and change.

I can't believe I've been in London for almost a month already. This past week, once again, has flown by. Last Tuesday we took a trip to Harrod's where we browsed the amazingly expensive clothing and gazed longingly at interesting items. They had some toys, some animals, some food, and tons more. We planned on getting some frozen yogurt but even that was a bit out of our price range.

Just an example of the decor
Hangin out on the escalator
On Thursday we finally went to the famous Platform 9 and 3/4 from Harry Potter. It was pretty cool and of course we got some great pictures there (which my cousin Kelly will love): 
See ya
Just bringing Allie with me
Getting rejected

On Friday the infamous Meagan Miraldi graced London with her presence, with the addition of 3 of her friends from Barcelona. Over the course of their stay, we walked around, went to Westminster Abbey (where William and Kate were married), did some touristy things, went to a pub, and called it a weekend. They were all a little tired since they unintentionally slept at the airport the night before... sillyheads. At one point we were rushing onto the crowded tube train and Katie's bag got stuck in the door. 
Westminster Abbey
Big Ben and the London Eye
Artsy picture of Meagan taking an artsy picture
Big Ben again... obviously
Sweet backpack bro
Our "8th grade" facial expressions
Dana sleeping
On Sunday we went into Chinatown for the big Chinese New Year celebration. There were festive dragons, decorations, and music. To heighten the celebratory event, we ate at a Chinese buffet. We had high hopes before we went in but by the time we piled massive amounts of mystery food on our plates the excitement faded a little bit. To this day we're still not really sure exactly what we ate... so we're just not going to talk about it.


Yesterday we all had our British Life & Culture class where I handed in my first assignment of the semester; a newspaper critique comparing the validity and language used in tabloid versus broadsheet papers. During class we watched the movie "The Queen," which was about the life of Queen Elizabeth during the time of Princess Diana's death. This gave me some serious insight into this event, since I didn't realize how much the Royal family disliked Diana after her and Charles' divorce. Well anyway... yesterday was also Allie's 21st birthday! Unfortunately it isn't as much of a celebratory event here as it is in the United States. For example, when buying alcohol, the man at the convenience store asked Allie if she was over 18, and after she replied "Yes" I said, rather enthusiastically, "Today is her 21st birthday!" only to have the man reply "Ok." Either way, we made a big deal out of her birthday anyway. I went out shopping with Allie while Erin and Katie bought her a cake and some macaroons (her favorite dessert) to surprise her. However, as Allie and I were walking out of the store I look across the street and see Katie and Erin running and dancing down the sidewalk. Luckily I was able to distract Allie long enough for them to hide until we passed. Crisis avoided.

That brings us to today, nearly February and almost the one month celebration of my arrival in London. Sometimes I forget I live here but when I remember I'm always thankful. I know this post wasn't too exciting but some of the things I experience here can't really be put into words. The little things, like hoping on a double decker red bus, hearing a little boy yell "Mum!", and being greeted by "Ello darling, you aright?" are just some of what bring me the most enjoyment being here. I've learned to really appreciate my time here and take nothing for granted.

Next on my extravagant abroad to-do list of wonder:
- Go to the Rainforest Cafe in central London
- Run in Hyde Park
- Take a bus from Hammersmith to central London
- Go to Scotland (this weekend!)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Wale of a Tale

This past weekend consisted of a spontaneously-planned trip to Cardiff, Wales. Everything about this trip was slightly awkward, yet beautiful and still enjoyable... for some of us. Others didn't quite fancy the experience too much, but overall we made it through. We began our excursion with a bang, rushing to catch a
bus to the Victoria Coach Station after our 7 hour day of classes. Due to traffic and some other nonsensical reasons or bus decided to "change it's destination" on a whim. This meant we had to get off and travel by foot for approximately 2 miles, and when I say travel I mean sprint, to catch our bus to Cardiff, Wales. At this point we had about 40 minutes until our bus left. Of course we didn't pre-plan for this occurrence so none of us knew exactly how to get to the station without use of the buses or the tube, which was also backed up. Miraculously, two lovely English women sitting near us on the bus were heading in the same direction so they kindly ran with us until we were close to the station. Luckily, we got to the station just as the bus was boarding and made it just in time.

While on the bus, we continued to unintentionally act as awkward, confused Americans. An example of a series of events went as follows:
- Dana tried to use the bathroom on the bus before we left but got stuck on 
  the bus seat, nearly spilling the contents of her bag everywhere
- While in the bathroom, the bus, of course, starts moving
- I attempt to shut off the overhead light near my seat but accidentally hit the panic button
- Katie opened her pungent bag of Cheese and Onion chips (crisps), filling the already
  lacking air of the bus with quite an interesting odor

After 3 hours we finally got to Wales, where it was dark and rainy. We wandered to our hostel like a disheveled mob. (Fortunately, the hostel turned out to be very nice, other than the fact that it smelled like cats). That evening we ventured out to a pub where we interacted with an assortment of people. One was a Welsh woman who was extremely patriotic about her country and not too fond of England. We got some insight on a common Welsh opinion of the British from her. Next was a highly intoxicated gentleman who enjoyed "butt-bumping" every object/person he came in contact with. And last was the lovely sir who was dressed up in a costume of a popular female reproductive organ. (Which some of us actually believed was a piece of bacon at first).

On Saturday we went to Cardiff Castle which turned out to be well worth the £9.50 we spent to enter. We walked around, climbed the steepest steps I've ever encountered, and saw old housing areas. Here are some beautiful pictures:

Rainbow over the castle
Outside of the air-raid shelter
A mote!
Large understatement
Just hanging out  in some stocks
During our explorations we went through a small door to an area which turned out to be an air raid shelter. At the time, we weren't entirely sure if we were allowed to be back there so when a voice recording started talking to us we ran away out of fear. Here's a video of this enticing experience:

While walking around the castle we also met some lovely, handsome Australian boys who introduced themselves to us using a line from the TV show How I Met Your Mother. I enjoyed this so much that I, for some reason, later decided it would be fine to ask the boys if I could make a video of them. I didn't anticipate how awkward it would be for me to walk up to a group of 10 Australian soccer (football) players and ask if I could record them for my personal amusement. Either way, they did me the favor and I ran away after. (Actual video and example below).

After the Castle we walked through a few shopping centers, called Arcades. (Not to be confused with the gaming-center type of arcade... unfortunately). We ate some food and went out to a bar later that evening where there was an interesting mix of young boys and old men with a sprinkle of middle-aged women wearing revealing clothing. Very classy. We also found that the nightlife in Wales is rather unique in that groups of friends will dress up in costumes on any given night, just because they want to. Because of this we saw some gypsies, Hooters girls, 80's workout girls, golf boys and girls, and nerds. On Sunday morning we walked along the River Taff down to Cardiff Bay and ate at an American -style diner called Eddie's.

Cardiff Bay
Oh hey Swan
Eddie's American Diner
In my opinion, the trip was a success. We saw some really beautiful things and didn't do so bad for our first trip, even thought we only planned it a few days before.


P.S. - I recently booked my trips to Prague and Amsterdam... onward!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Summary of Last Week

So I'm slightly behind on my posts since I haven't written anything in a week... oops.

Here are some of the best highlights of my past week: 
- Finding French Onion Soup in Marks & Spencer
- Going to the London Science Museum with my history class
- Buying Rainbow (my bear) a baby-sized London t-shirt
- Listening to karaoke and hanging out with boys dressed as super heroes at a bar
- Going to Wafflemeister and getting chocolate ice cream on a waffle
- Coming across an interesting contraption in some store that allows you to pull a lever 
  and receive a word that describes your future

Chocolate Ice Cream Waffle Dessert
The Word Generator Thingy
My Word

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Stonehenge & Bath

Yesterday we went on a free trip to Stonehenge and Bath! As I've previously mentioned, going to Stonehenge has been on my to-do list for a long time and being there was incredible. At first we thought you could only take so many pictures of rocks but we got pretty creative with it. I really couldn't believe that I was finally actually there and it made me think about how lucky I am to be studying in another country. I'm getting to do so many amazing things here and I'm grateful everyday for it. Even just after a little more than a week, going abroad has already changed my life. I feel myself slowly becoming a more knowledgeable, culturally aware, rounded person and my outlook on life is becoming even more open-minded. Well that's enough of that little emotional rant. Here are some pictures from Stonehenge:

Pondering, where did it come from?
Presenting Stonehenge
Ground view
Kissing it
Just holding it
After this we went to Bath to walk around the town and see the Roman Baths. The views on the way there put any other view I've seen previously to shame. (No captions needed)