Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Walking is Good for Me

Today was beautiful, partly because I didn't have much going on. I finally got mostly caught up on my homework, so after I finished my history class I decided to go to the Wallace Collection (for humanities) by myself. I've decided that I absolutely love going to art galleries by myself, because then I can just do everything at my own pace. Plus, we're all together 24/7 so occasionally being alone is nice. At first I totally went the wrong direction from the tube stop, but that was actually great because the area was a lot of fun to be in. Now I have another street to add to my list of 20 places to go shopping in the near future... After I finished looking at the paintings I decided to be a little adventurous and find my way home by walking. It only took like 45 minutes with a couple distractions and it was fantastic. The tube is great, but sometimes I feel like we miss a lot of London in between tube stops. So the moral of the story is: Walk. It's good for you.

The run-down:
  • Westminster Abbey-- So, last time I wrote I somehow managed to forget that I went to the massive Westminster Abbey. It's even bigger then I imagined. There are seriously so many people buried in there, it would take weeks to read look at everything. I found a Croft buried in there and I decided that we're related, but it was all in Latin so I have no idea what it said. We also got to see cool people other than the obvious kings and queens, like William Wilberforce and William Pitt. Did I mention that it's huge? I do have to admit, I still think the idea of having a church be an expensive tourist spot and a sanctuary at the same time seems a little contradictory. Like, how do the people who are buried under where they put the food cart feel?
  • Bach-- We had to go to a Baroque concert for humanities, so me and a couple other girls went to a Bach concert at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The music was performed great, but I have to admit Baroque isn't exactly the type of music I usually listen to in my free time. As usual we got the cheapest seats, which meant that we couldn't even see the performers, but there was this really captivating window at the end of the cathedral that we decided looked exactly like a vortex from some sci-fi movie. I couldn't stop staring at it. Between the Baroque music and everything in the church looking exactly like it would have in during the baroque period there were a couple times that I was convinced we had all been transported back in time.
  • Homework-- I put off that second paper forever, but in the end I did it. I'm sure you were worried about that.
  • St. Bartholomew's the Great-- This is an amazing old church tucked away in London. It's probably the oldest church in London, and was built in 1123. It definitely looks old, but in a very beautiful way. It's crazy how it's been here so long but it doesn't look like it will ever fall down anytime soon. Even though it was so old it still had the feeling of being very much alive. There were even white flowers around the entrance for a wedding, and people chilling in the courtyard our front.
  • the Banquet Hall-- we went there. It's the last remaining part of Whitehall or something like that. We looked for the Palladian architectural influence (hint: it's very symmetrical and has classical influence. If you care, that is). More interestingly right out front is where Parliament beheaded King Charles numero uno. It might just be me, but it seems like some famous person died at like every historic place in England.
  • Ivanov-- It's a play by Anton Chekov, and it was performed perfectly. Also, Ivanov was played by Kenneth Branagh, who was totally Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter. There were other people too, and it bugged me the whole time trying to figure out who they were.
  • Running-- I've finally gotten down a good schedule for running almost every day. I absolutely love running here because since we live right across the street from Kennsington Gardens and Hyde Park I get to run there everyday and it is the best run route ever. There's a palace, and a lake, and flowers, and fountains, and the Peter Pan statue... It doesn't get any better.
  • County Walk-- Along with the walking theme we got to go on a 6 or 7 mile country hike/walk out in Kent on Saturday. The countryside, like everything else here, was just stunning. One of the local church leaders, President Chiddick, and a couple of his brothers led us on the fabulous walk. We went through fields and churches and castles and whatever else happened to be along the way. It was funny though because it seemed like they were always telling us we were in danger of being hit by something, whether it was cars, or trains, or flying golf balls. Who knew a country walk was so dangerous?
  • Gelato-- I swear we eat gelato like every night. I've been twice in the past three days. And I really want some right now.
  • Hyde Park Walk-- We finally decided to do the official walk for class on Sunday because the weather was just PERFECT. It was fun going on a nice Sunday because there was just so much activity going on, including speaker's corner. It was pretty sweet to go there while people were debating since it played such a huge part in church history. It was also really interesting to just hear what they were talking about, and how they're try to get people in. Mostly they were all talking about politics and religion. There was even an English guy debating McCain vs. Obama. Oh man, you have no idea how much they love Obama here. He's everywhere. But back to the walk. It was fun.
  • Buckingham Palace-- Yesterday was the last day that the state rooms were open, so we figured we should probably get on that. It was huge and ridiculously fancy, like all of the other old buildings here. I seriously do not understand how anyone could ever live in a palace. They had the tables set up like they would be for a banquet. Everything was so perfectly lined up. Monk would definitely have appreciated their work.
  • Notting Hill-- Since we pretty much live in Notting Hill we decided that we should watch the movie Notting Hill. And of course we got some gelato to eat with it.

The Illustrations (for those of you who don't read):

The vortex. This picture doesn't do it justice.

The Banquet Hall. They had banquets there, go figure.

On our walk we ate lunch in the remains of a Norman Castle

The beautiful countryside

We live in the most awesome place ever. They have an open air art show every Sunday.

It's all serious business at Buckingham Palace.

Ok, maybe not.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

We Actually Do Homework

Some of you may be surprised to learn that we actually do study during study abroad programs. If you're looking for an exciting new entry, I'm afraid that all of the school work has finally caught up to us and we suddenly got very boring. Up until now we've only been doing just enough to get by, but then all of a sudden this week snuck up on us and we had four WHOLE days of class and two papers due! Quite tragic, I know. Actually it's kind of funny because we complained a ton about having four days of class in a row. I would have killed for a four day week back in Provo.
I guess I should tell you a little bit about classes. I haven't really talked about it before because it's not nearly as exciting as the other things we've been doing, but I don't have anything else to talk about this time. So, while we are enjoying our lives in London we are actually still full time students at BYU, which means that we have to take 12 credits.
The Classes I'm Taking:
  • Humanities 202 Honors-- I have to admit, it's pretty sweet to take this in London because we actually get to see stuff instead of just looking at pictures.
  • English 300-- All mystery novels, all the time. Enough said.
  • Walks of London-- We walk around London. A lot.
  • Religion 350R-- We learn about the history of the Church in Britain and stuff. It's pretty cool.
  • European Studies 336R-- British economic and social history. It's really interesting.

A fun note to go along with studying-- We have a library in the center and tables and such, but they are all on the first floor. I live on the fourth floor (AKA the fifth in America). I also am sick and tired of climbing stairs. My legs are burning as I speak. We don't have desks in our room, so that means that my bed doubles as a table and I kneel by the side of it to do my homework. I thought I was being all smart when I carefully selected a bunk on the bottom since I was tired of having to climb onto my raised bed last semester, but I didn't realize that this bunk is not high enough for you to be able to sit on... So now I spend all of my time on the floor. I would have to say that I don't really recommend writing papers on your knees.

Oooh, we did get to do one fun thing since we got back from Cornwall. On monday we got to go on a our of the Globe. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, it's basically a theater that has been recreated to be as much like Shakespeare's globe back in the day as possible. It's in almost the exact same place and has only been open for the past 11 years, so it's still a pretty new thing. I remember learning about it in 7th grade when we studied Shakespeare in Mrs. Patrick's class. I never really thought I'd actually be able to go there. It's definitely the place to go and see Shakespeare performed. You can even get rained on since it's an open air theater. Today we got to see a Midsummer Night's Dream there. It was pretty much amazing as far as Shakespeare goes. We got to be the "groundlings," meaning that we stood the whole time. It only costs five pounds for a groundling ticket though and you get to be right up front with the actors. The performance is even good enough that you don't realize that your legs are still burning from going up too many stairs in one day. Sitting down is for lazy people.

I also went shopping. That always makes things better. There's this store called Primark that's amazing. The closest thing to it I can think of if Forever 21 because it just has so much stuff and it's all really cute and cheap, but it's way bigger. It's two stories and has more stuff you could ever look at. It even has home goods. And it's only two tube stops away...

That's pretty much it. Tomorrow we have more class. We do get to go to listen to a panel of current mystery novel authors at the Waterstonen's at Picadilly circus though, so that should be pretty cool. I'll probably go to a baroque concert at St. Martin's in the Fields for Humanities tomorrow night as well. Good stuff. Life never really gets bad here. Even when you procrastinate papers...

Us at the Globe during the tour

Me being studius with Arthur Conan Doyle

My bed/desk on one of its better days

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Toes Touch the Atlantic

There have been so many times that I just can't believe that I'm actually here, and this trip was full of them. The whole trip west was just incredible. We went to Cornwall for three days and hit up Penzance, Exeter, and Lyme Regis. They were basically all super sweet coastal towns. We were really lucky too, because the whole time we were there the skies were perfect and blue, which never happens in England.

We'll do bullets again because I'm lazy.
  • the Bus-- We were in it forever. There were some good moments though, like when we sang Beatles songs in the English countryside and watched movies and saw all the places we had just been.
  • Stourhead Estate-- This was the first place we went to, and honestly no pictures or words could do the beauty of this place justice. I took pictures of the views and it seriously looked like someone had drawn the buildings on a piece of cardboard and stuck it in between the trees. We decided to take pictures every two steps anyways though. Since I'm in this program with a ton of English majors they got really excited about the fact that Pride and Prejudice was filmed there and acted out a bunch of scenes from the movie, which was pretty entertaining.
  • Hardy Country-- Again since I'm in this program with a ton of English majors, we went to the cottage that Thomas Hardy grew up in. It was seriously tiny. The roof was only a few inches from the top of my head, and my feet were twice as long as the stair steps allowed for. It was pretty cute though, and it was dun because we had to walk down a little road to get to it. The garden out front was beautiful and home to a bunch of bees. As a note to Mr. Duncan, I was very glad that we read Return of the Native so I could actually appreciate being there.
  • The YMCA-- Our first hostel experience of the semester was at the YMCA in Penzance. We pretty much took the place by storm since there are 41 of us. I'm pretty sure that the people who stay there regularly were terrified of us. Ok, maybe not. But we were really loud. After listening through the door to the steel drum band practicing we decided to move our troops out to wander the coast at night. Basically we walked around because everything closed early, but the sea air was nice and refreshing after sitting in the bus forever.
  • Beach Number One-- After breakfast we packed back into the bus for a short drive to the beach in Penzance. The world decided that it loved us, and we had the first true day of blue sky. The English coast was nothing like I thought it would be. As soon as we came over the rocks and could see the ocean it just glittered. The water was crystal clear, and the sand was cool because it was like a bunch of tiny pieces of shell. It was there that my toes touched the Atlantic ocean for the first time. It's funny, because I always thought that I would do that on the East coast, not in England. I'm pretty sure that we could have spent forever on that beach. Everything was perfect. We decided to go on a little hike up the rocks (barefoot!) to see some more of the coast and of course that was incredible too. We took a thousand pictures every two steps and just enjoyed being there instead of in a classroom.
  • St. Micheal's Mount-- The whole trip we just went from one beautifully amazing place to another and this was no exception. This place is basically a castle on this island-type thing that you can only walk to during low tide, otherwise you have to take a boat. We took lots of fun castle pictures and saw lots of old stuff. A fun fact, people actually still live there. Could you imagine giving someone directions to your house? I can see it now...
  • Exeter-- We stayed here the second night so that we wouldn't have to drive as far back to London the last day. We got there just in time for dinner, so they dumped us off at the Quay to scavenge for food. We found this amazing little restraint that had fantastic pizza and an even better view of the river and people kayaking. The whole setup was fabulous. Then we went to the Youth Hostel that was outside of town and did absolutely nothing. A bunch of people decided to be studious for once and read the Moonstone, which is due for class next week. Not exactly epic. In the morning we got to go to Exeter Cathedral though, which was pretty cool. All of these sweet old churches aren't getting old. Well, they are old. But you know what I mean.
  • Lyme Regis-- More beach! I love the beach. We had a good amount of time to spend there so we did some shopping (I bought a ring from a fossil shop), ate fish and chips, took pictures (of course), and went for a stroll. We had another Jane Austen moment (these English majors find them everywhere in England) when walked on the Cobb because of a scene from Persuasion that we reenacted and documented. The best part was probably when we just at at the end of the Cobb and looked at the Ocean. Somehow almost everyone in the program ended up there including the professors and we just talked and stuff. Somehow the conversation even ended up with the professors quoting Monty Python. I had another one of those moments where I couldn't believe that I was actually there, and I would have been perfectly happy if that moment lasted forever.
  • Jersey Boys-- OK, so this was totally before we left for the trip, but it still relates because I went and saw it instead of packing. By the way, I packed everything for the trip in just my backpack. I think I deserve some sort of an award.

You guys are really lucky today, because I decided to post about a thousand of the 20 million pictures we took to show you how beautiful it really was.

At Stourhead Estate. They filmed the last Pride and Prejudice here.

This place was so beautiful that all of my other pictures looked fake.

Our bus taking over the tiny little country roads.

The Penzance YMCA (where we spent the night).

My first time in the Atlantic!

This was much better than sitting in class in Provo.

Apparently pirates frequented the Cornish Coast.

Us and the scenic cliff.

Look at how clear the water is!

The Castle on St. Micheal's Mt. You can only walk there when the tide is out.

More castle.

The cute little restaurant we ate at in Exeter.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I Walk Until My Feet Fall Off

As you may have suspected, we've done a ton since I wrote last time. I swear I've walked more since I've been here than ever before, and I like walking a lot. Also, there are more stairs in London than I have ever seen in my life. My room is on the 4th floor (the 5th floor in America) so I get the priviledge of walking up fifty flights of stairs twenty times a day just in the center. By the time I get to the top my thighs burn like none other. We figure that by the end of the semester we'll all have legs of steel.

Anyways, one of our classes is called the walks of London. It's fantastic because our homework is basically to go out and walk around the city, but it's way intense because these walks are a good two to three hours long and sometimes the directions are a little ambiguous. The adventures are always fun though, and we get to see all sorts of things along the way. On the past couple of walks we did we got to check out a couple of really cool old churches (there are about 5,000 really cool old churches here I've decided. They just keep popping up out of nowhere), play a game of giant chess, see some of the famous sites, and tons of other things. Going on these walks are what I've spent most of my time doing since I last wrote.

Some of the fun non-homework related things I've done:

  • the BBC Proms-- BBC has a series of concerts (called Proms) during the summer that are really famous, and we were lucky enough to be able to go to the second to last one of the season. We got to hear the BBC Philharmonic play Beethoven's 9th Symphony live with a full choir for only five pounds. We had to stand at the top, but it was totally worth it. It sounded absolutely incredible. I have to admit that I did zone out a little bit though because I was dead tired and they were just oh so soothing...

  • 39 Steps-- Ok, so this was technically homework since we had to write a paper on it, but it was so much fun that I don't care. It's basically the most amazing play I've ever seen (it's also an old Alfred Hitchcock movie). It was a mystery comedy. It doesn't get much better than that! They made fun of the stereotypical spy story and it was fabulous. Go see it.

  • Portobello Market-- There's this sweet famous market that's just down the street from where I live every Friday and Saturday, so we had to go to it. It was almost impossible to resist spending my money right then. There were all of these amazing little stands and tons and tons of cool old antiques. We might have to go there every weekend.

  • The Thames Festival-- basically it was a party on the south side of the Thames. Love that place.

  • Parliament-- We took a tour of the place and it was ridiculous. I don't even know how to describe it. It was designed to be a palace, so the decorations are all intricate and beautiful and old and expensive looking. Then there were all these places that only Lords could sit, and all sorts of crazy things like that. Our tour guide was amazing; I never wanted to leave. When we entered we went into Westminster Hall, which is over 900 years old. So much has happened there that I couldn't even comprehend it. Craziness.
  • Church-- We went to our new wards for the first time on Sunday, and it was a lot of fun. There are 41 of us in the program, and they split us up into all different wards in the two London stakes so I'm in the ward with three other people from BYU. We're in the Peckham ward, which is on the south side of the Thames. We got really lucky because we can get there really easily on the tube and it doesn't take very long. Some of the other people have to transfer to the train and stuff and it takes them like two hours. Everybody in our ward seems great too; we already met some really nice people. It's also kind of fun because like 80 or 90% of the ward is African. I can't wait to get to know the ward better.
  • I'm pretty sure that I did other stuff too, but I really just can't think of anything right now. Feel free to use your imagination to fill in the gaps.

It was really funny, because we packed so much into the first few days we got here that by the time we made it to the weekend we were all dead, and suddenly we all got very boring. Luckily staying boring is very hard in London! The trick is trying to find the balance between school and fun. Last week I think we all kind of forgot about the school part, so we're all trying to make up for it now. I guess that means that I should probably do my reading and stuff too...

Things to look forward to-- we're going on a three day trip to the West starting on Wednesday. We haven't actually heard what we'll be doing yet, but I think that we're going to Devon and Cornwall.

Here's some more pictures for those of you who had a hard time paying attention to my rambling (it's late and I'm avoiding doing my homework so the rambling is inevitable).

Me and the beautiful 27 Palace Court.

Me and Parliament.

Me and the Thames.

Me and Tower Bridge.

Miss ya!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yes, I Am Still Alive

Hello my lovely friends! Ok, I know that I've been gone for a whole 6ish days and haven't written anything, but it's been crazy. First off, the jet lag is not so much fun. There's a decent amount of things that I can't even remember happening. Second, everything has been a whirlwind since we got here. This is the first time I've actually had more than approximately two swconds to go on the internet. I miss the internet. Scratch that, the things I've been doing are a lot more fun than the internet.

I guess I'll start from the beginning. Getting to the centre turned out to be pretty easy; I met up with a bunch of other girls at Heathrow and we managed to rent a bus that dropped us off at the doorstep of 27 palace court. I can't even describe the amazingness of the centre, I'm pretty sure it's the coolest place I'll ever live. It was made in the Victorian era and all sorts of sweet people have lived here. The area is crazy nice-- it would cost 2,000 to rent a flat for one WEEK. Ya. I'll post a picture so you can enjoy it's fabulousness with me. It's right across the street from Hyde park and next to notting hill and bayswater and all sorts of great things to do like shop and eat (not that I've really had time to do it yet). Week nights are definitely a lot more fun here than in Provo.

Higlights thus far (kind of in order of when I did it):
  • The Tube = Awesome. You can go anywhere you're heart desires.

  • The British Museum-- The stereotype may be that museums are boring, but it's totally wrong when it comes to this one. I only went into two rooms in this massive beauty and I saw the rosetta stone (the REAL one), lots o' stuff from the parthenon and a multitude of other greek and roman statues and goodness (granted the British stole it all).

  • Kings Cross-- I'm not going to lie, it's mostly because of Platform nine and three quarters.

  • Getting lost-- totally inevitable and really enjoyable

  • Hyde Park-- did I mention it's right across the street?

  • Dinner-- The resident directors make gourmet meals for us every night. From scratch. It's the best I'm ever going to eat in college for sure.

  • The Accents-- It's officially never going to get old.

  • Wicked-- One word--amazing! It was love. There are so many amazing musicals and plays here. I think we've decided that we have to go to at least one a week.

  • Stonehenge-- It's incredible. And incredibly windy. But mostly just incredible. Plus, it makes for some super sweet pictures which is always important

  • Bath-- I loved everything about this place! It just felt good. The roman baths were really cool to go and look at, and all the streets are fun. There's stuff to look at everywhere. One of the most amazing things about London, and England in general, is that there are so many amazing places that have been around forever. There's a piece of history everywhere you look. Also, it's just fun.
  • Basically, everything-- Admit it, you so wish you were here.

I guess since this is a study abroad program I should do some actual studying (we have to do a ton for classes!), but I'll attach some pictures first so you have something else to do that's more fun than whatever you're supposed to be doing right now.

Me exiting the good old U.S. of A.

One of our not as studious moments in the British Museum

Did I mention that I was accepted to Hogwarts' new university?

Mmmm... good.

Stonehenge being as mysterious as ever

The fabulous and famous Bath

Tune in next time for some more fun! Just think, I did all this is just four days and I'll be here for four months...