November 2012 Archives

London for Reading Week Part II

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So, last time I left off we had just finished off a great Saturday in London with a museum, Hot Pot and a good long walk to the Tower of London Bridge and back... but now it's Sunday and we've got to get moving!

On Sunday morning we went to a large market in London called Spitalfields. It was way larger than we thought it would be and there were great stalls with artwork, jewellery, leather bags, clothing and my personal favourite, food!! For a late breakfast we got breakfast crepes (my first crepe: very yummy!). So we did some window shopping at Spitalfields (escaped without giving all our money away; it was quite difficult in some cases) and then we headed over to St Paul's Cathedral because we were going to tour the place and stick around to see Evensong and the Organ Recital they were putting on. Unfortunately, we couldn't tour St Paul's because it was Sunday and they are only open for services. We somehow lost all our energy after that and basically walked around a little bit and ended up in a Starbucks staring off into space. The hot chocolate was good though. We got back for Evensong and the Organ Recital and those were both pretty good, however not as good as I had hoped... I think I had built it up in my head too much and then it was just a bit disappointing. Either way though, it's neat to be able to say I went to Evensong at St Paul's! That basically ended our day; we got dinner and went to the Black Lion for the rest of the night and got excited to go to the Tate Modern in the morning!

Our morning on Monday consisted of being intrigued and confused in the Tate Modern art museum and I took some pictures of the ones I really liked (didn't think about taking a pic of their descriptions which was stupid of me but here are some of my favourites):
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After the Tate, we were really in the mood for a chippy but it turned out to be closed so we went to a burger place we saw on the last street we passed and had the yummiest burgers and the onion rings were delightful! It really hit the spot for us; we had been losing steam (museums really take a lot out of you!). Good thing we were revived because then we went to our second museum of the day: the National Gallery. This was my favourite museum visit because it had about half a dozen paintings that I had learned about and loved in the art history class I took the year before. I got so excited when I saw the entire series of Marriage a la Mode that it was hard to contain myself (if you don't know the series, you should look it up, they are quite entertaining and poignant)! There were also a couple Turner paintings, many Van Gogh, Monet, Manet and Cezanne paintings so I was quite happy. We grabbed some delicious dinner in Chi-town again (I wanted to try dumplings :) ) before heading to a local park for Guy Fawkes day (the dude who tried blowing up Parliament and now, on Guy Fawkes Day, has bonfires to burn his effigy and fireworks to entertain people, probably). The fireworks were great and it was cool to be where the fireworks were actually going off - typically my family's Fourth of July celebration takes place in my room because it faces my high school that hosts fireworks but I have never been there when the fireworks are going off.

Tuesday, aka Election Day, was spent climbing St Paul's (it was wonderful, I'd totally recommend it; and the 500-some steps up there goes really quickly so it's not even bad) and getting the tour we missed out on Sunday. We also went to see Parliament and sit in on the House of Lords and the House of Commons (both really interesting and a great experience to have on Election Day!!). Then, since I hadn't gotten a Belgian waffle last time I was in London and it was calling my name the whole week, we went to get a Belgian waffle (it was really good and yes, it did have chocolate sauce on it, duh!). We also got some real dinner - okay, so it was a burrito from a stand on the street, but I swear I liked it better than Chipotle - before heading over to the Black Lion for pub quiz night. The pub quiz host guy was great: really funny and nice and he came to talk to us afterward and we talked politics for a couple hours... alright, so I really just listened and nodded but it was interesting nonetheless ha ha. That night/early morning was spent in a stairwell listening to the live streaming CNN coverage of the election; I was quite happy when it was over (and not just because I could finally go to sleep).

Wednesday was basically us getting some breakfast at that homey cafe we had frequented throughout the week and getting on a train back to Worcester. We were pretty tired from staying up so we were so happy to be sitting on the train back home.

This past week (I can't believe it's only been a week and one day since London!) has just been about homework and trying to avoid sweets. By the way, it's way to easy and cheap to get chocolate and other amazing sweets here and I have been getting into a bad habit of buying and eating too much of it so now I'm trying to avoid them unless it's actually necessary ha ha. So far so good: I've only had sweets on two out of the past eight days, woohoo!! I'll keep you posted on that as though you really care :D

London for Reading Week Part I

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After a full five days in London, I finally feel like I've seen what I've been waiting to see for three years. Ever since my AP Euro trip to London and seeing the British Museum, I've been longing to be back to see it again and to see more museums that I had missed. Then, when visiting London for a weekend a few weeks ago we were basically doing just touristy things: all fun but all expensive and not very culture-filled. So finally, visiting London over our Reading Week (just means no school) was wonderful and I got to see a museum per day... sometimes two :) Plus, we really only spent money on food and Tube transportation... still an expensive place for sure, but I am always happy to spend money on food!

Anyway, from the beginning: on Thursday of last week we were off on our train to London, basically uneventful, we just played cards. Then we had to find our hostel which was conveniently right near the Tube station and easy to find. It was probably about 10 pm so we found a pub near our hostel and hung out for a little bit (plus we found what was to be our breakfast place the next morning right across from the Black Lion aka the best pub EVER) before going to bed.

Friday was a busy day... well, I guess they all were really, but we felt quite accomplished by the end of the day. We started off getting breakfast at that cafe we found the night before; I had a scone and water and we ate on our way to the British Museum. I was so excited to be back because I remembered how much I loved it the first time I had been there. And it was really great! We even decided to go grab lunch and come back to finish it up; it really is a huge place and even we didn't see all of it even though we were there for probably a solid five to seven hours. The one thing I was disappointed about was that there weren't any paintings at the BM. I either hadn't realised it last time or had forgotten but I'm a big fan of drawings and paintings but there wasn't a single one there! Lots of cool artefacts but I would probably visit the National Gallery again before the BM. After the BM we made our way down to Westminster to see Big Ben and the Abbey and we actually got to the Abbey right as they were letting people in for mass and communion so we sat in on the ceremony. I found it really interesting and informative because I had never been to either ceremony before and it's just plain cool to be able to say I've been to mass and communion at Westminster Abbey, right? :) Once the ceremony ended we made our way out into the chilly night air and went for a walk in search of dinner and we found a really yummy noodle place so I got a veggie stir-fry with udon noodles and it was just perfect. Since it was nearly nine by then we decided to head back near our hostel and do a pub hop type thing however by the time we got to our Tube station we realised we really only wanted to hang out at the Black Lion near the fire on their great leather couches... so that's what we did :)

Saturday started off with the idea that we would catch Singing in the Rain the musical but we couldn't seem to find the theatre for the life of us, so on this random walk (on which we ran into the Waldorf Hotel) we came upon the National Portrait Gallery. What I remember of this place from three years ago is basically my friends and I being so jet-lagged and wet that we just sat in one room staring at the wall trying to move. Needless to say I was quite excited to actually see stuff this time! It was very cool and a lot more fun than the first time but the real excitement of the day came after the Gallery: Hot Pot in Chinatown. Hot Pot, for those of you who don't know (as I didn't before this trip), is basically where you have a bunch of things to cook: meat, veg, noodles etc, and a big pot of broth which you get to a boil. Then, you just stick the uncooked whatever into the now hot pot and cook it! Then you eat it and you smile. So yeah, that's the gist of it. We had beef kidney (actually not gross at all), pork belly, spinach and lettuce, mushrooms, udon and glass noodles, mussels (wouldn't get it again, just didn't really work with what we had going), sea bass and a few other things to put into our spicy broth. It was delightful. We were pretty stuffed afterwards and decided it would be a good idea to walk off as much Hot Pot as possible so we headed towards Hyde Park, did some window shopping along Oxford Street, and later had quite a long walk to the Tower of London bridge (which is lots of fun to walk across... and to really, it's long if you're going from Westminster but worth it) and then stopped at a pizza place on our way back for a late dinner. And you guessed it, headed back home for some Black Lion time... it's such a great place honestly: it's basically all wood and metal with leather couches near a fireplace on one side and cool lighting. We were saying how much we wish we had a cool pub like that in Worcester... my guess is that we do but we just need to find it first.

I think that'll be the end of my Part I post; there are three more days to cover and I'm tired of writing so I'll get to the rest either later today or tomorrow!

Highlight Reel

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It's been WAY too long since I've written and I'm sorry for that. It's been a few hectic weeks to say the least. I'll give you a quick run-down of the stressors and then we can get on to the fun stuff!

First off, I only really got into 'school mode' this past week (and I've been here for over six weeks, oops!!) so I had been feeling super behind in homework. An eight-hour stint this past Sunday at the library really helped though! And it was actually fun; whodah thunk?? Aside from the school stuff I am struggling with being part of the rowing club here. I really want to be part of it but my knee has been giving me trouble since the first week of rowing and it really hasn't gotten any better. I've got an appointment with the physical therapists in town now though, so hopefully that can help and I can continue in rowing. The other major stressor for me the past few weeks has been the fact that I had been traveling each weekend and I felt like that was taking away time that I should have been focusing on the work I had to do. Don't get me wrong, I do not regret the traveling... just at the time it was making me more stressed.

So anyway, time for fun things! In my last post I was talking about London I believe, so I'll get on to next weekend: Devon and Cornwall. This was a programme trip from the 12th to the 14th. So, on Friday we boarded the coach and were off to Cornwall. Before even getting to our hostel to put our stuff away, we stopped to surf! I had never surfed before; I hadn't even been in the ocean! So I think the coolest part about surfing was the fact that I can now say "the first time I was in the ocean was when I was in England surfing." I think that's pretty neat :) Other than that, surfing was fun but hard... I only ever could get in the one-knee-up position and I usually couldn't catch the waves. The salt water wasn't as bad as I had imagined though... although, eventually in was in everyone's noses and throats and that was a bit uncomfortable.

After surfing for about an hour and a half, we were on our way to the hostel. The coach had to stop about a 15 minute walk away from the hostel because the coach was too big to fit the rest of the way! It was a beautiful walk and our location was amazing: right on top of a cliff overlooking a beach that we could easily walk down to. Later that night, I was on kitchen duty and we had some fun making tacos: Coldplay in the background and fun people and I didn't have to be on cleaning crew; doesn't get much better! That night's entertainment was provided by watching several programme people playing pool and taking part in lively banter... got a bit intense but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. A few of us decided to wake up really early the next morning to try to catch the sunrise... that didn't really work out; we got up and everything but we didn't catch the sunrise :( Would've been pretty but oh well, a sun rises every day so there'll be more chances!

Our Saturday fun was exploring a nearby town, St Ives, which was wonderful. I had so much fun exploring the beautiful town and I had cream tea for the first time! Cream tea is traditionally two scones with jam and clotted cream (the heaviest thing on the planet) and tea. It was delightful but it was so filling that I really wasn't hungry for the rest of the day so I've stayed away from cream tea since.

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Anyway, we explored some cute shops in the area and then were off to the Bodmin Jail. Not spooky, pretty cheesy and not something I'd do again. I think the people who were excited about it in the first place were pretty disappointed. But we did see a double rainbow as we came out!! The night was pretty uneventful in terms of fun things and then we headed back home the next day.

The next weekend I went to Scotland with a few friends (one of them drove) and it was amazing. The drive was beautiful and it was incredible driving through the misty hills, listening to Bon Iver and feeling like I was finally being adventurous. I never would have thought I'd be on a road trip to Scotland with people I hadn't known just a month earlier, but here I was. We got into Scotland pretty late (around ten or so) because it's about a seven hour drive. We had rented a private cottage for the weekend and we still spent less for gas and a private cottage than we would have on a train ticket up there, so we thought it was well worth it! After settling in we decided to explore Oban for a bit and grab something to eat in town. We had amazing burgers at a steakhouse and we all shared an appetizer of haggis and black pudding (aka sheep's stomach and coagulated blood, yummmm). It was actually really good and I'd have it again for sure! No joke though, it was good. After getting back in from town we basically just chilled in our amazing cottage :)

The next day we were able to see how beautiful the land we were on was... last night we really couldn't tell it was so dark. But there was a loch right by us, rolling hills all over and chickens and ducks roaming about the property! We got a late start and went off to climb part of Ben Nevis, the largest mountain in the UK. It was a pretty rough climb: very steep, very uneven and very tough on my knee (mostly on the way down and yes, I slipped about five times... in my defence it had started raining!). The hike was absolutely gorgeous though and I'm so happy we got to go up over halfway! That night we decided to make dinner ourselves and had a very nice pasta meal with music and candlelight and us in our pj's :P

The next day, our last :(, we went to Oban in daylight and while one of our group went to tour the whiskey distillery, I went with the other two up to a cool 'tower' thing (it was more looking like a Coliseum but they called it a tower). Then we all had fish and chips (the best I've had here so far... I am so going to miss having a chippy right near where I live when I go home!!!) and then started the long drive back home. The trip to Scotland is definitely one of the top three experiences I've had here yet; I was with amazing people in a beautiful place and had tons of fun!

Alrighty, this past Friday was a lot of fun too! We went on a programme day trip to Malvern Hills; it was just a 12 minute train ride and it was wonderful, I definitely want to go back at some point this year!! We saw the Priory and the lamp post that inspired C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" book, and we saw a puppet show in the smallest theatre in the world (it used to be a man's lavatory aka bathroom)... it was... interesting ha ha

The best part though was climbing the hills.... it was beautiful and SO SO windy, I absolutely loved it, probably because it reminded me of Duluth. We stayed sitting in the gusting wind for at least ten minutes and by then I was frozen... not wanting to leave, but cold enough that it was time. Then I literally fell down the hill and that was cute :P I didn't get hurt because I didn't fall far but yeah, hilarious and typical of me. We got some amazing lunch after getting down the hill: it was broccoli, cauliflower and carrot soup with homemade bread... oh, it was so good and totally perfect.

Another highlight of course, is Halloween! I hadn't really participated in Halloween for maybe five to seven years so this was really fun. I went as the Black Swan (had a black tutu, a mask and feathers taped on... I had shed them all by the end of the night... probably fell off even before getting to the club). It was so much fun going to the club, especially because I went to the one I hadn't been to before and thankfully it wasn't too busy because I hate crowds.

Other than that, classes have been going pretty well (I'm thinking I'll make every Sunday a library Sunday just to have a solid block of time to do some major catching up) and I'm feeling a lot less stressed than I was a couple weeks ago!

This next week is Reading Week (basically just a week without classes) and so I'm off to London in a few hours with a friend. I'm so pumped because we've got a museum visit planned for each day!!! We'll be gone for about six days so I'll get an update in by Friday next week. Anyway, I've got to run to class now but hope you enjoyed the highlight reel of the past few weeks! I'll post on London soon :)

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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