Sunday, December 14, 2008

Almost home

Homework and finals are done at last!! I finally got them all finished up on friday and I've already gotten a few things back. In theory I should be looking at good grades for the term, but there are lots of assignments to factor in, and I won't count on anything just yet.

I'm down to my last few days here in London. I've got very mixed feelings about it. Here's what I have decided: I never want to leave London, I want nothing more than to stay here. BUT- I do miss family and friends back home, so if you all would kindly hop a jet across the pond, I'd be much obliged. Really though, I do leave in a few days time and I'm just going to concentrate now on spending my last homework-free days here enjoying myself.

When I do get back home I will have no official reason to keep up a blog. My life will get significantly less exciting (Appleton, sadly, does not compare to London) and I'll have very little to report on. However, if people want me to then I'll at least give it a go of keeping up with this back home. I know I don't email a whole lot, so I'll think on it, and if you have input then let me know what you think. You can email me ( or respond here, or just stay silent and I'll make a decision later. Hope the holidays go well, and here's me signing off from London!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Final countdown

Only a few days left, its crazy! This week I saw the show August: Osage County, which was really interesting. They managed to make it funny and moving, although I thought the audience was a bit too quick to laugh. We also went to a football match yesterday, which was awesome. I'm not much of one to get into sports too much, especially not the ones where everyone is obnoxious as they watch it *cough*americanfootball*cough* but I had a really good time. I was shouting and cheering right along with the rest of the crowd. I went for the local team, Queens Park Rangers, and I bought a QPR scarf as a souvenir. The colors are the same as Lawrence, so I can just pretend thats who i'm trying to support.

It was a little chilly, but I really didn't need to be wearing the scarf. Whodathunk that its December now? When we got to the stadium Kylie and I each picked a footballer to follow, just so we had someone to cheer for, and I picked N. 14: Martin Rowlands. Turns out he was one of the best players on the team, and he ended up scoring the winning goal! Well, he actually scored the only goal, which is to say the score was 1:0. So anyway, the game was really really fun. This week we'll see one more show (the last of the year) and there'll be a small secret santa gift exchange before we all head home. In between now and then i've got loads of homework to do. So off I go, to do the final push!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Nearing the end

I haven't got much to report, but this lets me put off my homework for a second longer. I've only got two more weeks left here, which seems strange. I've grown so accustomed to living here, even in ways I don't consciously think about. Kylie asked me the other day if I thought i'd have trouble driving when I got back. I said "No, I haven't driven a car here so there's nothing to mess me up. I'm sure out of instinct i'll drive on the left side of the road, its just when i'm walking about that I might look the wrong way" She just sort of looked at me and said "Do you mean 'drive on the right side of the road'?" Woops. So maybe i'll take a break from driving and busy intersections for a bit when I get back.

I've finally discovered the beauty of the public library system here (they've got nationalised health care, I don't know why public libararies all of a sudden impress me so much). Its wonderful because i'm getting work done (well, not now, right now i'm blogging...) and i'm getting out of the house (hurray!) and i'm not paying for time by refilling on tea. I suppose I ought to head back to working. Or rather, should start working. Tonight i'm gonna go see the giant Christmas tree in Trafalgar square get lit up. There'll be choirs there and maybe if i'm really good it'll snow. Right, heres me being a good and dutiful student, going back to my studies. I'll write again soon!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Yam failure

Yeah, yams didn't turn out so well. Apparently the British grocery store 'yams' are not the same thing as american ones. On the outside they looked the same, but they're white on the inside and taste more like regular potatoes, but slightly sweeter. Close, but no cigar. So that didn't work out at all, but thanksgiving was fun all the same. Friday I took an epic walk through Hyde Park, which as been decked out with a ferris wheel and carnival (Winter Wonderland) for Christmas. Saturday was a lovely day- Kylie and I thought we'd try to go to the Tate Modern and the London Transport Museum, but we severely underestimated the potential of the Transport Museum. It was awesome. We ran around, got to climb on stuff, got to wear stuff, got to pretend to drive stuff, and do a little scavenger hunt with stamps. Yes I realize i'm a University student, and yes I realize that these things were geared towards kids, but we literally spent the entire day in the museum and it was COMPLETELY worth it.When we first started trying on these costumes we were baffled, because they were so small! Then we realized they were for children, but don't worry, that didn't stop us.
They had models of what some of the original metropolitan line cars looked like. There were creepy models of people on the inside, but it was cool to have life-size models.

Look, Ma! I'm driving a tram! I actually don't know what the controls did, but it was so much fun to just mess around with everything!
This poor wax-model chap fell asleep on the tube. Technically I may not have been supposed to be in that area of the model train, there may have been a 'Do Not Enter' sign I had to move aside to sit next to him, but don't we look great together?

Anyway, today I went to the Science museum for research, and I have to go write a paper based on what i've found. Hope you enjoy the pictures, it was one of my favorite museums i've been to so far. Hasta!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Stonehenge and Salisbury

Right, I was gonna blog more often. Here we go. Last friday we went to Stonehenge and then spent the day in Salisbury (the nearby town). Stonehenge was cool, especially since no one knows for sure what the stones were put there for ( I think we can all agree that it was an Alien portal). It was a bit chilly, but on saturday I bought a coat and all is well. The rest of the day we wandered around Salisbury, taking a tour of the local Church and getting dinner before going to a show at the local theater. The Church was really cool, it was at least 700 years old, and the water table is barely four feet below. They even pulled up a tile, put a measuring pole in, and showed us how close the water level was. The baptismal font in the middle had a perfectly level surface, in which you could see a perfect reflection.
The show we saw was A Month in the Country, which was alright but the book is better. Last night we went to see In a Dark Dark House, and they brought the female lead from the American version on Broadway. It was very depressing, and i'm not sure what I was supposed to take away from it, but I suppose we'll discuss that in theater class next week. It was better at least than the modern adaptation of Othello we saw last week, so i'll count the small blessings. Today is thanksgiving (!!) and we're having a huge feast for all the Americans. At last count I think there will be 42 people there, between students and their families. I'm making yams, though at the moment I haven't a clue how to go about doing that. Attempting to make yams is probably more accurate. I bought yams, marshmallows, butter, and brown sugar. I'll let you know how it turns out. Hope everyone has a happy turkey day! Catch ya later!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

10 Day- at last.

Alright, first things first. I made it home safely, if not late, but at least all in one piece. The trip was amazing, we (Kylie and I) made it to Valencia, Barcelona, Venice, Rome, the Vatican, and Palermo (Sicily) before heading home. We had a rough start, our gate was labeled wrong and the stewardess didn't check our tickets, so we accidentally boarded a plane to France. However, once past that hurdle things went significantly smoother. Here' s a picture of our first Hostel, in Valencia, located right in the Old Quarter. We spent our time exploring the city, going to the aquarium (2nd largest in Europe) and going to the beach. We also had Paella Valencia and Paella Mariscos, which both originated in Valencia.

I saw this picture in a tourist pamphlet and went on a search to find it. This was taken halfway through our epic 17hr day, turns out its located right off of the beach. Dunno why I liked it so much, probably because i'm on crew so i've come to like boats. This was the same day we ran around a castle in the old quarter, caught a football game, went to the aquarium, walked along the beach, had Paella, and saw the start of a protest (something about CO2). It was a LONG day, and there are many more pictures to show for it.

This is me in Barcelona, at the base of the Columbus statue which is located at the end of Las Ramblas, a famous line of streets. Two of our friends from London, Colleen and Ashley, were supposed to meet up with us in Barcelona, but before we had a chance to call them we randomly ran into them on the street. Good thing too, because their phone was broken. Barcelona has over 3 million people, yet we run into the only two we know, in a side street of an unpopulated area. What are the chances?

I just like this picture because of the trees- they look like they're out of Dr. Seuss or something. This park is right next to the Sagrada Familia, a famous church with a lot of Gaudi architecture. I took more pictures of the Gaudi influence, which is all over the city, but I just really like this one, so you'll have to wait to see the others. The authentic food we ate there were Tapas, a spanish appetizer, which we ate just before seeing a Flamenco show. Leaving Barcelona was when things started to get tricky.

Here's the deal with Venice: Never try to go there from Barcelona. You know what you will end up having to do? You will take the metro from your hostel to the train station, then a train to a bus depot, where you will buy a bus ticket to the airport, where you will get on a plane to Venice, where you will arrive at yet another bus terminal, where you will buy a bus ticket to the boat station, where you will catch a boat to the nearest station to your hostel, where you will wander around in the dark (oh yes it's night by now) trying to find your Hostel. Here you see all of my tickets: Metro, train, bus, plane, bus, boat. Just take my word for it: Don't do it.

We did end up making it, and a good thing too because Venice is AMAZING. A city on water! And it's sinking, so....i'm glad I got it off my list of things to do before I die/it sinks. While we were here the weather was less than amazing, a bit london-ish. Also, it was here that I had a momentary freak out about how much money I was spending, as did Kylie, and we decided to just have sandwiches for a few meals. That led us to a meal I will never repeat: Plain bread with prune jelly. Kylie thought it was grape jelly, but she was wrong, and we both suffered for it.

This is me in St. Mark's square. Lots of cool architecture and history here, but I was a bit damp and chilly, so we hurried through to find a nice warm, dry cafe. This was also our first city where we couldn't speak the language, so that was a bit bracing. All I could manage was 'parla inglese?' and if they said no then I just sort of... nodded, helplessly smiled, and wandered off. Public boats were expensive (€6.50 per ride) but we figured out that you can just sort of...hop on, and no one checks your tickets. Good times.

And from there we moved on to Rome. First we visited the Vatican, which was AMAZING. The artwork alone was breathtaking, though I admit (and as you can see in the picture) I was not quite humbled until I entered the Basilica. In this photo i'm just so excited to be NOT damp and cold in Venice, plus we had just found our hostel (with only a boat-train-bus ride to get there) so I was pretty excited. As you can tell.

Our Womens Hostel was actually a converted Convent, which we were a bit skeptical about (neither one of us is Catholic). However, 'Convent' really just meant 'feminist sleeping place', and we were right at home. After our crazy journey in Venice we were also skeptical about the location of the hostel, but as it turns out Rome is tiny. We walked across and around the city in less than 5 hrs. Compare that to the fraction of Valencia we saw in 17 hrs and you catch my drift. Rome has around 5 million people, London has 7 million, and yet their size difference is immense! I couldn't believe it. We also had a delicious pizza, our 'authentic food' for the city.

This is the infamous colosseum . The day turned out to be gorgeous, and we passed many many ruins on our way to here. Past this we took a detour to the train depot (to get our overnight ticket to Palermo) and continued on to the Spanish Steps. We were promptly kicked off the Spanish Steps (something about them being a historical landmark, and us not being allowed to drip our gelatto on them...) but we just continued on to the Pantheon.

As we wandered the city we realized that the police kept setting up barriers everywhere we went. We realized eventually that there was some sort of protest going on, and we looked it up when we got back to our hostel. Apparently some legislation is being proposed which would privatize the Italian university, so these protests are being held all over Italy. This one attracted over 100,000 students the day we were there. This photo was taken with part of the pantheon on the side.

Alright, we're in the home stretch. From Rome we took a night train to Palermo. It was completely shady (aka sketchy) and we didn't really know what was going on. We felt fairly confident that we were on the right train, not on a plane to France, so we just got in our bunks, cuddled up in our saran wrap, and tried to sleep. That didn't last long, as they apparently give you a courtesy wake up call at 7am. At least we were on the right train.

Finding our hostel turned out to be even trickier, but if this is what the front area of your hostel looked like, wouldn't you have a hard time too? Apparently it was 'under construction' but it sort looked like it'd been that way for awhile. Nevertheless, it was probably the best hostel we stayed in. It was cheap, clean, and the guy that runs it is AMAZING. He was so helpful, gave us maps, directions, suggestions, bus numbers, coupons, the list goes on.

On his advice we took a bus to a city not 30 miles away, located up on a mountain. That strip of sun you see is basically outlining the original area of Palermo. The city also had a lovely church with craaazy mosaic artwork inside. We nearly missed the last bus back down again, but luck was on our side in the end.

I wasn't going to put this picture in here, but I can't figure out how to get it off my blog so i'm just going to leave it. In case you can't tell, that's me, and behind me is the same thing I just described. Gorgeous Palermo, even though in reality its quite dirty.

Our second day there we had a delicious italian breakfast at the hostel (did you know 'traditional italian breakfast' calls for cake? Nom nom nom) , bought a picnic lunch at a nearby local market, and headed to the beach side. It was yet another gorgeous day, and it was Sunday, so lots of families were out and about with their dogs and such. Our authentic food here was pasta and a delicious canoli. Ordering pasta was hilarious, because there were no pictures (it was a fancy place) so we literally just took a wild guess, pointed, and got a surprise meal. It was delicious though!

So thats a horribly shortened version of my amazing 10 day adventure. We caught our plane without too much trouble, but by the time we got back to London the tube was closed. We tried to navigate the night bus, but it doesn't really run very close to Gloucester road, so we had to walk a bit, and we didn't walk through the door till a little past 3am. Hopefully you can see why it took me awhile to get this all posted- the idea of summing up everything I did was just so daunting! Still, I gave it my best shot and i'm sure you'll hear more stories in time. Eventually i'll put all the pictures on my public Picassa account, but that calls for having a computer with picassa on it, which these school computers do not. Right, its past 1:30am now, so I need to go try to catch some sleep. Hope you enjoy and i'll try to get back into posting more often again! G'nite!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Off I go...

Alright, this is the last post before I head off on my 10 day trip. I will, as requested, try not to fall off of any cliffs, but I think the real danger is running out of space on my memory card. We'll see, but here's to adventure either way!