Sunday, February 28, 2010

Victoria & Albert & Twelfth Night

Monday 2/22
Spent the day in class, writing a paper, and I saw The Lovely Bones. It was sad and disturbing but really good! I had the chills for a long time :) A few of the girls with us cried. I liked the scenes with the in-between world, very cool.
Tuesday 2/23
My dad’s birthday! I miss him. He makes me laugh. Today we had classes and my kitchen duty week 2 started. Ugh. It takes up a lot of free time in the afternoons/evenings. Our classic civ. class went to the Victoria & Albert museum. Cameron, Ali and I had some laughs there. Too many naked statues. Oh and I got my first proposal, so that was exciting. Someday, Cam, someday. I got to create my wedding ring in the museum jewelry room. It’s very flashy.
Wednesday 2/24
Didn’t feel well today…so I drugged myself and Ali and I went to Westfield, which is like a ginormous mall, and I got a hazelnut kitkat milkshake. We went to Leicester Square to see the set-up for the Alice in Wonderland premiere, which we'll miss because we'll be on the Wales trip. Ali is very sad about that. She wants Johhny Depp. After dinner our program went to see Twelfth Night (my 1st Shakespeare play) which i wouldn't have understood very well if I hadn't seen She's The Man. :)
Wales tomorrow!!

Here's a random picture someone here took (that i stole) haha

Middle Temple, Mosque, Portobello

Thursday 2/18
Field trip – we all went to Middle Temple Hall, a famous old English bar of law something or other. It was built in the 1500s and survived the bombing blitz of WWII. We had a funny tour guide who talked a bit too much (we only stayed in the Grand Hall area), and then I ate the fanciest lunch of my life. We got to eat at the High Table, which is pretty famous. Queen Elizabeth (of the 1500s) had a huge tree floated down the Thames and built as the huge High Table, as Temple Hall was being built. It's never left the building (too big to remove). Over the last 500 years many famous people, royal people, celebrities, etc have dined at the High Table. It felt pretty cool.
Lunch was pretty good but rather fancy for my taste buds. The waiters wore white gloves and put napkins on our laps for us and there was too much silverware for me to figure out what went with what. And because I like blogging about food I’ll go into further detail. Delicious bread – I think a sundried tomato roll. The first course was weird – a tart with mushrooms, leeks, tomatoes, and hollandaise. I (and a few other people) mostly just ate the tart. :) The main course was delicious – pork, green peppercorn sauce, and (get this!) bubble and squeak. That’s what the menu said, no further description. Bubble and squeak appeared to be mashed potatoes and a green mystery vegetable (cabbage?). Dessert was great – apple and sultana crumble with lemon sorbet (random). We had fruit tea last. It was a lovely meal. And expensive (paid for in our program). Here's the Middle Temple Chapel next door..
We went to Charles Dickens' house after... kind of interesting.
Afterwards Ali and I went to Primark where i bought a red cardigan that i love. I can picture a grandpa wearing it haha. it is cute though. Dinner was on us so we had centre leftovers, Tesco pasta (for the 30th time), and chocolate. I miss digestives! Haven't bought any in awhile..

Friday 2/19
Field trip again (after class) we went to a Mosque - the Islamic London Centre - for our Culture/Community class. It was interesting, I'd never been in a mosque before. We had a young guide named Omar who told us about Islam and his culture here. We watched the men say prayer (we sat awkwardly in the back) and heard the scripture chanting, then we were shown around the mosque library.
     For dinner about 8 of us went to Khan's (Indian food), then to Whiteley's where I couldn't resist (haven't yet) a bag of chocolate-covered nuts. The BEST are cinnamon-dusted chocolate covered almonds and hazelnuts. yum. Stopped at H&M and continued on to Frog's frozen yogurt which i don't really like here and i ended up buying a chocolate bar to mix in because it tasted sugar-deprived.

Saturday 2/20
Today we went to Portobello Road Market! I love that place. So many cool things, and so much good food. The market gets more and more crowded as it gets warmer (very slowly) and as it gets closer to summer/tourist season. I miss warm sunlight. Mmm well the first thing i got was an apple tart (yum), then a strawberry-chocolate crepe (YUM!), then the amazing hot chocolate (yum, cheap!), and i finally found a coat for spring! Aka something not black. I have 3 dark coats (2 black) so I wear black pretty much every day. Sometimes it gets a little depressing. My new one is beige! Pretty cheap too. But it's still too cold to wear it. Haha afterwards I finally exchanged the last of my American dollars for pounds. I kept finding dollars in my closet but now I'm pretty sure it's all gone.
    Tonight nearly half the centre went out to Zizzi's (Italian) for dinner to celebrate Sarah's 20th birthday! Lots of fun. Sarah makes me laugh. We have a thing for giving each other awkward hugs. I seem to have a talent for that, which I share with lots of lucky people. Brooke tried giving me hugging lessons a couple years ago but I guess my bad hugs are back haha. (It's because I miss you and your hugs mom).
Back at the Centre we had cake and then I attempted homework, writing a church talk, preparing for my (first) lesson in Young Womens, and watching Ever After. That didn't work so well. Went to bed too late (..again..)

Sunday 2/21
Haha today I slept in til 7:55, and we usually leave for church right after 8. Nice. I get to church, with a little 2ish minute talk prepared, and when i walk in a counselor pulls me aside to tell me that today's theme is prophets and he hopes I will speak 5-10 minutes. So in my effort to ramble and stretch my talk out a bit, I gave what I am sure was the worst, least-coherent, unorganized church talk of my life. What a way to introduce myself to the ward haha. The Young Womens lesson went ok... I taught it with Leslie (BYU student) there with me, and the girls weren't disrespectful or rowdy.

In the early afternoon Ali and I went to Leicester Square/Chinatown and Trafalgaar Square to see the Chinese New Year celebrations. First we stopped at Covent Garden to see the British Orange Awards (like the Oscars?) and saw a mostly empty red carpet, and I was eager to see Chinese New Year so we left. Well, the celebrations were a bit of a bust. Very crowded and not much to see, other then 2 dragons going door-to-door in Chinatown to "eat" something hanging on the door frame. It would be much cooler to see it in China! I did like Chinatown's decorations though.
After dinner we had a great fireside by young President Phillips. I am so tired and I still miss digestives. I try to make up for it with extra nutella though.
London's chinese new year


Wednesday 2/17
Day Trip #5 - Blenheim Palace and Oxford!
Today was amazing. First we visited Blenheim Palace, the grand home of many Dukes throughout the centuries and the birthplace of Winston Churchill. The palace was like a museum; of paintings, historical tapestries, royal furniture, and busts of famous heads. The palace was decorated beautifully, and the gardens outside were amazing and huge. Again, I wish it was Spring already! I've seen so many English gardens that are pretty, but i know will be fabulous once everything blooms. 

Next we drove to Oxford, which was fantastic. It’s a very old "college town" established in 1294. We were dropped off and given the afternoon to explore before taking a group tour of Christ Church College. A group of us went to Covered Market to the famous milkshake stand Moo Moo’s. There were over 200 hundred flavors so it was difficult to choose one… but I got a Toblerone candy milkshake. Delicious.
We explored Oxford and i loved it all. We saw amazing old buildings and a massive bookshop that had quite a lot of books (it is Oxford..). I felt like a college town... but sophisticated, pretty, and very old.
After exploring (and finding an Oxford sweatshirt sale!) we met up with the rest of the class to tour Christ Church, a very old (almost 500 years old) college and cathedral. We saw an old library and toured the college grounds, which were gorgeous of course. Oxford University students are spoiled and lucky. There was pretty old architecture, big green private gardens, and very nice “student dorms” (more like beautiful buildings) and quite a few attractive Oxford man-students strolling about. I felt awkward trying to sneak pictures of them so I didn’t. :)
Lewis Carroll studied at Oxford (here at Christ Church) and it is supposed that the name Alice (..Wonderland) was based off of Alice, the Dean's daughter, and that this door was significant to him...
Here's a picture of our BYU program...
AND NEXT (mom – tell the Baker family!)… we walked through Christ Church, where many scenes from HARRY POTTER have been filmed! Needless to say this excited nearly all 39 students in our program. We saw the balcony where Ron and Hermione see Harry when he leaves the hospital wing (first movie) AND (drum roll please..) the Great Hall! (where the Great Hall scenes are filmed!)! We were all ecstatic.
the balcony...
But from there it only got better. Not only did we step inside the hallowed Great Hall (which is a lot smaller in real life), BUT we got to have tea there! I repeat: I had British tea (lunch - little sandwhiches, sponge cake, and hot chocolate actually) in Hogwart’s Great Hall (PS if it’s not apparent I am a Harry Potter fan). The enchanted celing was missing, as well as other signs of the wizarding world, but i still believe. :)
Ali and I with Dr. Howe (our Brit Literature Professor)
I love Oxford and I love Harry Potter :)  ...we ended the day with a sunset at Christ Church
quite lovely :)

Victoria and Albert Museum

*Ok. I acknowledge that I have been failing miserably on keeping up with this blog! Studying in London is very busy and I like to have fun so that (and school of course) take up free time. Anyway I plan to catch up on this blog BEFORE i leave London. There, it's in writing. :)

Well the couple of days after the Venice trip were a little dull (had to catch up on sleep, homework, avoiding being sick etc). Valentines Day was pretty good. Too many girls here got flowers though... how obnoxious haha. I didn't leave the Centre monday as I spent most of the day studying then taking a religion test (not fun).

Tuesday 2/16
We visited the Victoria and Albert Museum (my first time) and it was great! Much bigger than I expected... very cool and unique. It was full of sculptures, trinkets, artifacts, treasures, jewelry, clothing, etc from all over the world. Remninded me of a giant world garage sale because some of it was random but all of it was great. I loved it. I've decided  I love Queen Victoria; one reason is because (like me) she loved foreign countries and exotic trinkets and treasures. I love all of her collections!

*This picture is random but I saw it in the tube station on the way to the museum and decided it was my motto for the day. :)

Venice! Day 3

Saturday 2/13
Another fabulous day in Venice. I truly love this city. To start our last day off we got delicious chocolate croissants which were messy-gooey-yummy. We kept walking, wearing our Venetian masks of course, and got pizza for lunch (pretty good. But it was cold outside so it got cold too fast) BUT it was another sunny blue-skied day so it’s okay if it’s freezing. Ali and I went to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum next… I loved it! I haven’t seen much modern art before, so it was really cool. Lots of modern art and sculpture and Picasso. Outside – a pretty garden and the other side bordered the Grand Canal. I liked it MUCH better than yesterday’s Galleria Accademia.
After Guggenheim we enjoyed gelato (chocolate & vanilla) and then we trekked to the Piazza San Marco to spend the rest of the day, as we had to be at the coach station in the early evening. The last weekend of Carnival is crazy-packed! I’m glad we enjoyed time there before the mass hordes arrived. The Square was sardine-packed, and lots of the narrow side streets were full of unmoving people.

We enjoyed our last hours at San Marco – people-watching and taking lots of pictures – and then left Carnival mania to wander a little lost for awhile before actually heading in the right direction. I had one more delicious hot chocolate and a nasty cheap pizza in a touristy section near the coach station at Piazzale Roma. Coached it to Treviso airport, where we had hours to kill time. Had my last Italian gelato (for awhile) in the airport, then Ali and I played card games for awhile. Our flight was late (10:40 pm) and enjoyed another “run” to the plane to jostle good seats. :) I read Northanger Abbey (for school) and poor Ali had an awful high-pressure earache/headache the entire flight because she’s so sick. I felt mostly better. Got back to the London Centre around 2 am. So tired but so ecstatic that I got to spend 3 days (ish) in Venice for Carnival!!

Amusing thoughts…
1. We spent about 3 days in Venice, city of canals, and didn’t step on a boat once. :) kind of sad.
2. Here’s my final count: (for being there just 2 and a half days-ish, it seems a little low..)

Gelato – 6 scoops
Hot chocolate – 3 cups
Pizza – 3 slices
Museums – 3
Masks – 2
European Drag Queen Beauty Pageant – 1
Trip to Venice Carnival – priceless :)

(*photograph copyright of Ali El Wardani)    :)

Venice! Day 2

Friday 2/12
Today was amazing. :) We slept in a bit but that was ok because we were exhausted and kind of sick. We enjoyed a nice hostel breakfast (nutella toast and jam toast – simple but I love it) and muesli cereal. Ali and I set off and considered taking the Vaporetti (water bus) down part of the Grand Canal, since Gondolas are crazy-expensive! Haha but we are frugal travelers (and future backpackers!) and a €7 short one-way trip was still too expensive for us. And it’s more fun to get lost in the streets of Venice (and see more!) on foot.
We tried to stay close to the Grand Canal so we could reach Piazza San Marco, but that was a challenge (more like a pretty maze). We got a bit lost and took lots of long-cuts and u-turns (just like if I was driving! ha). We eventually reached stop #1, the Accademia Galleria, an old Venetian art museum. Sadly it was kind of a disappointment… I think the amazing museums of London have spoiled me. And I’m not a fan of medieval Christian art (which filled the entire museum) because it all looks very similar and it bores me. The museum was small, disorganized, and kind of drab and dull. We saw it all in half an hour and then left to meander towards San Marco. I took hundreds of pictures (literally) of everything. I love it all! Streets, canals, bridges, people, people in costumes, houses, churches, beautiful architecture, gondolas, laundry hanging from high windows, even graffiti (it was all about love haha).
We reached the Rialto Bridge and eventually San Marco. I bought my first Venetian mask! It’s black/gold, Ali’s is purple/pink/gold. So exciting! I put it on immediately and felt like I was finally joining Carnival :) I got a super cheap one (€4) because I’d rather spend the money on gelato! Haha. At Piazza San Marco we took pictures of the pigeons and enjoyed the nice weather. It was supposed to be cold and rainy (maybe even snowy) but it’s just cold and sunny, blue skies! Lovely. We went inside St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica di San Marco), which was gorgeous of course. Big and dark inside with plenty of statues, crosses, arches, domes, golden and colorful mosaics and art covering the walls and ceiling. I snuck a few pictures. We didn’t see the Tesoro (treasure) rooms (too much €). So beautiful!
Next Ali and I went next door to Doge’s Palace (aka Palazzo Ducale), which was also amazing! Huge. It’s about 700ish years old, and includes the courtyard and buildings of the Duke’s palace, ballrooms, courts, the center of government, and prisons. Gorgeous and very ornate inside, lots of art. No pictures allowed though. We walked over the famous Bridge of Sighs but it was inside the building and didn’t seem like a bridge (Ali and I sighed over it). After we left, we devoted ourselves to finding food (it was afternoon and we were starving) and soon found delicious crepes (chocolate and strawberries)! We wandered San Marco found more masks (One pair is for you mom!) I got a red/gold one, Ali’s is black with a flower and feather. I'm wearing it tomorrow.. 
Doge's Palace
^ i like this picture ^
We headed to Rialto Bridge and found glorious scrumptious pizza (finally)! I drool thinking about it. It was very cheap for a big slice of a simple pizza – just thick bread, marinara sauce, and basil. Yum. We continued wandering Venice and got gelato, I got “After Eight” mint flavor. :) We returned to San Marco to photograph and people-watch, which are the best things to do in Venice! It was getting late so we stopped at a cute little cafĂ©, where I had my first Italian hot chocolate and my first (real) tiramisu! *side note: today may have been the best ‘food day’ in my life (although it was condensed into like 5ish hours..)! Ok so Italian hot chocolate is not only the BEST hot chocolate in the world, but it’s one of my favorite drinks ever! Technically called ‘Cioccolata densa.’ AKA heaven for a chocoholic. It’s like hot chocolate soup, very thick, rich, and purely chocolate (I think this is how the Mayans originally made chocolate. It's better) I was moaning, literally. Poor Ali haha. I love it! *sigh… The tiramisu was good too but not nearly as delicious.
^ here's another :)
Afterwards we returned to San Marco and waited at the square awhile until (drumroll please…) the start of the European 2010 Drag Queen Beauty Pageant!! It was hilarious and crazy haha. Definitely entertaining but a little creepy at the same time. I definitely saw a different side of Venice tonight. It started with drag queen announcers (all in Italian) and then a parade of the drag queens on stage, all dolled-up and flamboyant of course.
After the parade they performed (usually a song or dance) though it was more about their crazy costumes then watching them lip-synch. My camera died early on so luckily Ali had her nice camera to capture the spectacle :)

As the show ended and we started leaving, we realized that the square had flooded! Which is normal for Venice but still weird. Except for a small pathway, the entire square was surrounded by water. Some drunk people danced and splashed through it (adding to the night’s entertainment). The rest of the crowd squeezed through and we made our way through Venice. Our feet felt like frozen bloody stumps as we walked home so, obviously, I needed another hot chocolate (which definitely helped). Amazing again. Took awhile to walk home so we got back to the hostel around 2 am..
Today was one of the most fun, exciting, delicious-food-filled days of my life :)