24 September, 2009

Sorry it's been so long since my last update! I've been extremely busy, but am having so so much fun! I've walked around numerous areas of London, including St. James's Park, which is a gorgeous park near Buckingham Palace. The park has a lake in the middle and was absolutely adorable but, unfortunately I didn't bring my camera with me. I will definitely need to go back sometime soon and take some pictures of the park.

Last thursday, my friend Kevin and I went to see Neko Case play at the Barbican Centre. I was afraid I wouldn't like her music very much because she sometimes sounds very country, but I really enjoyed it and I now love her music! After the show, we walked around London and explored. We crossed the Thames on the Millennium walking bridge. It was so wonderful to see the city at night, with everything all lit up. Somehow, St Paul's Cathedral is even more beautiful at night. We also got hot chocolate at McDonalds, which is always a big enough adventure by itself, but it was after midnight and all the Brits were drunk and had food all over their faces. Afterwards, we braved the night bus for the first time, and found it to be a surprisingly easy mode of public transportation.

As promised, I've returned to the Troubadour twice since my last post. I've learned that they have the most delicious (and cheap) peppermint tea, which will be really wonderful once it starts raining and I am in need of something warm and cozy. I also got a white russian at the Troubadour, which was surprisingly yummy. It tasted very similar to an ice cream sunday. Although I liked it, my philosophy is... why not just buy an ice cream sunday instead?? And since we're on the subject of alcohol... I also tried white and rose wine which were surprisingly good. My parents usually only drink red wine, so thats the only kind I've ever tried before. I don't like red wine at all (sorry Mom and Dad) but the other kinds aren't too bad. But as I said before, I would much rather get ice cream or coffee, which I've been drinking almost every day since I started college. There are tons of adorable cafes around town with great coffee and amazing pastries. I have already filled my loyalty card at Caffe Nero (shocking, huh...) and am excited to get a free caramelatte soon!

Saturday is the perfect day for exploring one of the numerous markets around London, so last weekend I went to Portobello Road market. I had a delicious smoothie and a wonderful donut (I'm sure you're all shocked again...). The market is great for antiques and several vendors were selling vintage cameras, which was very tempting, but I was able to resist. However, the big project for my sociology course is on Portobello Road, so I'm sure I will be returning often and can't promise that I won't end up with another adorable 1920s art deco brownie camera :) On saturday night, I went to northwest London to see a band play, called the Whispertown 2000. They were absolutely amazing and I had a ton of fun! The venue was small but cozy and reminded me a bit of Lestat's. It's nice that I can still go see bands I like even though I'm not at at home.

I went to church at Reality London on sunday. Afterwards, I went out to a pub with the pastor, his wife, and a few of the church members. It was really nice to be able to get to know them better. All the people I have met there have been incredibly warm and friendly toward me. Most of them have moved here from the states to pursue ministry and it was really encouraging to hear some of the things they have been involved with in London.

School has been pretty easy. I've had one "paper" due so far, but it was only 500 words and was a review of an art gallery, so I'm not sure if it even counts. I went to the Queen's Gallery and to the British Museum with my art history class. The museums and galleries here are so amazing and I'm lucky to be able to visit them on class time :) Besides that, I've been doing a lot of reading. I get the feeling that my classes here are going to be a breeze compared to Fox. If any of you see Lisa or Melanie, tell them how much I miss their classes!!!

Besides that, I've just been walking around and exploring different parts of London. The weather has been really nice lately, which has been perfect for wandering around. I've spent a fair amount of time in Hyde Park, which is wonderful and relaxing. Last night, we attempted to watch the Wizard of Oz, which was being shown for free in an outside amphitheatre near the Thames. It was really crowded and started to rain, so we left early. It made me miss Fox's "movie on the lawn." How was it? And what movie did they play?

Regrettably, I barely took any pictures this week. But I am leaving for Paris tomorrow morning, bright and early, and will be there all weekend, so I promise I will take tons of photos! I hope you all are doing well, whether in Oregon, California, or anywhere else. Send me an email... or letter :) I would love to know how you're doing!


15 September, 2009

Ok I'm warning you... this might be a long post... I had a really fun weekend and have been keeping pretty busy! On friday, I went to the Photographer's Gallery, which is London's photography museum. It made me miss MoPA, but it was still really awesome! There were two exhibits. One was primarily men's fashion, and the other was a collection of black and white photos, all of people reading. The exhibitions change in the beginning of October, so I will definitely be going back soon to check it out!

After that, I went out with some of the girls on my floor to a pub that is just down the street, called The Builder's Arms, where I had my very first pint of beer. It was a strawberry beer called Fruli. It tasted pretty good, but I didn't like the aftertaste at all. Everyone has been very patronizing when it comes to drinking. It always seems like a huge deal to everyone that I don't drink very often, and I usually get comments like, "Oh you're not drinking? Aw it's ok, honey... Don't let anyone pressure you..." as if I'm a middle schooler who is being faced with peer pressure for the first time. But I'm sure I will get used to it and everyone else will get used to my choice not to drink much. I knew that drinking would be part of the culture here, wether that be because I'm in London or because I'm attending a secular college, but I guess I underestimated how often people would go out for drinks. However, I have been having fun going out and socializing with people, and if they give me a hard time for ordering a hot chocolate at a pub, I guess I will just have to get used to it, because lets face it... who doesn't love hot chocolate??

On Saturday, a group of students from our program took a day trip to Brighton, which is on the south coast of England. Brighton is a beach town where the English go on holiday. One of the main attractions, besides the beach, is the Royal Pavilion, which was built by Henry IV in 1803. We took a tour of the beautiful building and saw all of the luxurious furniture and garish ornamentation, which was definitely over the top, but still very beautiful.

The Brighton Pavillion

After our tour, we went down to the beach for lunch and I tried the classic English meal, fish and chips. It wasn't very fishy and didn't taste nearly as bad as I expected it to, but it was extremely greasy and we all felt sick later in the day.

Our fish and chips

We then explored the Brighton Pier, which has little gift shops and places to buy food. At the end of the pier, there are a bunch of carnival rides. The weather was perfect and the sea looked gorgeous!

The beautiful pier

I needed rescuing from the lifeguard...

Zeny, Brittany, Ryan, Alexis, and I on the pier

We then went down on the beach and put our feet in the water. It was a little chilly, but felt nice. Brighton's beach was unusual because it had pebbles instead of sand. It hurt to walk around, so we all decided to lay down and take a nap instead. It was wonderfully relaxing but, after about an hour of napping, we decided to walk around the city. We happened to be there during the International Culinary fair, so the streets were crowded with booths and vendors selling all kinds of food. We walked around the market, went in to a couple shops, and of course stopped to sip a cup of coffee on the patio of a little cafe. I absolutely loved Brighton and think I could maybe see myself living there! It reminded me a bit of Santa Barbara and even a little bit of San Diego. It seemed like there is always something going on, but it doesn't have all the industrial hustle and bustle that a big city like London has.

At the Market

On sunday morning, I was able to go to a church called Reality London. In case you don't know, my brother is a youth group leader at Reality Carpinteria and came here a couple weeks ago to help with the first service of Reality London, which is a brand new church here in London. Everyone was really welcoming and I felt very comfortable there, which was a huge blessing. That following night, I went with some friends to the Thames Festival. There was a parade and tons of booths along the riverside. The festival was concluded with fireworks, which were amazing! It was really fun and felt like a typical european festival that I have heard about from several people.

The London Eye, all lit up for the Thames Festival

I've been spending a lot of time trying to make travel plans for this semester. Yesterday, my friend Kevin and I finally booked everything for a trip we will be taking in mid-october to Slovakia, Austria, and the Czech Republic. So I'm really really excited about that!! Today I'm going to try to finish most of my homework for this week and next week... so we'll see how that turns out... Anyways, you all get to read about my life but I have no idea what you're up to! I miss everyone and would love to hear from you!!


11 September, 2009

I have successfully made it through the first week of classes! All of my classes seem like they will be pretty interesting. I am used to learning about things from a Christian perspective, so it will be a new experience to take classes from a secular university. I think Comparative World Religions will be particularly interesting, seeing as our professor is a self-proclaimed "hippy" who, in our last class, was drinking a can of beer while teaching about the history of Christianity. This week in my History of London class, we took a walking tour of "The Square Mile" or "The City of London," which is the official financial district of London and the third biggest financial district in the world. We saw ruins that dated back to the first and second centuries, including the ancient city wall, the site of a Roman amphitheatre, and several buildings that were rebuilt after London's Great Fire of 1666. In my art class, Museums and Galleries of London, we went to two modern art galleries in East London. I liked some of the paintings and sketches, but some of the art was a little too "modern" for my tastes. One of the "works of art" at the second gallery, called the Brown Gallery, was a pile of pennies on the floor, which was meant to signify the constant change in value between the US dollar and the GB pound. It was interesting, to say the least, but wasn't exactly my cup of tea...

"The Drawing Wall" at The White Cube
(I got yelled at for taking this photo... woops...)

Earlier this week, Brittany and I discovered a coffee house and music venue that is within walking distance of our dorm. It's called the Troubadour and was established in 1954. It was popular in the British Folk Revival of the 50s and 60s and has hosted several famous musicians, including Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, and more recently, Paulo Nutini :) They have live music almost every night, so I'm sure I will be returning there often.

Brittany at the Troubadour

Last night, Brittany and I went to the National Portrait Gallery, which is home to thousands of portraits of famous British people. Afterward, we spent some time in Trafalgar Square where we met a crazy man named John Loughrey. He told us that he is the most famous Princess Diana fan in the entire world, and then proceeded to show us newspaper articles and photographs of himself with "Diana" painted on his forehead and "Dodi" on his cheeks. He also showed me a letter he received from Prince Harry. He was quite confident that everyone knows who he is and promised us that one day, his picture will be in the National Portrait Gallery or in Kensington Palace. He also assured us that there will be a movie made about him. He wants to get Tom Hanks to play his part, but asked if we had any better suggestions. After listening to him ramble for quite some time and promising to look him up online, we finally were able to tear ourselves away from him and catch the tube back to Kensington. Today, I typed his name into Google and, sure enough, there he was! He certainly is crazy, but it was fun talking to him and is something I will never forget! And who knows... maybe in a few years, we will see a movie about the world's most famous Princess Diana fan!

Trafalgar Square at night

The "famous" John Loughrey
John on the fourth plinth (skip to about 4:30)

08 September, 2009

London has been wonderful so far. I've walked around a lot of different areas, including Notting Hill and Kensington Gardens, which is a beautiful park only a couple blocks away. I also went to Piccadilly Circus, which is London's equivalent to Time's Square in NYC. Its probably really fun at night, but isn't too great during the day, unless you like being crowded by tourists and want to spend a ton of money in expensive shops. Brittany and I also headed to Harrods, a famous and gigantic high-end department store. We almost hyperventilated looking at all the designer clothes and millions of dollars worth of shoes. I doubt I'll ever be able to afford something from there, but it is still amazing to walk around and look at everything.

On friday night, the school hosted a "Welcome to London" boat party... or what most would call a booze cruise. It started off really well because we were able to see the famous sights along the banks of the Thames. But after about twenty minutes, there was nothing interesting to look at. Most of the students bought drinks and joined the dance party upstairs, but a some of us sat downstairs at tables and talked. It was pretty fun and good for getting to know people, but it felt like the boat was barely moving. The entire trip took three hours and by the end, everyone was eager to get off the boat.

The view from the boat

I also had the pleasure of going up in the London Eye, which is reminiscent of a ferris wheel and provides the best view of London. The London Eye moves very slowly and takes a half hour for one full rotation. The view was absolutely stunning and a really fun way to see the city.

The view from the London Eye

Yesterday was the first day of classes at Richmond. This semester, I'm taking:
Mass Communication and Society
History of London
Museums and Galleries of London
Comparative World Religions
Sociology of Culture and Subculture
I'm really excited to start taking classes, especially History of London and Museums and Galleries of London, because these two classes include field trips every week to different places around London! I've already had homework and I expect to have a lot of reading, but London has tons of parks and adorable cafes that I can do it in.

Last night, I ran into Arthur Moreau on the street. For those of you who don't know Arthur, we were in second grade together and went to Miramar Ranch Elementary, Marshall Middle School, and Scripps Ranch High School together. It turns out Arthur is studying abroad here this semester too and just happens to be living a few blocks away from me! It truly is a small world...

On tuesdays, I have a six hour break between my two classes. So today, I ventured to the Victoria and Albert museum, which is only a few blocks away. The museum is HUGE and free, which is always wonderful :) It would take me days to look through the entire museum but, even though I was only there for about an hour, I managed to look at their fashion exhibit and to stroll through some of their hallways filled with sculptures. I also looked through their photography gallery (the first thing I look for in any art museum). I learned that in 1858, the Victoria and Albert museum became the first museum in the world to hold a photography exhibit. As you can imagine, I was delighted and will most likely return to spend some more time in their current photography exhibit.

One of the many sculptures

V&A Photography Exhibition

And of course, I had to take a classic photo with one of London's red 1920s telephone booths! As for now, I'm off to class...


03 September, 2009

I am finally here!! I got to London on tuesday afternoon after about twelve hours of travelling, and was absolutely exhausted. I've been getting all settled in to my room and doing orientation stuff. I live in a dorm on a floor of all girls, even though most of the halls are co-ed. My roommate is a girl named Brittany, who is a junior from Colorado. She is really nice, and I think we will get along pretty well. The area I live in is called Kensington. Its a really ritzy part of town, and the flats around our dorm cost about five million pounds!! So it is absolutely amazing that I have the chance to live here!

We have also been travelling around the city a little bit. As part of orientation, all of the study abroad students (there's about 100 of us!) went on a bus tour around the city, which was a really nice overview of everything. I've already been on a big adventure around the city, as my brother Kevin hid a note for me and left me with the clue:
Gazing down on ben the secret is held in the lion's jaws.
So Brittany and I headed to Trafalgar Square and climbed up to a huge statue of a lion, to peer inside his mouth. There was a place where the metal was cut out and you could reach your hand into the entire body of the lion. But sadly, the note was nowhere to be found. Some curious tourist must have found it and taken it. But nonetheless, the adventure was fun, and definitely out of the ordinary.
Inside the Lion's jaws...

Me and the Lion

Tonight was also an amazing night! A group of about 40 of us went and saw the musical Wicked in the West End, which is London's version of broadway. The play was absolutely wonderful! The actors' voices were amazing and the entire musical was great. It was fun to hear them preforming an American musical with British accents. I really hope I'll be able to go to more shows in the West End. I'm really eager to travel around the city some more and can hopefully do that tomorrow!