Wednesday, June 20, 2012

This week: classes, classes, classes

Monday: Media and Politics
We were in lecture a lot, I can't even really remember what we talked about at this point. More updates on the Leveson Inquiry, and then discussion. Our outing was to the Cabinet War Rooms/Churchill Museum over by Trafalgar Square area. We saw the Prime Minister's front door again at 10  Downing Street, and guards rode by on their horses while we were outside talking, which was really cool.

10 Downing Street- the black door at the back
Overall, I didn't really enjoy the Cabinet War Rooms too much. I don't think I fully understood the significance of them, and it was mostly just a lot of stuffy rooms underground with a lot of concrete everywhere and creepy mannequins in the rooms that looked eerily real. The Churchill Museum was connected to the War Rooms and it was VERY overwhelming with too much going on and not a clear organization at all, so I wandered around listened to a little bit of the audio guide, but mostly was just ready to go. I don't think we went about the museum in the right order and I'm not a huge fan of Churchill or really am that interested in him, so it wasn't my favorite outing.

We (Griffin, Ian, Amanda, me) went back to My Old Dutch for pancakes (crepes, really) since they all are 5 pounds on Monday- I got one with rocket (green leaves), courgette (like zucchini), mozzerrella, and sundried tomatoes. It wasn't as good as I was expecting, and I'm kind of over the whole pancake thing now!

We stopped by Sainsburys and Boots to pick up a few things and came home. I started working on my paper for my Writing class- I have that paper due next week, a Media and Politics paper due on Monday, and part of my Media and Society paper due Tuesday as well. It's a crazy week, and when we're leaving on Thursday for a crazy weekend traveling around, there's not much time to do it, so I have been trying to get as much done before then as possible.

Tuesday: Media and Society/Culture By Design

Stopped at Eve's to grab a cappuccino before class and she didn't put any sugar in it like she said she did so it ended up being really gross...oh well.
We spent class talking about each person's thesis statement for the upcoming paper, so it was a pretty long and boring morning when he wasn't talking to me specifically about my topic (differences between faith/religion in here and in the US- as religion is verrrrryyyyy rarely talked about here). We spent a lot more time in lecture than we were supposed to, and we still had a long break to grab food- got a delicious breakfast sandwich back at Eve's- before we left. We had about a 45 minute journey by tube and bus to get out to North London to the London Greek Radio station.

This was a small Greek radio station that has been around for a while. We talked to a lot of the different workers there and it was really welcoming and interesting- two of them talked to us a lot about how they are updating their station to stay modern, etc. We went upstairs to where a DJ was on the air and he talked to us as a group on the air and interviewed a few people with some questions about where we were from and why we were in London which was really cool! It was neat to see how a small station is run and operated like that.

We weren't there very long before it was 1 when our outing is supposed to end. The frustrating part was that we were still far away from our classroom where we had to be at 2 for our next we rushed back, grabbed Pret, had a few minutes to eat, and then went to Culture By Design.

In CBD we watched a documentary from the 80s called "Style Wars" about graffiti, street art, break dancing and rap. We talked briefly about the outing and then we were off to take the tube to the Leake Street graffiti tunnel. This is a place where graffiti is permitted and encouraged and it's really the sole purpose of the whole space. It's constantly changing as people add to it, and it was so cool! We're going to try to go back and add our mark to it too I think, which I'm excited about it. Here are some pictures from it:

found our name!

After exploring this tunnel, we went over near the National Theatre to see another graffiti space where teenagers once hung out against the wishes of the city, and the space was eventually made into a skate/bike area for them and is now a tourist attraction of sorts.

The guy at the right of this picture painted this of him and his girlfriend for her birthday! and he had just finished, so cool.
After talking about the differences/similarities between the two spaces, we were done with class! Our whole group met up again (after Amanda and I got yummy cinnamon roasted nuts from a street seller) and then we were off to sit in on sessions of Parliament! We had to wait a bit to get in, and our politics professor was there and he explained some things to us. We had to go through security and bag scanners and such before we could go in, and then check our bags when we got inside as well. We sat in on the House of Commons first- we basically were just sitting up in a viewing gallery area where anyone can come watch for free.

I was really surprised at the lack of people that were in the session, there were maybe 20 or so and tons of open seats. I couldn't really follow the discussion, but it was cool to experience anyway.

We went to the House of Lords next- in the same building- and it was MUCH more elaborately decorated inside, but again had very few people and a much more complex sounding discussion. I was exhausted and hungry and just ready to leave, but I'm really glad we got the chance to go see it and see what Parliament looks like here.

We got back to the house, and Kelly cooked an AWESOME dinner for six of us girls. It was a delicious creamy caprese pasta and good. It was the best to not have to cook after such a long day- it was the greatest! We hung out for a bit and all talked and did dishes and such, and then I was back down to work on my papers some more. Amanda and I and Ian made a Sainsburys run for dessert too, which made writing more enjoyable!
Skyped Kyle now that he's back in the states and it was a WAAAYYYY better connection and it was the best to finally catch up and really talk for real! Definitely worth staying up later than usual for :)

Wednesday: Writing in the Public Sphere
I woke up feeling like crap- I really hope I'm not getting the cold bug that's been going around the house, but I feel like I've got it. Made tea and had breakfast and went downstairs for my solo class. Discussion was rough today with not feeling well and really just wanting to be asleep and feeling like I didn't understand the reading that had been assigned, but she was pleased with what I contributed so apparently I got more out of it than I thought. We talked a little bit more about Nancy Fraser but mostly about the new, more modern McKee reading. We talked at the beginning of class a lot more than usual, just about life and how I'm feeling about the program and about Kyle and time differences and such...definitely a perk of a one-on-one class! Much more personal. I love it.

Our outing was to the Poetry Library at the Southampton Centre. It was a little library space on the fifth floor of a big building, and it was just full of reference/lending books and magazines full of poetry and about poetry and I had time to just wander around and reflect on some questions that my blog post will be about. (

When we were leaving, we were looking out at the views of the Thames and saw a rooftop garden on the next building over and went to explore it. There's a big Festival of the World thing going on in the whole riverside area and it was part of the movement and it was awesome! Grassy areas and tons of wildflowers and trees as well as vegetables and garden areas. It was really peaceful in the middle of the city skyline, and I loved it. There was tons of public art around the area too that was really neat to see- there are tons of poetry and music and food events coming up and a lot of them are free, so I'm really stoked to check them out.

I came back from class on a bus on my own, heated up leftovers for lunch, napped, woke up still feeling crappy, and have been writing and researching my politics paper basically ALL afternoon/evening. 2,000 words is a lot, let me tell you. It's been challenging to write it, and I have a lot more work to do, but it's hard in a good way. My brain feels awesome. That's weird to say, but true. I'm really enjoying the challenge of it. And I feel good about the progress I've made, so this weekend will be a lot less stressful and more enjoyable!

Tomorrow we're off to Bath for the first part of our little 4 day weekend adventure!

The weekend

Recap of the weekend since I've been slacking on the blog...


Slept in until like 10:45am...yikes. We went to the Brunswick market again for lunch (about 6 or 8 of us I think)- got veggie paella that was super good but got cold before I could eat it I got another empanada like the first time we went to the market, and a smoothie from a chain place! We were there for a few hours, shopping around at various shops that all had sales, and then Rachel Gill, Amanda and I came back to the house because we had to get ready for Les Mis!

We got ready and I ate my paella for dinner and then we were off to pick up our tickets! We took the tube and got our tickets from the Leicester Square Box Office (they were only 24.50 in pounds!) which was quick and easy, and then walked a few blocks to the Queen's Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue (known as Theatreland!). We waited outside for maybe 20 minutes or so before we were let inside.

the four of us!

this is what the view looks like from the highest row of seats in the theatre


last ones in the theatre!

It was an INCREDIBLE show. So good. I was worried we wouldn't be able to see very well from the top row, but it was perfect. The stage was a huge circle that spun at various points, which was a really cool effect and added a lot to the performance. The music was on point and I kept having to stop myself from singing along...I just loved it so much. The characters did a really great job and they all had awesome voices. Life=complete. Best night ever.

I woke up and didn't feel very well so I stayed home and didn't go to church- Amanda was going to a church further away and I didn't feel up to riding the tube and such. I had my own mini-church and it was exactly what I needed. When she got back, we went to the grocery store and got some food for the week.

We were going to the Icebar at 5, so we all got ready and were hanging out and drinking and then left just after 4 to go take the tube to the Icebar! We got very lost after getting off the tube, but ended up getting directions to get there.

almost the whole group!

 We had gotten our tickets online already, so we just had to tell them our names when we got there. We got our cape/parka things and were let in through a huge door and we had 45 minutes in the room! It was such a whirlwind, but it was so much fun and so cool to do! We got a drink as part of the ticket cost, and mine was called Roadhouse Blues, some berry fruity thing. We basically just ran around and all got really excited and took a ton of pictures, and then it was time to go when the countdown clock ran out!
seriously SO excited

the actual bar at the icebar

free drink!


the full ensemble!
Such a fun night- best 45 minutes ever! We all went back to the Rocket- the pub where we had gone earlier in the week, and got dinner and some people got more drinks. I just ate- the best veggie burger EVER- and a few of us headed back to the house while most people stayed there. I was so exhausted and crashed before 9 pm, but somehow woke up around 11 to skype Kyle on his last day in China! It didn't work very well, but we chatted a little bit, and I went back to sleep!

One of the overall best weekends here so far- such a good mix of new things and familiar things and just so much fun with the group. I really love the people here and everything about being here and getting to explore and do so many things I've never done! Time is flying by.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Windsor adventures!

Friday was WINDSOR!
Only Amanda and Griffin wanted to go with me, which was perfectly fine, so we bought tickets for off-peak times to get them for cheaper (only 10 pounds) and we left Friday morning at about 11 am!

We took the tube to Waterloo to get to the train station, figured out how to print our tickets at the machine, and had some time to kill. We grabbed coffee at Costa and then boarded the train! It was really exciting to do it all ourselves without Rusty doing the work for us.

The train ride was about an hour and it went really quickly even though I was exhausted. Once we got there, we were going off of an awesome day-trips from London guide book that my dad had gotten for me, and we headed towards the information centre. We picked up a few brochures, but it wasn't really that helpful. The castle was obviously the center of Windsor, and it was beautiful and massive! We started out there.

We decided to just pay the entrance fee to get in, even though it was a little more than we would have liked (15 pounds) and I'm so glad we did! We got audio guides and decided not to wait for the formal tour and just explore ourselves, which ended up being a really good idea. We had so much fun taking pictures and exploring and listening to all the audio- I learned a lot of fun info!

It was a massive castle and so pretty! The moat surrounding the main round tower was always a dry moat, and is now the most beautiful garden area!

I really wanted to go inside the chapel, but it was closed for some reason. Here's what the outside looked like though:

We went through the Queen's cool. Queen Victoria used to be obsessed with collecting miniature things, so it was a huge doll house of sorts, full of miniatures of EVERYTHING imaginable, even replicas of real works of art done by the artists who made them, mini books from the authors, etc. It was so impressive! We couldn't take any pictures in that room, or in the gallery of pictures throughout the Queen's life to celebrate the jubilee, or in the state apartments.

The state apartments were RIDICULOUSLY elaborate and gorgeous and overwhelming. We did the audio tour through these as well, and it was massive and it seemed never-ending! Definitely wouldn't want to live in that much luxury all the time, it was too much.

More pictures of the castle:

lovin' those audio guides!

Round Tower

We were getting REALLY hungry (it was almost 3 and we hadn't had lunch...) so we consulted my guide book and went to one of the recommended pubs- The Carpenter's Arms. I got tomato soup and a house good!
After lunch, we set off following the guide again. Stopped at the Parish Church and went in and looked was a small, local church, nothing too impressive, but quaint nonetheless.

We kept walking towards the edge of town towards the Long Walk, which we didn't really know about at all. When we got there, it really was just a SUPER long walk off into the distance surrounded by grass and trees! We had fun frolicking about in all the open space- it was gorgeous weather and we just hung out there for a while and Amanda climbed a tree and we just relaxed, it was great!

After the Long Walk, we went back through town, stopped for me to get some postcards, and then continued on past the castle and towards the train station where we arrived and into Eton. Eton was a cute little main street sort of town, with lots of shops and restaurants, but there wasn't much else there besides Eton College! Everything at the college was closed and private property and we really couldn't see much of it. Apparently it's like a very private boys boarding high school, not really like a college like in the states. We saw the outside and wandered a little bit, but that's about it!

view of the Thames from the cast iron bridge into Eton

Eton College

Chapel at Eton

After Eton, we had a couple of hours to kill and not much else to do based on the tour book, so we ended up just walking along a footpath along the Thames that was gorgeous and so peaceful! It was a nice way to end the day.

an overpass over the train tracks- this train went by and honked at us!

We ended up deciding to eat before we went home, so we found a cheap pub that wasn't too crowded with Euro 2012 viewers, split nachos, and then caught our 7:23 train home! We played card games most of the ride back to pass the time, which was fun.

Such a successful day trip!
The group all got together and decided to go out to Hyde Park at night (not totally a sober decision). We took the tube, went and ran around the park in the pitch black, and came back home. Such a random but fun night. Some of the group made friends with people on the tube which was a little embarrassing...I stayed out of all of that though! Kept to myself and didn't feed into the loud, annoying American stereotype. :)