Friday was a fun day – Liz and I went to the National Gallery and Portrait Gallery, which were both right by Trafalgar Sq. I liked the National Gallery more than I thought I would, and I liked the Portrait Gallery less than I thought I would. The National Gallery’s impressionist rooms were amazing and I could stand in those for a considerable amount of time. I don’t have a detailed or sophisticated eye for visual art by any means, but for my money, Monet was pretty much on top of his game. Just saying. I thought the Portrait Gallery was cool for the earlier centuries, but once you got into the second half of the 20th century I didn’t like the portraits as much. Though the Andy Warhols of Queen Elizabeth II were pretty sweet, I liked those a lot.
After our cultured morning, we walked over to Leicester Sq and got Subway for lunch. I know I said that I was trying not to eat things I could get in the states, but…you can’t always do everything right. Besides, it was really good and I could consider it somewhat healthy? Maybe? Excuses? Anyway, we ate it in that same park where we had gelato and watched the Hancock dancers practice last week. The park was back to normal, except for the fact that they had just put down new mulch and it smelled like a zoo. GROSS.
We came back home and hung out in our apartment for a few hours. Around 5 I headed to Oxford Circus (where my work is) to have drinks with Valerie and Neena (girls from work). We went to a place off of Carnaby Street. It was fun to finally hang out with them outside of work. We were there for a couple of hours then I headed over to South Kensington to meet Liz, Laura, Ellen and Billy at a pub for a bit. Liz and I got home and watched most of Nelson Mandela’s birthday extravaganza on TV. I suppose we could have stopped by the actual festivities (to watch from the outside, obviously) but…well, we just didn’t. Besides, we probably had a better view watching the TV than we would have had being in the area!
And yesterday we had…HARD ROCK CALLING!!! First, the morning of. Okay, so Liz and I had the apartment to ourselves, as Traci and Sharon are on excursions for the weekend and Ellen is at the other flat with her boyfriend. We didn’t have to leave for the festival until 11 or so, so both of us expected to sleep in, enjoy our quiet morning….NO. We were rudely woken up around 8:15 (I was sadly already up, I can’t seem to sleep past 8:30am here. I guess that has its good and bad points…) by incredibly loud steel drum banging like crazy. Outside our window was ANOTHER film crew…doing whatever they were doing? I don’t know. I took a picture. What the hell?? Laura came over shortly after because she also woke up to the dulcet tones of loud banging drums. Since we were up, we walked up to the main drag to get money for the bank, lunch for the afternoon, and COFFEE. So even though it was kind of unfortunate that we didn’t get our lazy sleep filled morning, I think it was pretty good anyway; productive, involved coffee with friends, and a little walking too.
Random tangent: Friday afternoon Liz and I were talking about how we never just roll out of our apartment dressed down – there is always makeup, hair styling, and presentable clothing involved. Not to say that’s a bad thing, but sometimes that whole process gets tiresome. So the morning of Hard Rock Calling when we went to run errands in town, we totally rolled out in our pajamas and hoodies. I took a great amount of pleasure in that.
So…the concert! Let me first say, I just uploaded all the pictures I took…a lot of them are off center, but you can just deal with my lack of composition skills. And there are roughly 100 of them - pages 1-4 on Flickr are all from the concert. Sorry about that. I just got camera-happy. We got there an hour before the gates even opened, so we had a great view! We had some beers, ate our lunches, and just chilled out for a while. The first band up was the Steve Boyce Band – they were some contest winners from some group that tries to get old school bands back together, I think similar to that bands reunited show on VH1 from a while ago. Anyway, they were fun. The highlight was really this woman standing next to us that came there specifically for them, because she knew them in primary school. So cute.
After Steve Boyce came Robert Randolph and the Family Band. They can rock, but unfortunately only played 3 or 4 songs. He was a lot of fun to dance to and a great performer. I would definitely see him again. After RR came my lover Jason Mraz. Honestly, I think I was most excited to see him. He has an incredible live voice. He played a number of songs, a lot of which were from his newest album. But he opened with Remedy which was fantastic, and then he played I’m Yours, which was SO GOOD. There’s a video of it. God bless my camera, that’s all I can say. Between the zoom for pictures, and the video function (and zoom there too) I have really good footage. So after Mraz, all hell broke loose and everyone pretty much squished in towards the stage, for…JOHN MAYER! He started with Waiting on the World to Change, then played I Don’t Trust Myself with Loving You, Gravity, (SO GOOOOOOD) and Vultures. He was obviously really good. I mean, come on.
After John Mayer came Sheryl Crow! I was really impressed with her; I haven’t really thought that she has a great voice in the past, but she sounded great live. I was also happy that she played all her old school stuff – All I Wanna Do, A Change Would Do You Good, Soak Up the Sun, First Cut is the Deepest, If It Makes You Happy, etc. She was great.
Okay, by this time in the day it was PACKED and we had been standing for like 8 hours, and we just reached our limit. We left the crowds and got some food (my first fish and chips since being here!) and sat farther back for Clapton. I regret it a little bit, but I still think it was a good decision because we could just chill out and listen, and we still had really good sound from where we were. I got some videos of him playing Layla and You Look Wonderful Tonight. So after Clapton finished we knew good stuff was ahead so we booked it back towards the stage to make it closer in time for Clapton, John Mayer, Sheryl Crow and Robert Randolph to jam out on stage. Definitely great way to end the concert and the day!
I have deep, intense red coloring all over my arms and shoulders, and it kind of feels awful. But it’s totally worth it.
*I am currently in love with Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream. My hands get really dry here and BBLBCC really helps. Plus it smells like heaven. Warning: you may want to eat it, that’s how good it smells.
* I loved everything about yesterday. The weather was beautiful, I ate really healthfully, walked a lot including a lunchtime trek up to Regent’s Park (which I’ll probably do again today), got a lot done at work, and had a silly-fun evening at home with the girls involving dancing and belting songs from the 80s and 90s...and maybe some video recording. It was a happy, fun, productive, sunny day.
*Sunday was also a fun day. More great weather, and Billy, Laura, Gareth, Jenna, Ellen, Traci and I ventured out to Camden Market. It’s a crazy mix of punk, hippy, goth, antique, girly, 80s, cool vintage and more. Plus the food was amaaaaaaaazing. I haven’t put it on flickr yet, but they had this donut cart…it was incredible. I took a picture. They were huge and we all got different ones. We also had lunch there, and we got everything from Mexican to Indian to Chinese…and that doesn’t include the Moroccan, Indonesian, Italian, Thai, Japanese, and many many others that were offered as well. Ugh, I shouldn’t be writing this so close to lunchtime. Anyway, Camden Market gets an A. I definitely want to go back before I leave.
*Work is still good. For every 10 Downing Street moment, there’s an equally trivial, intern-ish moment. They are currently trusting me to write two analysis-type documents that require research, critical thinking, and just generally a lot of brainpower. Also, I have to put stamps on 800 envelopes (200 down, 600 to go). I appreciate that balance and find it kind of amusing...I think mostly because the idea of 800 envelopes just seems so absurd to me – like it’s some crazy exaggeration I dreamed up and there are really only 15 envelopes, but no…I really have to stamp 800 envelopes…with the old-school, non-sticker stamps. I don’t know why I find it hilarious. Though to be honest, doing the trivial stuff is a nice way to switch your brain off but still be productive.
*The Minister of the Department of Children, Schools and Families is named Ed Balls. I laugh every time.
*I’m trying to stay focused on my time in London, but I’m already finding my mind wandering to September! I cannot wait to see the college crew and the Scouffi and fam. I’ve been saying this for the past year, I think, but now we’re only two and a half months out! I bet August is going to go by so slowly. Though August will be fun too – it includes a trip to Ocean City NJ, and the start of my last semester at school!
The welcome area was downstairs on the main floor, but the reception was upstairs. To get upstairs, we used THE grand staircase. I walked up and down it a few times, no big deal. Just using some stairs in 10 Downing Street. Sorry, I’m still a bit excited over this.
So 5 out of 8 on the virtual tour! Not bad!
Also, I got the names mixed up with the Chapman person I thought I was talking about – it was really Chiwetel Ejiofor. The guy that marries Kiera Knightly in Love Actually. And Richard Branson’s sister was there, she was really lovely. Okay, enough about Wednesday.
Thursday at work was spent figuring out the above information, sorting out some more administrative stuff about the reception, and then researching a bill that was on the floor in Scottish Parliament on Wednesday. I had to call them up and I could barely understand what they were saying, but the accent was sweeeet. I also had a realllly good pesto-chicken salad sandwich for lunch from the little café right next door to our office. Deeeelish. Thursday night we went out to a bar in Islington called King’s Head. They had this crazy bluegrass-ish kind of band playing, it was pretty fun.
Then on Friday we were off to Brighton! We ended up missing our 11am bus, but managed to catch the noon bus, so it was all good. We didn’t have any accommodations going into it (my first ever non-planned trip), so we walked around a bit, and found a really great place – the Urban House. It was a block from the beach and as you can see on Flickr, we had a pretty sweet room. We walked down to the beach, had some lunch at a café along the boardwalk, walked around town for a long time, and then ended up back at the room for the rest of the night. We watched a variety of things, including a GREAT Euro Cup game between Croatia and Turkey. Such a great game. We actually had a really really good time just goofing around in the room, definitely created a lot of “you had to be there” moments. :-)
Today we had our complimentary breakfast at our hotel (between us we had musli, croissants, yogurt, cereal, fruit, toast, tea and coffee...it was perfect), then walked around The Lanes (shopping district) and then went to Chockywockydoodah, which was a little place that sold cake and chocolate. And that’s it. None of us could finish our cake because it was so incredibly rich. I might have diabetes now. But oh was it good. And then we saw Mr. Weasley from Harry Potter.
Brighton was a lot of fun! It’s apparently a big destination for bachelor/bachelorette parties…today we saw a guy in a tutu and pink tights walking around, it was pretty hilarious. The weather was okay...it was overcast the whole time, but it was somewhat warm today so sitting on the beach was fun. We took some cool pictures on Laura’s camera, so one day I’ll have those to show as well.
Tonight will involve…..prrrrobably nothing. I actually don’t feel great. The bus ride home was rough – I don’t really get motion sickness of any kind, but the stopping and starting in London traffic can make anyone sick, I swear. Plus, the cake from this afternoon was so good but I’ve been eating really healthfully since I’ve been here. My body was like “WTF IS THIS SHIT!!?!?!!” when I gave it an insane amount of chocolate and sugar. It wasn’t so much used to that. My point is that I am taking it easy tonight and just relaxing.
Finally, congratulations Ben and Jess!!!! You two are an absolutely beautiful couple and I love you both dearly. I am SO excited for you!
Okay, and now we'll deal with last night. We went to a place called The Texas Embassy for dinner; a seemingly American place to fulfill some feelings of homesickness and lack of decent Mexican food. I wasn’t particularly feeling either of those things, but I didn’t want to miss out on any group bonding time. The food was a bit overpriced and just alright, but the BEST part was that they served ranch dressing. You cannot get that here, anywhere.
So after dinner we walked to Leicester Square to get some gelato – as we were doing this, we walked by this little park thing where the premiere for Hancock is going on tonight. There were a ton of dancers practicing and performing and stuff, so we stayed and watched while eating our gelato. (I had pistachio which was pretty good, but this place definitely warrants additional visits to try the toffee, cheesecake, chocolate hazelnut, coffee, mint chocolate chip…I could go on.) Anyway we found out that the premiere shenanigans started at 7 tonight, and I think a few of my roommates were going to go. I totally would have gone to catch a glimpse of the Fresh Prince myself if it were not for the fact that I…
was at 10 Downing Street tonight!! Yes, THAT 10 Downing Street. Okay, you guys. YOU GUYS. I had a ONCE IN A LIFETIME NIGHT. I was super intimidated when we first got inside the gate, there were guards with HUGE scary looking guns, just standing there. I was afraid to sneeze. I mean, that kind of security is obviously expected, but I was a little nervous at that point. And then we just walked up to the door, with a big number 10 on it! It looks exactly the same as the one from the Churchill Museum, really.
Okay, the rest will be in bullet point-ish form. Let me just run down the things that I experienced:
*Walked around in some of the rooms, went into one of the big dining rooms where Bush and PM Gordon Brown had dinner, and went into the meeting room that Bush and GB chatted in when he was here the other day.
*At the end of the night, got to go and stand in the Cabinet Room while Helen Mirren and Gordon Brown were just talking away. Yes, I typed that right. I was in THE Cabinet Room in 10 Downing Street listening to Helen Mirren and Gordon Brown have a conversation.
*TALKED TO HELEN MIRREN. She was unbelievably nice, gracious, beautiful and FIERCE. At the end of the night, she was heading out and we were in charge of getting all the name badges back, so I asked for hers (which was placed in the middle of her suit jacked in front of her cleavage because she’s fucking awesome) and then chatted with her about her having a nice time, the speeches, etc, I gave her one of our packets and wished her well, and then she turned around and smiled at me when she was leaving. I LOVE HER. I LOVE HER SO MUCH.
*TALKED TO SIR IAN MCKELLAN. I was busy bringing other people in, and standing by the table and all of a sudden I turned to my right and he was literally standing shoulder to shoulder with me. He said his name to me like I didn’t know who he was, and so I gave his namebadge to him and said “Enjoy the reception!” and he said thanks or something like that. Then at the end of the night I got his name badge from him, did the same rig-a-ma-roll about the “how did you like it” yada yada, and then we exchanged pleasantries, and he was off as well. He was nice too, but not like overly warm or anything (like my bff Helen was).
*I talked to Joanna Lundley from AbFab. She came down early and talked to us about how there were tons of good looking chaps up there – she was really nice and really funny. I didn’t recognize her at first until the other interns told me after she left and then I was like “Ohhh, what’s up Comedy Central?!”
*Eileen Atkins was also there, I chatted with her for a few minutes about the reception. I haven’t actually seen anything she’s in, and I feel bad.
*I briefly exchanged words with Imelda Staunton, who played Professor Umbridge in the most recent Harry Potter. She is SO TINY. Like, really really tiny. She can’t be more than like 5’1. She was pleasant. I didn’t really talk to her that much at all though. I didn’t want to geek out too much in front of her. She looks really different in person.
*Jude Law was also there, but I didn’t talk to him. Just happened to be standing within like 7 feet of him. I must say, he is much better looking in person. I previously didn’t buy into all his hype (but don’t think I wasn’t excited when I saw his name on the guest list) but when I saw him, I was like…WELL HELLO. But I didn’t say anything, I was too scared. I was in close proximity to GB a few times, but didn’t talk to him. I was also too scared. He looks much better in person, and he just seems like a regular dude. At one point, he just walked across the room we were in talking on a cell phone. No big deal. I’m pretty sure my eyes bugged out at that point.
There were a ton of other people that gave me their names like I should already know them, so there may have been other English actors but I wouldn’t know them from a hole in the ground. There was one other guy whose last name was Chapman or something like that…and he looks SO familiar but I can’t figure out what he’s been in. I'm going to have to check the guest list tomorrow and do a little IMDB-ing. But I didn’t really talk to him anyway. He was one of those people that looked at me like I should know who he is. The one person that had accepted the invite but didn’t come and I was REALLY sad about it, was Alan Rickman. DUDE. PROFESSOR SNAPE. But he didn’t end up coming.
My other favorite part, honestly, was the staff. They were a lot of fun and not rigid at all. This one maid snuck us down food from the reception (we were allowed to go up and mingle, which we did, but at the beginning and end of the night she snuck us food) – she brought us asparagus with some kind of mayo dipping sauce, these smoked salmon caviar things, prawns in some kind of cream sauce (served with silver spoons. literally.), and a few different kinds of sushi, Everything was so delicate and perfect and deliberately placed, and nothing was bigger than the circumference of a quarter. I have never had caviar before, how hilarious is it that I experience it for the first time in effing 10 Downing Street!?!?! Wow. WOW WOW WOW. I’m still in freak out mode, as I just got home maybe an hour ago. Anyway, the staff was so nice, one of the event staff brought me wine, and another one (a really cute guy, actually) was talking to me and keeping me company when I was standing in the front area. Somebody’s kids (toddlers, barely could talk) were running around in their pajamas and the staff were around dancing with them and singing with them. It was so great. Everyone was so friendly and warm.
So yeah, that was my night. My evening inside 10 Downing Street.
*Sunday was a lazy day…Ellen and I went grocery shopping. That’s the only time we ventured out for the day. Our apartment seems to be the central one that people wander in and out of, which I like. So we have friends coming and going, seeing what plans are. I had the opportunity to go do the London Eye and/or a market over in Camden, but I just laid low for the day. I know I said I didn’t want to spend a day like that, but after two weeks of go-go-go, I really didn’t feel up to it. It was kind of nice to just hang around…we watched silly movies on TV, and listened to a little John Mayer (still gearing up for the 28th!!!)
*The work I did last week was put in the Friday Briefing! I was worried about the content, it being too long/not good enough, etc…but very little of it was changed – mostly just my American spelling! :-) So I’m feeling good about that. Today I’m just looking around for more news-worthy things, or “consultations” for NCA to comment on. As far as I can tell, I’m still on for this Wednesday’s reception at 10 Downing Street. Even though I’ll just be there to hand out name badges and info packets, I can’t believe I’ll be inside those doors! WOW! It still feels too good to be true!
*Here are things I miss:
Parker (I saw a beagle a few days ago and I think I lost my mind for a second).
Not having the feeling of “Am I doing this wrong?!” all the time.
My friends! (I love our group here, they’re great, but there are no friends like home)
I think that’s really about it. I set a few rules for myself while I’m here, that I will try my best to not buy anything or eat anywhere that is available in the states. Not to say that people come to London for the food, but there are so many new things here that are worth trying. That’s what I’ve been doing and I think it makes it more fun and it prevents me from getting homesick for anything. Plus, I’d been suffering from a bit of cabin fever for the past 3 weeks before I left, so I’m still on that “I’m out of the house!!” high. Who knows how I’ll feel a few weeks from now. My guess is I’ll feel the same way….I love it here. Plus it’s the little things I’m noticing how I’m more comfortable here now…when I’m walking home, I’m getting impatient with the slow walkers (like I would in DC/on the metro), or in the grocery stores I’m starting to figure out what I really like to buy (certain crackers, a particular type of yogurt, those naan things, etc). Silly little details but that’s what makes it fun.
*Sometimes I wish I had more perspective on this whole thing. Maybe it was just because yesterday was such a lazy, comfortable day…but I feel like I’m starting to lose the feeling of being here. Does that make sense? Like I don’t think about the fact that I’m here, IN LONDON much anymore. It’s just the place that I’m in with the people that I know now and where I work, and just the things that I do. I don’t want to take a minute of this place for granted, or feel like this isn’t a wonderfully amazing experience, which I know it is. But how do you experience things on a "big picture" level and an "in the moment" level at the same time!? Or is it just too early in the morning and I haven’t had enough coffee?
This weekend was fantastic!! Friday morning around 9am Laura, Liz and I went to the Wicked box office to try and get daytickets (on the day of the Friday night show, the box office opens up the front 24 seats for only 25 pounds) – which we did! We were the first people in line, so it was no problem getting our front row center seats! After we secured the tickets we came back to the a-p-t, had lunch and then headed back out to the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum. They were really really cool. As you can see from the tons of pictures I took. After a few hours there, we came home and relaxed for a bit, had dinner (Sainsbury’s sells mini garlic and coriander naan, and these little packages of baby corn and asparagus...so don’t even think I didn’t have the best stir fry and bread EVER. ‘Cause I did) and then got ready for Wicked!!
It was SO GOOD. I have read the book (and now must go home and read it again) but hadn’t seen the show. To borrow from the lovely Meghan Housley: A.Ma.Zing. For serious. I think I might have been on the verge of tears during 90% of the show. Does that make me a little bit geeky!? Yes. Do I care about this? Not so much. After the show we went across the street to a pub called The Shakespeare. We got drinks and then these English guys tried to pick us up, and it was a little weird but I suppose a little fun. Consequently, this was the night that our aliases were born…Hi, I’m Christy West, nice to meet you. Ha. So ridiculous. Though CDubbs is my second draft, I was Beth that night…KK, that’s a shout out to you and that time we went to Clyde’s and those weird guys came up to us and you were Beth (I was Veronica, I believe?) and I told them I couldn’t dance because I had one leg significantly shorter than the other.
Aaaaanywho. So Saturday morning we got up and went on a BUNAC trip to Bath and Stonehenge! We went to Stonehenge first, for about an hour. It was a beautiful day for it! As soon as Laura Turner gets her pics on the world wide webs, I’ll have some seriously absurd jumping pictures for you, haha. We were THOSE people. Love it. There were also a lot of This is Spinal Tap references. :-)
Next came Bath, which absolutely deserves a return trip. Jenna, Billy, Justin and I grouped together and walked around, got some lunch from that Boston Tea Party place you see in my pictures. I took a picture, geekily, of the falafel wrap I got, because it was SOOO GOOD. That’s the best one I’ve had next to Amsterdam Falafel in Adams Morgan. So after lunch we went into Bath Abbey, then up to see the architecture at the Circus and Royal Crescent, then to the Jane Austen museum. We didn’t do the Roman Baths this time, but we’re planning on going back. We only had 3 hours there, and there is just too much to do to fit all into that time. It’s such a nice place.
After a two and a half hour bus ride, we were finally back in London. We stopped by our flats for a second, then went out to a pub down the street called the Eagle. It’s kind of dive-y in a hipster-y kind of way, but not full of itself. Is that the world’s most obnoxious description? Probably. But it was so much fun. They had a little cabinet set up with tons of old board games, so there were some rousing games of Connect Four and Sorry happening from our table! We stayed for a couple of hours and got home around 11. We definitely made the most of our day!
So I don’t have any clue as to what is in store today…probably just a museum or something. Again, we have to mentally prepare ourselves for another week of work!
In other news, our whole apartment is abuzz because we allll just bought tickets to go to the Hard Rock Calling festival in Hyde Park on June 28th…Eric Clapton, John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, Jason Mraz, Robert Randolph and more! We are SO excited…can’t even handle it.
Tonight we’re just hanging out listening to music (the aforementioned artists…we’re gearing up!!) because tomorrow morning we’re going to try and get discounted tickets to see Wicked tomorrow night…tickets are limited so wish me/us luck!!!
Saturday we’re going to Bath and Stonehenge, and probably going back to O’Neill’s that night. Consequently, Sunday will most likely be spent sleeping.
That is all from the UK, for now!
Today was great in a different way. I will address the only downside first: I was effing hot almost the entire day. I got on the tube just fine, ended up getting to work about 15 minutes early. I met Louise, the director of NCA, and Filiz and Neena, two of the interns. Neena is British and Filiz is Turkish. Both really nice, but I unfortunately didn’t get to spend much time with them. I went with Louise to a conference right away (or, straight away as my colleagues would say) in the Primrose Hill area. Very pretty! The conference was an initial consultation of a ton of different arts organizations around the country to discuss the creation of a national manifesto or agenda for arts/crafts participation. It was really interesting, and kind of funny in a way. The US is not so different from the UK in that when everyone gets together to discuss a particular item…that item is the last thing actually discussed, if at all. It was a typical conference; lots of preaching to the choir and passionately and intensely debating irrelevant issues which don’t directly contribute to actual progress.
For some ungodly reason, I decided to volunteer to be the person in our group to write our ideas on one of those giant notepad easel things – even though this country technically speaks English, I definitely worked on my listening skills. It was kind of a challenge but I’m glad I tried to help out. The conference ended at 4 and we went back to the office. I typed up my notes and started writing a narrative about the event to be put in the weekly Friday newsletter. Louise said it was excellent and right in line with what goes in the newsletter. Yay me! I think my biggest concern was (and still kind of is) that I have such a different background and perspective, that even if I work really hard and produce my best work, it just won’t have the right feel or the right tone - 'cause that can't be taught. But so far, so good! Also, at the conference, they were giving out those little flash drive things. SCORE! So to recap: it’s hot as hell but after my first day of work I already have a free flash drive and more to add to my body of arts administrative writing.
Good news bears.
I was a supertourist on Friday and Saturday. Friday we spent all day on a hop-on/hop-off bus tour of London – the pics are already on flickr. We walked around St. Paul’s, across the Millennium Bridge, by the Globe, and right in front of the London Eye. (Haven’t done the London Eye yet, but it’s on our lists.) Bus Tour was fun – we got to see evvvverything. Traci and I ended up staying on the bus for a little bit longer after a few of our friends left, so in total, we were doing this bus tour for a little over 6 hours. SIX. After we had gone around the whole tour about 1.4 times (seriously), we got off at Buckingham Palace, walked the mall road along St. James Park to Trafalgar Square, and took the tube home. Needless to say we were incredibly tired and didn’t do anything that night. Besides, Thursday kind of made up for it. Also, my camera battery unfortunately ran out of juice about ¾ of the way through so I don’t have any pics of Buckingham Palace or Trafalgar Square…but I’m sure we’ll be stopping by those places again!
Saturday morning we took a Boat Tour down the Thames to Greenwich. So great. It was nice to get out of the main city area London, though it’s not like I’m sick of the “city life” or anything. It was just cool to experience a different area. And stand on the Meridian line!! I was standing in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres at the same time, so…there. The official marking is at the Royal Observatory, which stands atop a hill in Greenwich Park. It was so beautiful! We then walked around Astronomy and Maritime Museums, and had lunch in a French café in the city, and walked through a local marketplace. So nice! It was such a great area, I would not be opposed to going back.
Next, we took the boat back to the Tower of London and did all the stuff there. That was one of the things I actually remember doing from the last visit, and it was equally good this time. Seeing the Crown Jewels is definitely worth the price of admission. That’s what she said.
Last night we stayed in, watching the Turkey v. Portugal Euro Cup game and just kinda hanging out. A relaxing night in after another day of walking! I can’t believe we’ve been here for 5 days now! It still feels like we got here yesterday.
Towards the end of yesterday, I developed some cold-like symptoms. I refuse to call it a cold because I will not be stopped. I think I might just not be used to the air here yet. At least that’s what I’m going to tell myself. Everyone is going off in smaller groups today, so my plan is to take it easy and run some errands and maybe hang out in a park or something. I’ve got to wind down and mentally prepare myself to start work tomorrow.
I’m excited about starting work, but nervous. Since being here, you kind of realize that you take your “comfort” at home for granted. Knowing the customs, the slang terms, how to do simple, everyday things, etc. That is all stuff that you learn from birth that you don’t really realize you have knowledge of. Does that make sense? It’s just, it’s an odd feeling to have to figure out how to do these mundane, simple things all over again – even when you’re in a big, English speaking city. It’s fun and exciting, but it can be kind of draining too. Maybe it’s the cold medicine talking, I don’t know. But I think that these kinds of feelings might be exacerbated by the fact that starting tomorrow, I will be surrounded with another aspect of British culture, dealing with it largely on my own (by that I mean, I’m not working with any other Americans). It’s just a little fear I’m experiencing now, but I am 100% confident that it will subside after the first couple of days. This trip is all about getting out there and experiencing it all and pushing fears to the side, yeah? Haha, it sounds like I’m taking a trip to some crazy outlandishly foreign place…maybe I should just get over myself, you think?
Okay, Boots and Carphone Warehouse open in a few minutes so I’m off to get my day going. Cheers! (HA I’m ridiculous! I can only type that…definitely not saying anything British yet)
I should have taken more pictures. There were street artists, musicians, adorable and amazing-smelling cafes, and a ton of stores. We walked down the Strand and got some coffee from Café Nero, ducked into Topshop for a bit and I got a wrap to eat later from what might be my new favorite place to get food. (side note: there is one near my office and it might be a problem for me to not go there everyday. End side note) Still in search of phones, we took the tube over to Oxford Circus (my second visit of the day!) and pretttttty much dominated Oxford Street, and every Carphone Warehouse and 3 Store in sight. We went into a few stores, and found ourselves at Selfridges. Has anyone ever heard of this place?! It’s like Tysons II on CRACK. There are like 87 floors of Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, etc etc etc. We saw an Armani cell phone. Seriously. WTF. As a girl who lives for Target, I obviously didn’t buy anything but it was kinda fun to look around.
From Selfridges we navigated the tube back to Angel, and went directly to Arc, the bar that is right up the street from our place. On Thursday they do 2-for-1 cocktails so…I don’t think it warrants any additional explanation. We stayed there for a while and then headed over to Piccadilly Circus, and went to a bar called O’Neill’s. We got drinks and some finger food and sat at a table in front of a floor-to-ceiling window that overlooked Chinatown. Hi, London. What’s up. I love you. About half of our group departed and 5 of us went to the 3rd floor, which plays live music after 11pm. I had such a blast. We had a few drinks and jammed out to an incredibly fun live band. We took the Night Bus home and finally arrived back safely at our flat around 2am.
If you’re keeping score, I was out from 10am to 2am. Walking. All day. Dancing. I’m just a bit sore today. But I’m not complaining. I was taking advantage of everything that was thrown my way and didn’t stop for a second – which is the goal of being here, really. Especially this week, when we don’t have to work yet. Once we start the ol’ 9-to-5s, things will naturally slow down.
I have no idea what the plan for today is, but I’m cool with it. Check the flickr for more photos of my London shenanigans. :-)
PS: Wednesday was busy too but not as much. We went to two orientations, ate at our first pub of the trip, and later went out for a drink in an Islington pub up the street from our place. Also, the restaurants here are AMAZING and I want to eat at all of them. The end.
[It’s about 3:15pm here…we’re all lounging around, napping, clicking away on laptops, whining about how tired/loopy we are – waiting around until 6pm when we’re going grocery shopping. I thought I’d take some time to get my first thoughts down]
This first part I wrote as I was waiting for my flight out of Dulles….
If you’re curious, the checked-bag weight limit for United is 50 lbs. Frank Benson told me it was 70 lbs – he is not what the youngsters call “with it”. As I’m checking in, the attendant says “well, your bag is over the limit” (No surprise there. No matter what limit they give me, I’m sure to exceed it – I’m American, I need EVERYTHING I OWN because it’s ESSENTIAL to my LIFE) and then follows that up with “aaaand I need you to take 2 lbs out”. The scale said 72 pounds!! Seventy-effing-two!? Did Frank slip in Parker when I wasn’t looking?!
…actually, that would have been awesome. I miss him already.
I took out a few shirts and a pair of shoes that brought it down to a healthy 70 – then I paid my $50 Heavy Bag fee and was on my way. Had I left those 2 pounds worth of crap in the bag, I would be out $350 bucks right now. Like 5 minutes into my trip. Yikes.
If we’re keeping track: in my efforts to become more cultured, so far I’m sticking to my superficial-materialistic-consumer roots like nobody’s business…not exactly the way I wanted to start out. At least it was still on US soil so maybe it doesn’t technically count?! Maybe?! Honestly, I’m a little bit scared about the return trip now…
Side note: who wants to bet I brought more with me than Rosa did for her traveling adventure?! I would not be surprised…so sad.
So for now I’m sitting in the waiting area in front of my gate, with my slightly heavier carry-on bag, about 40 minutes away from boarding dee plane. Then my real adventure begins as I have to navigate a bajillion pounds of ESSENTIAL PERSONAL ITEMS through the streets of London to our designated meeting point.
Our story continues as I am getting on the hotel shuttle bus at Heathrow. The guy took my bag and grimaced as he attempted to heave it into the back of the bus. He says “You know, most people come to London to BUY things! You came to sell?!?!” and then followed that with “we’re not a third world country yet!” With his subtle commentary of my packing skills, I then resolve to either throw away half my belongings, or seriously consider shipping some stuff home.
The running commentary in my head as I was taking the hotel shuttle bus into the city was as follows: “HOLY SHIT LONDON, good god I’m tired, I need coffee, HOLY SHIT LONDON, the store ‘Bathrooms etc’: what is the etc?, I am SO tired and the United coffee tasted like ass, Aww look at the London people crossing the street looking all cool with their Londonness, HOLY SHIT LONDON”.
Something like that.
Bye! More later, maybe pictures!
Happy Birthday Kelley!!!!!!!!!
update: the first few pics!
Uhm, I would tell you what I’ve been up to since May 19th, buuuuut you all know that I’ve been spending a lot of time with my boyfriend West Wing. Well, I guess you could say we’re on a bit of a break. I finished with him last Monday, the day before my birthday, how do you like that?! Anyway, I’ve spent the past few days not knowing what to do with myself since he’s been – okay, I think the relationship nonsense has gone on long enough, don’t you!? I think it passed sad a long while ago. Oh well. We’re just gonna move right along now.
So! LONDON! TOMORROW! For first time in my history of packing I am ready over 20 minutes in advance. Crazytown USA. I’ve got everything in there except the stuff I need to get ready tomorrow. I’m leaving the house around 7pm but I’m probably going to spend the day running around frantically with last minute shenanigans.
Okay, that’s enough from me – this was completely pointless. Dan, even though I posted, I’m sorry it sucks so hard. (that’s what she said AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH)