Sunday, January 31, 2010

Portobello Market! (3rd weekend)

Saturday (1/23)
Ali, Cameron, and I went to Portobello Market in Notting Hill - I LOVED it. It was massive and crowded though, very colorful and more intense than I expected! It must be a madhouse in the summer. We were determined to see it all though, and poor Cameron stuck with us until the end of it. Seriously, we were there for most of the day (nearly all the daylight hours haha). The market is shown in one of my favorite movies – Notting Hill – and I was definitely on the lookout for Hugh Grant (no luck, there or anywhere in London). Portobello Market was fabulous… bursting with little shops and stalls, antiques, clothing, trinkets, jewelry, souvenirs, live music, and food. Ohh so much food! Tantalizing.
I bought (limited myself to!): a cheap watch, an antique-y clock necklace (haha in case I lose my watch again), hot chocolate (one of the best of my life), olive ciabatta bread (Ali and I shared a huge loaf), and one of the best treats in recent memory - a glorious giant hot crepe with Nutella and fresh strawberries! I made quite a mess on my face with it; some guy at a stall advised me to find a tissue for my face. :) Definitely returning to Portobello Market soon.
Somehow Saturday night Ali and I ended up at the neighborhood Tesco (yet again) and somehow I bought 2 big packages of digestives (they had dark chocolate!) as well as a few candy bars. I want to make sure I try them all! In January. Haha.

Sunday (1/24)
My group finally made it to our assigned ward (although we got lost..). I’m still in Whitechapel ward, but not in actual Whitechapel. It takes nearly an hour to get to church (in Northeast London). We’re actually out of the tube zone boundaries, so I’ll have to pay £2.60 to get to church every week! Which is a bummer because I’m doing my best to stay on a pretty tight budget. But I like my ward a lot, it’s so friendly! There’s about 50-60 people in the ward, and a lot of them are Nigerian. There are very interesting people who are extremely welcoming to us! They seem to really love BYU students. The little kids are adorable! Haha and there’s a girl in the ward who went on BYU study abroad a few years ago and met her husband in her London ward, then married him and moved to London permanently. We met the Bishop (very young!) and we’ll get callings next week. Oh boy. I’ve heard some horror stories about British primary kids… some can be very rowdy and violent. I spent the rest of Sunday reading Oliver Twist and eating Nutella (obviously) and attempting to make a spending budget for myself. We’ll see how that goes.
Award for Prettiest Sunset of the Week goes to South Kensington!

Kensington, Westminster, Les Miserables!

Thursday (1/21)
After class we meandered through Kensington Gardens and the Princess Diana Memorial Walk, and we saw Kensington Palace (the outside), Queen Victoria statue, Prince Albert Memorial, and some of Hyde Park. The swans by the lake are very friendly, they waddled right up to us until I ran away (before they attacked)! Next time I’ll bring bread. It was super chilly outside but still beautiful. I can’t wait until spring… the parks will be even prettier when everything blooms.

Thursday night a group of us went to West End and saw Les Miserables (my favorite play!) and it was great because a woman outside had two extra tickets so she sold Ali and I tickets on the lower level (great view) for £10! (instead of paying £30-60). We both sat alone but it was fine and worth the great price haha. I love the music so much! It’s permanently stuck in my head.

Afterwards Ali and I wandered through the theatre district and had lots of fun people-watching. We accidently took a transvestite’s “corner” (he/she glared at us and moved across the street), and then two French guys asked us out for a drink (which we politely declined). They seemed surprised we couldn’t speak French, until our “accents” gave us away as Americans. :)

Friday (1/22)
Another class field trip – Westminster Abbey! Right next to Pariament and Big Ben. It is amazing, even in pouring rain. Inside was massive and fascinating... it was like a fancy graveyard for famous people. It’s filled with tombs, memorials, statues, stained glass windows, a medieval mosaic floor, a huge gold altar, and the famous Coronation Chair – used at every royal coronation since 1308. I couldn’t sneak any pictures inside though. :( We also walked through Whitehall street – the government district – and ended at Trafalgar Square, where we spent time at the National Gallery again.

Afterwards we walked down Oxford Street (land of overwhelming shopping opportunity!) and did our best to merely window shop. London has the best shopping I’ve ever seen! I love it (but it’s bittersweet… I want everything!) and of course we did end up at Primark. It’s a huge cheap store where everything is cute and inexpensive (much better than Forever 21). I bought red tennis shoes there for £2 (~$3.20). Love that place, except it’s always crowded – like Black Friday crowded. And I lost my watch there :( but I bought a cute black dress. Later a group of us went to Gelato Mio, and ran into 12 girls from our program there! Partyyy :)We love our gelato. Haha we also went to a cheesy souvenir shop and I bought boxers with the union flag on them (haha you’ll love them mom).
PS i stole the last two pictures on this post ;)

Day Trip #1

Wednesday (1/20)
My first day trip! Today was exhausting but so fabulous. We traveled by coach and saw Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Bath. I loved all three places, and I may consider moving to Bath when I grow up. We were at Stonehenge in the morning and it was snowing! Beautiful but deadly cold. I was expecting something kind of small but it was bigger than I expected. Very cool. I wanted to try to climb the rocks but they wouldn’t let us get closer.
Next stop was Salisbury Cathedral – an amazing old gothic cathedral with a very tall spire. Sadly they were doing construction on a lot of it (outside and inside) because it’s the tourist off-season and because the Olympics are coming to London in 2 years! Lots of England is preparing by prettying itself up. So lots of construction. Anyway, inside the cathedral was very dark; lots of stained glass and no sunlight to shine through it! There were lots of adorable schoolchildren touring, they’re so cute! The cathedral had medieval altars and tombs and was beautiful… except for the big creepy ‘death’ angels hanging. I love how it’s still standing strong after hundreds and hundreds of years.
Last but not least (and my favorite!) was the city of Bath. The whole city is old and gorgeous. The famous ancient Roman baths (hot springs) are in the center. They’ve been a sacred place for over 2,000 years (first discovered by the Celtics before the Romans invaded). There were ruins of the Roman temple around it, and a museum next to the baths. The actual water in the baths is nasty-looking, green, steaming, and bubbling. The water’s rather toxic, so people aren’t supposed to touch it. Afterwards we got glasses of “purified” hot mineral water from the baths. It’s supposed to be “healing water” but tasted like death. Specifically like hot metal, fish, and rocks. Not so tasty. The baths were amazing though! Especially all the ancient architecture and artifacts around it.
We almost fell in..
The water was foul.
Bath Abbey (cathedral) was really pretty, as well as (Jane Austen’s) Assembly Rooms, but I loved exploring the city itself, just wandering and going camera-crazy! All the buildings, streets, houses (we found Nicholas Cage’s house), and the Royal Crescent were stunning and gorgeous. I took 101 pictures in Bath alone! Here some are my favourites…

Week TWO

Monday (1/18)
Today - school, we wandered Notting Hill, lunch at McDonalds (which is much better here! Creative deli sandwiches, tikka chicken snack wraps, and Cadbury chocolate and toffee crisp candy mcflurries! yum). Spent most of the afternoon doing homework. They assign so much reading here! Too much, and I already dropped out of the hardest class! :) I’d rather be out exploring London town. Later a bunch of us saw the movie Nine at the Coronet Theatre (student discount Mondays!). Pretty good.
PS here is my favorite tube stop! And one of the ones I use to get home :) life is good.

Tuesday (1/19)
Today - school then field trip to the British Museum. There were tube jams so I finally got to ride the red double-decker bus! The museum seemed like a giant knickknack shack (random collections) - a fantastic one though. I got to see parts of the Parthenon (the frieze – Elgin marbles), which apparently the Greeks want back but Britain won’t give it to them. The Museum was huge and we had to come back for dinner so we’ll definitely go back to explore later.
Here’s Ali, Cameron and I making attractive faces in front of the museum.
to be continued...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Exploring London Town! (the first week)

Tuesday (1/12)
First day of classes! It took some rearranging but my official schedule is ClCv 241Mythology, Eng 300 British Literature, ClCv 201 – Classical Tradition (Greek and Roman Classicism), RelC 350 Religious Studies in a World Setting (aka British Church History – you’d love it dad), and IAS 201 Cultural Survey – UK Culture & Community (aka “London Walks”). Pretty good schedule. I love it because everything we learn about relates to being here in London, and our weekly field trips correspond to what we’re learning about in our classes. All the classes are in the morning (so earrrlllyy) but we’re always done by about noon or 1:20. Then off to explore! Here's where I live... 27 Palace Court!

So I know I’m a slowpoke with blogging (getting internet access is a challenge. And I’m busy exploring London!) but I do remember what I did the last 2 weeks because I write dutifully in my journal every night. :)

Tuesday after classes a group of us went to Harrod’s (ginormous department store) – very cool. There were so many levels, some of them decorated with Egyptian sculptures and on the balconies stood fancy mannequins looking over the escalators. We felt a little out of place but it was still fun to explore all the rooms with clothes etc that are ridiculously expensive! I found the memorial to Princess Diana – very cool. The basement held cheap Harrod’s brand stuff (awesome purses!) but THE BEST was the food courts with all the ethnic foods and, last but not least, a huge room filled with chocolate. Paradise. I bought a chocolate fudge-mousse-raspberry creation that looked like art (too pretty to eat but I ate it anyway).
We went home (kitchen duty all week - yuck), and some of us went out after dinner. We tried to see a horror-play (Woman in Black) but got there 2 minutes too late so we got gelato instead (nutella flavored!) then went to the river Thames. I finally got to see Big Ben, Parliament, and the London Eye! So pretty at night. It was completely bone-chillingly freezing though! I love riding the tube. I’ve got it down now. It’s funny because whenever we travel in big groups (mostly girls – there’s like 35 girls and 4 boys in my program haha) we’re always loud and goofing off and we got lots of stares and eye-rolls. The British are too quiet on the tube! Haha they always know we’re Americans because we’re the loudest and we smile too much. :)
Wednesday – bit of shopping and wandering the streets

Thursday (1/14)
Ali and I explored Notting Hill (pretty much our neighborhood! Technically we live in Westminster) and I bought Oliver Twist at a cheap bookstore for my class… we ended up at Tesco’s (as usual) and I bought chocolate – Digestives! (as usual). After dinner a group of us went to find a pub called Elgins (in Notting Hill). After over an hour of wandering the tube and various neighborhoods (and getting directions like 4 times from British people who now think Americans really are stupid) we found it! There was live music and a really cute guy singing/playing guitar. Lots of gorgeous British eye candy at the pub (yes dad there are more than a couple cute British boys!). Haha on that note… on the tube there was an awkward transvestite guy (?) all dolled up and rolling a joint. London is fun haha.

Friday (1/15)
Today was long and tiring but fun. Our class took a field trip to the Tower of London! It was wicked cool. I saw Tower Bridge and then we went behind the walls to the Tower, which is more like a big square with a church, towers (museums), courtyards, and disgustingly massive ravens! They all have clipped wings (and are obese) because legend says if all the ravens leave the Tower, England will fall.

I got to see the Crown Jewels (very sparkly haha) and the prisoner rooms with their engravings carved in the walls. Sad. I also saw the ancient royal Armory, giant cannons, and a cool museum for Henry VIII.

Afterwards we crossed the Thames and explored Borough Market. It is huge! It has everything (food-related) from French cuisine to Ostrich meat burgers to all ethnic foods to fresh fruits and vegetables and meats (hanging quails) and bakeries and desserts and everything else. It was amazing. Among other things I got a French chocolate soufflé (from real gorgeous French men) and literally almost died of joy.
Friday night a big group of us went to Leicester Square (lots of theatre) to see Chicago! Very fun although our seats were in the nosebleeds and it was boiling hot!

Saturday (1/16)
An adventurous day. Ali and I went to the National Gallery (mythology homework - art scavenger hunt) at Trafalgar Square.

So we were planning on going home and being productive (we’ve neglected homework…) but on the way home we stopped at Covent Gardens (a big outdoor shopping area). We found Lush, a cool organic soap/body store, and met Kevin (our salesman) who’s British but lived in southern California for awhile. He was friendly and cool and after he got off work we met him for dinner at a bar near Soho. Then we walked around London for awhile, and he showed us some of his favorite places in the city (our own local tour guide haha). We even got down to the riverside, which was fun. I love London at night!

Sunday (1/17)
Today was supposed to be my first Sunday in the Whitechapel ward (I’ve been assigned to it with Dr. Howe and three other girls) but after wandering the area for a long time we were told that the church had moved from the school it used to be held at. By the time we got home (hours later! And never finding the church) it was nearly noon so we went to the Hyde Park singles ward instead. Afterwards I spent the afternoon managing intense Nutella cravings. I’ve discovered that Nutella tastes delicious on: bread, fruit, Digestive cookies, candy bars, a spoon, my finger, with peanut butter, on muffins, crepes, as an ice cream flavor, in hot chocolate, etc. I’m only beginning to discover the possibilities! Haha it was too hard to fit much homework in the weekend. The first 10 days in London = fabulous!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Arrival in LONDON! (the first few days...)

I’m officially in London! It has been a very busy-crazy-amazing-fun NEW experience. I flew to London January 7th and 8th (long flight.. no sleep) and spent Friday the 8th unpacking, completely jet-lagged. Actually I have very little memory of that day. I moved into the Centre and had so much fun lugging my suitcases up 6 flights (~67 steps) to my room in Dorm 4 (so glad I packed light). I share a room with 12 girls! I’m on a top bunk, Ali’s on the bottom bunk bed. I accidently drop things on her head pretty frequently… :) I got assigned to the first week of kitchen duty so I spent many hours of my first week doing dishes, setting the tables, working the Hobart machine, cutting up oranges, etc. Jolly good fun. Actually I despise kitchen duty. Internet access is pretty awful here. I have bad luck so it’s often a challenge to find internet somewhere. That’s one reason I took a week to start this blog!

My memory of Saturday is much clearer. Ali and I got to know the Tube very well! The Underground is my friend. Especially the robot woman who says “Mind the gap!” and “Next lift.” I’m learning a British accent by mimicking her. We went out exploring - parts of Notting Hill (practically my neighborhood! I’m on the lookout for Hugh Grant and other British hotties), King’s cross and Platform 9¾ (HARRY POTTER historical site!), Picadilly Circus, Chinatown, Leicester Square, Soho… at one point we got a little lost (aka an adventure!) and ended up at the River Thames, which is rather gray and apparently struggles to sustain life sometimes. I love it though! Especially at night. It also snowed a bit. Later on a group of us went out to buy various chocolates at the local Tesco’s (mini-supermarket).
    **I absolutely love chocolate, and Britain, and British chocolate. And there is a lot of British chocolate here… I am in paradise. I am also a Nutella addict now. In the last week there's only been one day that I did not have Nutella on something (we were out of Nutella at the Centre – mini catastrophe!). Sunday we went to Hyde Park ward (where I caught up with the Ashtons!). We walked through snowy Kensington Garden to get there… so pretty! London is absolutely GORGEOUS. Even in the dead of winter. I love all the old buildings and cobblestone streets and red telephone booths and double buses and British accents and formal dress and tube stations and everything! I could go on forever. I love living in London!!

Monday was our last day before classes started, and we all went on a field trip to St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Museum of London. The Cathedral was spectacular… I’ve never seen anything so It was huge and beautiful. If I was an architecture or art history major I could use the proper terms. Neo-classical? Not sure. It’s huge and you can see the domed roof from much of central London. There were lots of statues, memorials, and stained glass inside, and crypts in the basement. There was an amazing memorial for the Americans who lost their lives during World War II. We climbed the steps to the Whispering Gallery at the top… so cool! Thank you to Cameron for teaching me how to act French (by slapping Ali with a leather glove and saying “ne touchez pas!”). It was such a pretty view! I love that cathedral. I’ve never seen anything like it! So much beautiful history. I love Europe. :) The Museum of London wasn’t as cool as i expected… maybe because the parts about the last 500 centuries or so was under construction. It was mostly artifacts. I think I’d like art better.

Afterwards a group of us went to a pub, and Ali and I shared a plate of the traditional fish and chips. And mushy peas. :) My first authentic British cuisine experience! It was actually pretty good (but I don’t love fish). Some of us went exploring Monday afternoon, and we found the Millennium Bridge (HARRY POTTER historical site #2! It’s destroyed in the movie) and it’s built to look modern I guess but it’s kind of dull. Ooh and across the Thames we saw Shakespeare’s Globe theatre! And then we wandered awhile. It’s fun getting lost in London. And as long as you can find a Tube station you’re not actually lost (from someone who usually has no sense of direction!). Haha I’ve been memorizing my map of London and of the Underground system.

Monday night a group of us went to see the movie Sherlock Holmes in Notting Hill (Student discount Mondays!). We stopped at Tesco’s beforehand to buy a bunch of chocolate. My goal has been to try every main kind of British candy/chocolate while I’m here. I may accomplish this goal in only a couple weeks… gross I know. :) The theatre was amazing! It was an old theatre, with three levels and red curtains and everything. It was great seeing the movie because it takes place in London! And because I love Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. Funny note: we got confused during the movie because we kept hearing someone repeatedly shouting “Woof!” randomly… then he stopped slurring his words and we realized that he was repeating “F*** off!” Slightly awkward. We think he had Tourette’s syndrome. He kept moving to the back of the theatre and muffling himself. Poor guy. But it was the coolest theatre ever! London is spoiled by all the awesome things here! If I haven’t mentioned this before… I LOVE LONDON. :)

xox allyson