Saturday, January 29, 2011

Today Kali and I decided to go on an adventure! It had been a while. Last night we were looking at a book I got before I left called Day Trips from London and we decided to go to Greenwich. Side note: it is pronounced "gren-ich" not "green-witch". We felt super touristy once we found that one out. But we had also gotten an email from the study abroad people that Greenwich had a really good outdoor market, so that cemented our decision. 
We went to the market first and grabbed lunch and I got the scarf I am wearing in the pictures. Then we walked to a tourist information center. They had all these outfits and hats you could dress up in. I guess Greenwich Pier has this famous ship called the Cuttey Sark and the sailors wore these special blue coats. 
Then we went to the Old Royal Naval college next to the information center. My book had said to go and see the chapel and the Painted Hall. The painted hall is called that because all the decorations and moldings are painted on, even the columns and the fireplace. It was amazing and it took a good look before you realized that some stuff was painted. the tables in the middle of the picture are actually mirrors you you could look at the ceiling and not kill your neck. The chapel was super pretty too, it had the most amazing ceiling. 

After that we went to the National Maritime Museum to see the jacket that Nelson wore when he died in the Battle of Nile in 1798. We saw a picture of this when we toured Parliament. The coat was actually pretty gross because he said that they shouldn't ever wash it and there was grease on it still from his ponytail and stuff. Pretty gross. But still historic and cool. Then we went to the Queen's House, which used to be one of the Queen's places of residence during the Tudor era and such but now it is a museum. We didn't stay there for very long.
the park the observatory is in
the view from the top of the hill

Then we went to find the Royal Observatory. It was really cool. Greenwich is where they keep the time for the world, it is at longitude 0. They had a brass strip on the ground so you could stand with one foot in each hemisphere. It was cool. They also had a lot of clocks and telescopes and stuff. And a big clock with the official time and the official measurements for a foot and stuff like that. 
After looking around Kali and I went to get tea at the Pavilion Tea House. It wasn't as cute as we thought it would be, but I had scones for the first time! So all in all the day was a success. And we only got lost once but luckily found our way by accident. We had never used the DLR before, so switching to that from the tube was the only glitch the whole day!

Friday, January 28, 2011

I made chicken! and it was good!

Tonight was a milestone in my culinary experience!
Up until now I have been avoiding cooking meat. I've been eating the pre-cooked stuff. But today I decided to pretend that I was an adult and I went and bought chicken breasts and ground beef.
My friend Kali had told me that the first time she cooked chicken she "brined" it. So I decided to do that, cause I didn't have flour to bread it and basically that's all I conceptually know how to do.
So anyway, brining means you soak it in a sugar/salt mixture (I added ground pepper too). Then I cooked it on the stove top with olive oil and some garlic. (Apparently "too much" garlic because my friend John on the flat was complaining of the smell. He also told me my chicken looked gross while it was soaking. I'll give him that, but there is no such thing as too much garlic as far as I'm concerned).
And it actually tasted delicious! And I cooked it all the way through and didn't get salmonella or anything!
yay for baby steps into being a functioning adult.
Next week I am dealing with the beef. There was a lot more chicken in the pack then I thought there was and it'll take me till then to eat it all.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

this morning was quite the event.
So, I've been keeping strange sleeping hours as of late, and was still semi-sleeping at around 9:45ish this morning.
Yup, gaping hole
Until the fire alarm went off. So, still mostly asleep, I stumbled around, but on my fuzzy boots and my coat and had just enough sense to grab my keys and lock the door before joining some of my flat mates in heading outside.
As we are walking down the stairs, I noticed that it was getting a lot warmer. "Oh my goodness, there must be an actual fire!" Then I noticed it was super steamy. Once I got the the 1st floor (for Americans, the 2nd floor) I noticed that there was a HUGE HOLE in the ceiling that water was pouring out of.
Once we were all outside, my flat all found each other ad explained to Kali, who had been at the gym, why the ceiling was raining.
All of Pooley had been evacuated, but after 45 minutes the Center and West wings were allowed to go back in. So we went to our friends flat in the West wing and hung out for a hour in her kitchen. Then Allison got news that at the Curve (a eating place on campus) they were giving a free lunch to those who couldn't go inside. So we went to the Curve, got a soda and some cookies and a voucher for lunch there.
Then this guy in a yellow vest stands up and says "Everyone follow me, to the restaurant!"
Turns out free lunch was at this place called Pride of Asia.
We got quite a few looks as we were walking over there, quite the rag-tag group of about 60 college kids all in various stages of dress.
my wonderful choice in attire
After lunch, Allison, Kali and I headed back, again getting quite a few looks (mostly me though) for our random clothing.
Ran into Hannah by the gym and explained our situation, she felt bad for us while at this point we all thought it was hilarious.
As we were walking to Lauren's flat (she lives in the Center block) we stopped to ask a lady how long it was before we could be let in. She goes "oh, you can go in now".
Not going to lie, I ran back. I was cold! I was wearing shorts the whole time!
I did take some pictures though of the damage, you can also see the loverly outfit I was wearing the whole time.
The alarm rang at about 9:45ish, we were let back in at about 1:30.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Today Allison, Kali, Hannah and I decided to take a tour of the Houses of Parliament (officially called the Palace of Westminster).
Security for this building is almost like walking through an airport. We had to take off our coats and put them through a scanner. And they took a picture of you when you walked in that you had to wear around you neck as a pass. Unfortunately I don't have my pass as a souvenir because they had us take those off and turn them in when we left, I guess so people can't reproduce or reuse them.

The Hall

The beautiful ceiling
Basically it was amazing. We were only allowed to take pictures in Westminster Hall, which is the only surviving part of the original building (from Medieval times, most had to be rebuilt in the 1800s during Queen Victoria's reign because of a fire and the House of Commons had to be rebuilt once more after WWII because it was bombed). The Hall was used as the meeting place for the start of the tour. It has the largest single span medieval timber roof in Northern Europe, so it is actually a really historic place.
 Monarchs, and sometimes heads of state also lie in state there sometimes. King George the VI and the Queen Mother (aka the people played by Colin Firth and Helana Bonham Carter in the King's Speech which I saw this week and which was brilliant) laid in state there as did Winston Churchill.

The rest of the Houses were absolutely beautiful. The rooms where the queen enters, robes, and the House of Lords were very rich and ornate, in medieval style. The tour guide actually said that when they were rebuilding the buildings in the 1800s they specifically did not want the  "classical" style with the columns and such because that is associated with the American government buildings and France, which they very specifically did not want to be associated with because they are very proud of the monarchy. The House of Commons was much more plain in comparison, which I thought was kind of ironic because the House of Commons is really the more active and important part of the government. 

There are a TON of traditions. The Queen can only be in certain rooms. There is a specific door that the person the Queen sends to fetch the House of Commons knocks on (because they are on the part of the building she cannot enter). There was actually a spot on the door that was worn away because it had been knocked on so much.  We were also very specifically told NOT to sit in the chairs in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
All in all, a very cool experience. We were also able to see Big Ben up close and get some really good pics. And, not gonna lie, it made me feel like a VIP walking inside the gate around the Houses of Parliament and watching all the people on the outside of the fence.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A few days ago the study abroad advisor here emailed all the exchange kids a list of museums that were all really close to each other in case we wanted to take a day and go see them. SO today Allison, Lauren, Kali and I decided to go check some out.
We only ended up making it to 2 museums, but they were so good and we spent so much time at both that we just didn't have time to go anywhere else and were quite museum-ed out by the end of the day.
It started with us taking the tube on the longest tube ride I have taken thus far. Seriously, long time! Then we headed to the Natural History Museum. We started with the dinosaur exhibit (of course!) and then went to mammals and human biology.
Highlights of the dinosaurs... duh, they were DINOSAURS!
The mammal exhibit had a full scale model of a blue whale, and the human biology exhibit was interesting. Also there was a ton of little school kids running around, which might have been annoying except for they were all wearing cute little uniforms and talking in cute little accents, so it was all good.
Natural History Museum
Also the Natural history Museum is one of the most beautiful buildings inside and out that I have ever seen.

so pretty!

Then we went to lunch and then the Science Museum.


inside, still so pretty!

The Science Museum is a cool place folks! They have all these interactive displays, and in a few what you were doing in the screen changed the lights on the entire room so there were pictures on the walls and floor! It was cool. Of course there were some exhibits, in particular a boat exhibit that there was literally NO ONE in this huge room but us. Which was a little weird, but it was still a really cool place. 
After that we were all quite tired, we did a lot of walking, and since we figured most museums would be closing soon anyway we started the long trip back.

this tiny BMW only had 3 wheels!

here is one of the interactive exhibits

This is an exhibit that we ended up spending far too much time doing because there were all these little games. You can see the floor behind it, the games we were playing changed the design that was projected onto the floor! We only figured that out about halfway through, but once we noticed it the game suddenly because WAY cooler! we were way more excited then the 5 year old next to us...

Allison ended up timing the ride back, and the actual tube ride was about half an hour. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Haters can stop hating!

For those of you I have skyped and have said something like "wow I love what you've done with the place" or "I see you've decorated" (so, EVERYONE I have skyped) because my computer happens to face the only wall with nothing on it in my room behold...
I love Chaplin, this is one of my favorite pics of him

look I lived in London! I can prove it, I have a poster!
I bought posters! They are on my wall EXACTLY where the computer is facing. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

more dover and canterbury

well I have gotten some pics from Kali and I forgot to mention a few highlights from today!
When we went shopping in Canterbury, we went to The Winnie the Pooh Store! I wasn't aware that this existed and it made me feel like I was 5 years old (which is not hard but still!). I ended up buying some stickers with my name on them.
We also went to a candy store. Where there were huge jars of candy lining the walls and you picked what you wanted and payed by the 100g.
Hey SHS alumni?
Remember how French club sells those bon-bons? Remember how delicious they are?
They are even more delicious here!
I had a moment of nostalgia and couldn't resist getting some Strawberry bon-bons.

love love love
Also some of you may know how I LOVE Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. The slanted bookstore had the most beautiful hardcover copy of it with really pretty illustrations inside. This bookstore had basically every classic novel and children's book in a similar binding.

my, I've outdone myself this time!

Today Kali and I went on a trip that Queen Mary had organized to Dover Castle and Canterbury.
We met the bus at 8:30 in the morning with a forecast of (thankfully) no rain, but cloudy skies and lots of wind. So most of these pics look pretty dark and foreboding, but I swear it wasn't really that dark outside.
When we got to Dover Castle, we found out that the wind was too strong for the central tower of the castle to be open, since it would be dangerous to be up that high and outside on the battlements with the wind. So our stay there was shortened to one hour instead of two. Kali and I really wanted to see the "secret wartime tunnels" which were used during WWII, so we literally ran to find them so we would still have time to explore.
The tunnels were really cool! Unfortunately there was a no picture policy inside, but we joined a guided tour of the tunnels. There are 4 levels, 2 were built during the Napoleonic wars and 2 were added during WWII. They were used as a medic post where they would patch people up and ship them to the nearest hospital. They were actually in use up to 1984 as a crucial part in the emergency plan for nuclear fallout. The tour guide pointed out that, since the tunnels are dug in chalk, they wouldn't have been much help against fallout and "they would have crisped up nicely".
It blew my mind that they just added on to something that was so old. Walking around there were additions to the castle that were clearly built in the 20th century right next to tunnels and walls built in the 13th and 14th centuries! I was trying to imagine the conversation: "Hey we need an emergency meeting place/hideaway/hospital" "well, you know we do have that big castle on the hill over there that has been around forever... would that work?"
After the tour Kali and I scampered around most of the grounds and castle and then met back with the groups and huddled against the wind for a bit until the bus came back. Then it was off to Canterbury.
When we got there, Kali and our friend Victoria found a little restaurant/cafe for lunch. Then we went to the cathedral and spent at least and hour and a half there. It was beautiful. And when the service started we were still wandering, so you could hear the choir singing and it was some of the most breath-taking music I have ever heard.
There were tons of dead people though, lots of really elaborate tombs. And, if you read the stones you were walking on, half of those were actually grave markers too. There was also a disturbing amount of plaques that read "so-and-so WAS here for about 200/300 years, but then we moved him to the room next door". Which really begs the question of "why the HECK do we keep moving these poor folks around so much?"
But all in all, well worth the 7 pounds it cost to get in. I highly recommend it.
After that, we walked around the shops and stuff and then headed back to London!
A downside of the day was that my camera died halfway through the cathedral, so until I borrow Kali's memory card and get the pics that I missed, here are some highlights.

english countryside


the white cliffs of Dover

a creepy tunnel i did NOT go into

this house was slanted because they used green wood or something, I forget the details. But it was the coolest children's bookstore I have ever seen inside with a cubby hole that was full of patchwork pillows for kids to sit and read. 


king henry IV and his wife

Busy day, but a pretty amazing one.
and so ends the longest blog post yet!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Today Kali and I went to go visit the British Museum.
WOAH DANG that place is huge!
We wandered around for about 2 hours an didn't see even close to half of the stuff in there! And when I say wandered I mean walked strait through some rooms, you could spend all day there and still have more to see especially if you stopped and looked at every display case.
What we did manage to see was pretty cool! Highlights were the Rosetta Stone, and lots of mummies. The cool thing about museums in the UK is that they are all free (except for special limited time exhibits) and you can take pictures in them (either that or they are exceptionally bad at enforcing that rule)
at a place across the street

outside the museum

check out the cool ceiling!

the Rosetta Stone!

 this clock is an example of a clock that clockmakers would make to be considered a "master clockmaker", sort of like a final exam into clock making.
congrats, you passed!
tomorrow my bus leaves for my trip to Canterbury and Dover and 8:15 in the morning... Which will probably be the earliest that I have woken up in a very long time.