Saturday, July 14, 2012

Last full Saturday in London

Is it really my last full weekend here? Dang. Not okay.

Today=Saturday=FINALLY time to go back to Portobello Market! I've been dying to go back all week but it's only on Saturdays, so I had to wait. Amanda went with me this time, and we left around 9:45ish to take the tube to Notting Hill. My migraine still hadn't gone away completely and I was feeling pretty nauseous, but I wasn't going to let it stop me. It also was POURING, so that was fun!

Yep, it was this gray and gloomy all day
It was fun to be back with someone else and not just on my own this time, and we wandered around a lot of the same stores and stalls I had gone to last week. I had a few places I knew I wanted to go back to, and I got to all of them to pick up things I had been thinking about all week. I'm DONE shopping for people now! I need to stop. I have way too much. Oops. That's what I get for being a gift-giving love language, I guess.

While Amanda was looking at a stall of retro Disney magazine covers, the stall owner (a middle-aged guy) started asking us where we were from, and if we were studying here, etc. Those are the questions we are usually asked by locals that talk to us, so it was nothing new or surprising. I started explaining what we were studying, and he started asking me pretty tough questions! I didn't realize how hard it was to define what I've learned in all my classes this summer, especially since they're all so different and so broad in their subject matter. He would net let me off easy though, and kept questioning and challenging what I was saying. It was pretty cool to be forced to explain what I've learned, especially to someone who lives here. The guy knew a LOT and it was an intimidating but really awesome conversation!

It rained basically the whole time we were there, which got to be pretty annoying. It's hard to manage shopping bags and umbrellas and purses and getting out money and looking at things, etc. We kept going until we got to the fruit and veg stands, got some really yummy goodies (strawberries, a grapefruit, asparagus), and then continued on to the prepared food stalls!

This is a little taste of what heaven looks like.

Amanda got Ghandian food that she loved, and I got a cheese and spinach crepe that I did not love. I don't know why I keep trying crepes, I never like them. Lesson learned. We sat on a tiny step under an awning to eat, and everyone stared at us when they walked by.

We found an AWESOME stall that had tons of baked goods for 3 for 2 pounds, 70 pents, so we both did that too! Yum.

Amanda and her rice, peanut butter chicken, and carrot dish!

my crepe getting made

my crepe (that I didn't really eat...)

I got an apple creme turnover, a Bath bun (since we didn't get them when we were actually in Bath), and a donut. Seriously, so good. Best decision. Unhealthy, but best.

We were getting ready to go, as we had no hands left, no cash left, and were sick of the rain. We took the bus back (MY FIRST SUCCESSFUL BUS JOURNEY IN LONDON YAY. Proudest moment.) and it was fun to just zone out and see the city passing by as we rode home.

Took a super long nap when we got back (rainy days are the best for naps, that's no surprise). Finally finished another one of my final papers, took a break to attempt to start packing up all the many souvenirs and gifts I have accumulated...goodness. Packing is going to be rough. I know I need another suitcase, but mine is currently probably way too heavy...ugh. Nightmare.

Made dinner- an omelette, and asparagus from today! Had part of my apple turnover for dessert- SO GOOD.

Wrote another one of my final papers, for Culture By Design. Why am I always the most motivated at night? Weird. Everyone is wanting to go out and drink every night and celebrate while we are still here, but I'm totally winding down and just wanting to get all my work done and be productive and journal a lot and reflect on my time here. I'm such an introvert.

Tomorrow is another day of being productive, and then tea time for our group activity!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Wednesday the 11th through Friday the 13th

Wednesday- last Writing in the Public Sphere class
We discussed 5 articles that had been my assigned reading for the week, and they were all about the public sphere in today's world with social media and the Internet playing a huge role. It was so interesting to see all the theories we've been discussing come into play in today's society. I had time halfway through to come upstairs and analyze my own Facebook and Twitter feeds and look at how many of the posts were about personal/private matters as opposed to matters concerning the general public or matters of public interest, and lemme tell ya, hardly ANY were really worthwhile. Makes you wonder about the point of it all, really.

Our outing was to the London Transport Museum (another outing we had replaced because of duplicates with my other classes) and we met up with Kelly and her teacher Judy (since their class is like ours, with just one student, and they were going there anyway).

I wrote a blog post for class about the outing and about my reflections of the class as a whole here: read that instead of me writing it twice :)

To sum it up, though, I was SO SAD to say goodbye to Nina after how incredible this summer has been having her class all to myself. She was SO affirming and encouraging throughout the outing, telling me repeatedly how glad she was that I didn't drop the class and how I'm a "real gem" and have been such an incredible student. I've never felt more appreciated, respected, and valued from a teacher. She became so much more than a professor to me over the past two months and I loved our time together so much. I want to soak up more and more of her wisdom and knowledge! Hearing her tell me that I'm brilliant and did incredible work this semester just blew me away and humbled me like no other, especially coming from her. It was a big love fest essentially, as Judy was just as complimentary of Kelly, and we were just as appreciative of them as our awesome teachers! We hugged goodbye at the museum gift shop after the outing and I definitely teared up. Best experience of the summer by far, and I'm so grateful that I had that class. SO thankful.

I spent quite a while browsing through the gift shop after Nina left, and found some cool things for people I still needed gifts for, which was awesome. Of course, when I left to walk home, it started to torrentially pour, and my umbrella flipped inside out about 5 times on the way. It was pretty awesome, lemme tell ya. I even tripped and almost fell flat on my face at one point too, so that was cool. Gotta love being by yourself and having no one to laugh with you when you make a total fool out of yourself!

I grabbed a sandwich on my way home for lunch, and ate when I got back to the house. I worked on writing some of my final papers and such for the afternoon. Made dinner at the house later on, had our group meeting and did our course/program evaluations, and then stayed in for the rest of the evening.

Thursday- no classes!
So weird that all of our classes are over and all that's left is final papers. Where has the time gone?

I woke up at 8 am to bombard Kyle with birthday love since that was when it turned his birthday in his time zone, and talked to him for a bit, and then went back to sleep for a few more hours since I had nowhere I had to be. When I finally woke up, I made lunch and worked more on my papers and got a bunch of random stuff done all day.

At around 6 ish, I left to go head towards the movie theatre where we had our group film night. It was raining like crazy again, and it wasn't the most pleasant of walks to the Soho area. I was trying to find a quick and easy place to eat on my own before the movie, but I wasn't super hungry and really just wanted a quick Pret sandwich. Of course, it was the first time in the entire time I've been here that I didn't see ten million Prets on every street...but I finally found one near the theatre and grabbed a sandwich really quick. Met up with the group at the theatre at 6:45 ish, and got our tickets to see "The Hunter."

I had watched the trailer for it and wasn't too excited about seeing it, but it ended up being a really well-made and intriguing movie. It was pretty intense and I was glued to the screen the whole time, and it made me cry too! Definitely a movie worth seeing, but not one I would need to see again. It was cool to see a movie at a London movie theatre too, since I hadn't done that yet! They have SO MANY commercials and previews before the movie at least 30 minutes of them. Too much.

I came back from the movie and went to bed pretty early.

Woke up early to head to St. Pauls again- there was a group of people who had wanted to go to the top of the cathedral when we went with class a few weeks ago that didn't get the chance to, so they were doing it today. Amanda and I wanted to go to the Twinings tea shop on Fleet Street afterward, so it made sense that I went with them and just waited for them to be done. It was a gorgeous morning, but got pretty chilly and really windy in the shade, but I stayed on the steps of the cathedral while they all went up, and then wandered around a bit to take a bunch of pictures of St. Pauls that I hadn't taken when we went the first time.

there's the group there!

After they all came back down, Amanda and I walked down Fleet Street to go to the Twinings tea shop again- I love that place! And wanted more tea for people back home. And Amanda hadn't been yet, so it was on both of our bucket lists to do before we left.

After a very complicated purchasing process (ringing things up more than once, than not at all, and us going back to fix it, the manager having to help us, etc), we finally got all the tea we wanted and were off in search of a Yo! Sushi for lunch!

One of my mom's coworkers has been reading this (Hi!) and recommended some new places for us to try to eat at, which was awesome since I've definitely been stuck in a Pret rut when I'm on the go. We ended up walking all the way from Fleet Street over to Brunswick Center to the only Yo! Sushi we knew of, and definitely worked up an appetite in the process.

It was such a cool place- a conveyor belt wrapped around the bar area and had color coordinated dishes that indicated the prices, and you just grabbed what you wanted and ordered other things from the waiter as well. I grabbed edamame from the belt, and ordered a veg noodle dish and dumplings too- best meal ever. So, so good.


Thank you so much for the recommendation, Amy! I can't wait to try Leon next. Let me know if there's anything else you suggest :)

I was pretty tired after all of our adventures, so Amanda and I came back to the flat. A horrible migraine promptly hit and decided to make my day suck, so I spent a lot of time trying to nap and rest and get rid of it, with no luck at all. Slept for a while but really needed to be productive, so I just decided to suck it up and catch up on my blog and get work done. Everyone else is out at a bar celebrating two birthdays of people in our group and I wish I was there...but sometimes you gotta just take it easy. Oh well.

Off to bed, hopefully my head doesn't hate me so much in the morning!

Monday/Tuesday, the 9th/10th

Monday- Media and Politics
We had about an hour of lecture, a break to go grab breakfast, and then no outing, but instead we watched the Prime Minister's questions online! The Prime Minister's questions is a weekly, 30-minute really energetic and amusing interrogation of the PM. Basically, people ask him questions and he avoids them very skillfully while everyone hoots and hollers and makes a ton of noise and gets very worked up. It was interesting to watch and definitely VERY different than politics in the US!

We got our papers back and got information about our final essays that will be written in class- it's the only class I'm really anxious about in terms of the final. I got a B on the paper, which was a little disappointing after all the work that I put into it, and even more so because everyone else wrote theirs the night before and got the same grades or better. Oh well. His comments were that my quotations were too long and I didn't include the page numbers in my if that's why I got a B, I at least feel good that my argument and writing was good, and it was just little things that docked my grade down.

We got out of class super early since we didn't have our outing, and I've spent the day doing readings and writing papers and getting stuff done for all my classes and just overall being productive!

When Amanda got back from her class, we went to the grocery store to get food for the week, and came home and made dinner (an omelette with lots of peppers for me, and fresh fruit). Have been working on writing my final paper for Media and Society all evening, too.

Tuesday- Media and Society
We talked about film and talked more about our final papers and watched two different movies for our class time, and then were off on our outing. We went on a walk around Soho that was pretty random, but we saw a bunch of record shops, saw where 20th Century Fox is located, went to the Radha Krishna Temple, went down a street where brothels used to be very popular, saw the Palladium, went to a record shop, and just explored the area basically.


our professor leading us through the streets of Soho

I'm constantly being surprised by how many new things I keep discovering that are right around where I've been living all summer- London has so much more to offer than I'll ever be able to see and explore fully.

After Soho, we had time before Culture By Design, so a few of us came back to Madison House to eat and kill time before class. I made a quick lunch and then we were back off to the FSU building for class.

We had a guest speaker instead of a normal lecture- the Film Adaptations professor (who is also BFF with our professor) came to talk to us about TV shows and the contrasts between similar types of shows in the UK and US and such. He was a really awesome professor, and I loved his lecture. We watched the teasers (intro scene before the opening credits) of a variety of pilots of TV shows from here and from the States, and it was really cool to see the differences and similarities between them.

After watching the clips, we got in groups and had to plan/write the teaser of our own cop drama show. At first, we had no idea what to make ours about, but we eventually came up with a pretty cool idea about a cop show set in suburbia. Our basic idea was a parallel between kids playing chase/cops and robbers on a playground and that scene switching to a real life chase between a good guy and bad guy in a neighborhood and then back to the kids, etc, as the two scenes echoed each other, ending in a shot being fired by the real good/bad guy right as one of the kids pretends to shoot another kid, and then the kids turning around because it turns out the real chase is on the street near where they are playing, etc.

It was really cool to hear the other groups' ideas and to discuss what was hard about writing the teaser, etc. I really liked that we actually got to do it for ourselves instead of just watching real TV shows, and it was a really fun last class.

We got out pretty early since we didn't have an outing, which was nice. Came back to the flat and had time to kill again before we went to see Matilda!

We had to be at the theatre at around 6:30 pm, and it was just nearby in Covent Garden area, so we all walked there together to meet Rusty. We got our tickets from him and took pictures as a group before heading in to the theatre.

Our whole group with Rusty and his daughters!
I was getting SO excited for this musical- I loved Matilda as a kid and read the book several times and saw the movie and just love Roald Dahl's work, so I was really excited to see it come to life! When we got in and saw the AWESOME set, I got even MORE stoked about it. It was just so cool!

seriously, how cool is this?!

Liz, Kelly, me, Nora

The show was absolutely wonderful- the kids did SUCH a good job and the girl that played Matilda was excellent! It was so fun seeing the story come to life and to catch all the things geared at adults that would have gone over the kids' heads. The songs were so good and the set was just incredible the whole time, I loved it. Such a great show! Ahhh.

Came back to the house afterward and crashed! Tuesdays are always SO LONG.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

First weekend of July


A group of about 6 or 7 us had signed up a while ago to go back to Buckingham Palace for a tour, since the first time we went, we weren't able to get close or really see it due to a big 10K event that was going on. We had to meet there at 9:30, and we had a tour at 9:45. We got audio guides and were on our own to explore the Palace. It was really cool to see the inside of, and I learned a lot more than I was expecting to. It was similar to other palaces and things we have seen, with the style of furniture and decorations and art and such, but it's where the royals live, so it's still pretty dang awesome. We ended up spending a few hours there, ending in the gardens and at a gift shop.

Everyone split off after the gift shop, and Amanda and I ended up stopping at Pret for lunch and then heading home to get things done. My knee was really bothering me still, and even with wearing my brace and taking my meds and everything, I wasn't up for any more walking at all. I'm really hoping it starts to feel better again so it doesn't keep putting a damper on my last few weeks here. 

We stopped at the grocery store on the way home and I got fruit and stuff for salads (NEED MORE VEGGIES). We both just hung out at the house all afternoon and got things done and napped, ate dinner, etc.

We had a film night for a group outing (the film class had to go anyway, but we have two films that are for all of us), and we left early to get snacks on the way and then get there. It was at the Clapham Picture House, and we were seeing Spike Lee's first movie, "Do the Right Thing" that was made in the 80s. I wasn't excited about it at all, as I didn't know anything about it, and would have much rather seen a movie that just came out. (Also, while we were hanging out before going into the theatre, we got word that one of the girls in our group was leaving to go home, so it definitely put a damper on the evening. We miss you, Beth!)

When we got there, it ended up being a cool little venue with a bar and only 4 theatres. I got popcorn and was starting to get more into the whole thing, and when we went into our theatre and they were handing out free pizzas, I knew it was going to be good after all :) Turns out the event was put on by a local film blogger whose blog name is based on a line from the movie, and it was just a unique event to show this film. He explained the context of it all and introduced the film and did a raffle (Griffin won a bottle of champagne or wine or something!). 

The movie ended up being really good. They showed it on 35mm, so it had a totally different feel than movies do these days, which made it seem a lot cooler. It was definitely a powerful film that showed a lot of the anger and confusion of racial identity in the 80s, and it was seriously shocking at some points. Definitely worth seeing. Gets you thinking about a lot of things, for sure. The movie got out around 11 and we all came home right after. I was able to skype Kyle, which was so good and definitely cheered me up despite my knee getting even worse. Good way to end the evening!

Almost everyone left early in the morning to go to Paris for the weekend. I didn't go, as I had done basically everything they would be doing this weekend when I went with my grandparents in 2010! I was really looking forward to a weekend with nobody here (there were only going to be 4 of us in the house). I woke up and found that the lightbulbs in both bathrooms and the hallway that they are on were all burned out, and there's absolutely no natural light in there, so it was totally dark and pretty freaky when it was just me in the flat. I wasn't able to find Charlotte all morning, but I left her a note about it and filled out a maintenance request, and was really hoping they would fix it before the night.

I decided to go to the Museum of London and explore, since it was free and only a few tube stops away and I hadn't been yet. It was basically the history of London from the very beginning, and it ended up being a lot of the same types of exhibits and such that I've seen at other museums. I wandered around the whole place, mostly just browsing and not really reading anything too seriously. It was a pretty confusing layout for a museum, and I just wasn't too interested in anything I saw, but I'm glad I went and saw it! Checked that off my London bucket list. I had read that the museum had a good gift shop and I was hoping to find something interesting for people I still needed gifts for, but I found nothing exciting and decided to head home. My knee was really bugging me still (the rain didn't help at all...), and I just was done for the day.

I came back to the flat, made soup and a salad, and watched Love Actually. I love that Madison House has tons of British movies- it's so fun to watch them and see tons of familiar places in them! Plus, Love Actually was one of the best movies ever, so it was a great thing all around! I was pretty lazy for the rest of the afternoon, until the evening when I met up with Tina. We took the tube to Leicester Square to head to the half price ticket box office and pick up our tickets for Rock of Ages for that night!

We ended up getting dinner at an Italian chain nearby, and I had a really good pizza. The timing worked out perfectly all evening- we weren't ever rushed and everything went smoothly which was awesome. After dinner, we took the tube back to Holborn and walked to the theatre which was only about a ten minute walk or so. We got there right as they opened the doors, and we headed right in to our seats! The theatre was so hilarious and definitely set the stage for the show from the second we walked in. There were bright lights and 80s huge signs everywhere and lots of neon and thongs and bras hanging from the definitely felt like an 80s bar/strip club. Everyone around us was middle-aged women that were WAY too excited to be there...I'm pretty sure we were the youngest people there.

The show was SO good and so much fun! I recognized or knew much more of the music than I was expecting to, and it was just such a fun and energetic show. Definitely different than any other shows I've gone to, so I was really glad we went. I bought the CD after, so I'll be jamming to some classic 80s tunes for a while, and I'm pretty stoked about it.

It was such a fun night overall, and so good to just be on our own without all of the group around! Much needed. Oh, and my lights were all fixed when I got home- yay!

I woke up around 9 or so and despite the rain, decided to head out and finally go to Portobello Rd. Market in Notting Hill! I've been dying to go for a few weeks and decided to just do it. I took the tube there (like 7 stops or so, so further away than most things we do), and then walked to Portobello Road. It was very crowded, which I had been told to expect, but I didn't mind at all. It was so fun to wander in and out of all the shops and stalls of antiques and random knick knacks and art/photography and souvenirs and such...I found so many awesome things for myself and other people! The market as a whole is over 2 miles long, but I didn't get to all of it. I had to leave at one point to go find an atm (turned out to be very far away, and of course that's when it started pouring), but I came back and continued until it turned into the food portion of the market. I picked up the best, biggest strawberries and a grapefruit from a farmer's stand, and then knew I needed to leave before I wanted to buy every fruit and veggie in sight! They all looked SO good and I was getting pretty hungry.

I decided to take a bus home, since there was a bus stop right near me when I decided to head home. I waited at the stop for a good 20 minutes or so, looking at all the signs and figuring out what I needed to do, and I thought I was right...but then the bus came and it was headed the wrong direction. So I went down the street to the other side to try to get the bus heading the right direction, waited 10 more minutes, got on the bus, and was on it for about 45 minutes or so until I got off because I had NO idea where I was or where we were going. I have no idea what the heck I keep doing wrong on these stupid buses, but I get lost every time. Luckily, I got off at Paddington tube station, and was able to take a tube two stops back to Notting Hill Gate which is where I had gotten off in the morning, and then switch lines to head 7 stops back home. I'm just never gonna try to figure these buses out. They win! I give up.

When I finally got home (after an hour and a half to go about 20 minutes away), I made lunch and had my fresh fruit, and watched a movie (the Babies documentary from a few years ago that follows four babies in different countries from birth until they're walking...don't judge. It was adorable.)

Kelly and Kristina came down and hung out for a little bit on their way to go out to dinner (I passed, as I had food here and didn't want to spend any more money). When they got back a few hours later, Tina and I watched Pride and Prejudice (with Keira Knightley) and it was SO GOOD. I'm loving these British movies. Stayed up to text Kyle for a while, and then crashed!

Kelly had invited the four of us in the house to have breakfast up in Flat E, so we met up there at 10 and she made scrambled eggs and pancakes and bacon for the meat eaters and had a bunch of fresh fruit, and it was so delicious! It was nice to just hang out with different people than my flatmates and to just chat and relax and eat yummy food- Kelly is the best! I love that she loves to cook and bake for us :)

I was feeling really crappy (thank you, sinus infection from hell) and took it easy all day (I'm starting to sound like a seriously lazy person, but this summer has been really busy and intense, I promise! We've done a lot and it's draining!).

Watched Bridget Jones's Diary for the first time, and read and journaled and caught up on my blog, wrote a paper for Culture By Design, made myself dinner, and now am just killing time being semi-productive waiting for everyone to get home from Paris! Hoping this sickness goes away soon, or this week is going to be realllyyyy not fun.