Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jane Austen Loses Her Little Finger

Well, we're back in London on our normal schedule again. We're definitely running out of time, but luckily the big push still hasn't hit quite yet so this past week was lots o' fun. Actually I think we're mostly in denial, but the results are still the same. Here's some highlights:

Monday-- This was almost an entire week ago and therefore I don't remember anything. Oh wait, it's coming back to me. It started out with class. Then I decided to be all productive-like and went on a walk along the Thames for one of my classes. It was absolutely beautiful weather so I was documenting the beautiful when tragedy struck and my camera met its untimely death right in front of Big Ben. This was not according to my plan for the day. So that was not cool at all. I had too much to do to mourn too long though, so after freaking out a bit I continued on my walk.

The walk itself was actually perfect, and it probably would have been one of my best days if that other thing had not happened. I still got to enjoy it a little though. Part of the walk was through a cute little park next to Parliament, and there were a ton of benches overlooking the Thames so I settled into one of them and finished my humanities reading for the next class. It really was the perfect spot for reading. I'd show you a picture, but I don't have any.

After that break I continued along the walk where I took another pit stop at the Tate Britain, where I looked at a bunch of paintings for humanities. It's been incredibly cold outside so taking a break inside the warm art gallery was very welcome.

From there I finished the walk, and then trekked over to the Imperial War Museum since it was nearby for a second visit. Last time we just went to the Bond exhibit so I needed to go back and look at everything else for my British Studies class. Plus, it just looked really cool. They had some pretty awesome exhibits, including a series of rooms on all of the British Intelligence stuff like MI5 and MI6 and other sweetness. They also had trench and Blitz experiences that you could go through that were supposed to simulate what it would have been like then. The best part of the museum by far was the more serious stuff. I had actually planned to only be at the museum for about an hour so that I could hit up the National Gallery before going home, but I ended up getting sucked into everything at the museum and ended up being a little late for dinner after spending almost three hours there. The Holocaust isn't exactly something you can speed through, nor would I want to. The Holocaust rooms were set up incredibly well. They had all sorts of information and all that, but they also showed the process of the whole event taking place and how it would have looked in ordinary homes. They also had television monitors set up every so often that showed interview clips with people's first hand experiences of what had happened. Downstairs they had permanent exhibits of all sorts of stuff on the first and second world wars, and even some stuff on the cold war and what had happened since then. It was really interesting to see it all laid out chronologically. But as amazing as all of these other parts were my favorite thing there was the temporary exhibit called In Memoriam, which was a tribute to those who served in World War I, which they call the Great War over here. The reason that I liked it so much was because instead of just laying out the facts of what happened the exhibit was entirely made up of telling the stories of over 90 people who had been a part of it. It was brilliantly set up, with simple glass cases placed around the room and white walls and everything so the focus was really on what was in the cases. The cases contained a few personal artifacts accompanied by there story. Having there personal things there next to the stories somehow made it seem much more real. The most beautifully awful thing in there were the letters. In one of the cases they had put out two letters from an engaged couple-- the last letter from the soldier and a letter written by the girl after he had died and she didn't know. I almost couldn't finish reading them; they were just so beautiful and loving and I couldn't stand knowing what had happened to them. He kept calling her darling in every sentence and talking about what he'd do for her when he got home, and she wrote that she was a little worried since she hadn't heard from him in so long, but that she'd keep writing because she knew the letters would mean so much to him. Reading the letters made waiting for a missionary seem a heck of a lot easier. At least they know that they'll come home. It's safe to say that during the course of my visit I started to think that breaking my camera wasn't the worst thing that could happen to me.

I did eventually pry myself away from the museum, even though I could have spent a lot more time there, and made it back to the center for dinner. After dinner we watched a half hour comedy called Yes Prime Minister for our religion class, and then we headed out to Westfield for shopping just because we could. It just opened a few weeks ago and apparently it's the largest mall in Europe. And it's only two tube stops away. We didn't buy anything but it was a lot of fun to look. It's really nice because everything around here seems to close pretty early, but this mall is open 'till 10 on weekdays. And it's pretty and shiny. I like that. Right now we're all really spoiled with shopping in the area with Oxford Street, High Street Kensington, Queensway, Westfield and Portobello all under ten minutes away... Somehow I don't think I'll be satisfied with Provo or University Mall.

Tuesday-- Tuesday I had class until 1:40 since it was a B-day, and then I headed into the real world outside of the centre to go to the National Gallery since I didn't make it there before. It's really nice that we go there for homework assignments instead of just a free for all because otherwise I would never be able to see so many things and appreciate them. Tuesday my visit was all about the impressionists, so I got to see more stuff by Monet and Van Gogh and loved it yet again. I'm really going to miss going to the art galleries whenever I want. There's something really relaxing about just casually walking through a gallery and admiring the pictures. What can I say, I'm really spoiled right now. It's fun because I always seem to run into people there too. This time it was Kelsy. Good times.

The National Gallery didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would and I wasn't ready to go home to my homework so I decided to go shopping once again just because I could. So I hopped off the tube at marble arch and checked out all the amazing shops in between there and the Bond Street stop. Shopping on Oxford Street is even more fun now than any other time because they have Christmas lights hanging across the street and all of the stores have elaborate displays in their windows with Santa Claus and other fun things. It actually reminds me of the window displays they had every year at Meier & Frank's downtown growing up. Love that. I bought fun stuff and basically just enjoyed my life in London.

After dinner we went to another concert at the Royal Festival Hall (which is on the Thames, by the way. You get to walk over millennium bridge to get there, which I love because it's a super sweet walking bridge). This time it was Beethoven's Violin Concerto and Mahler's First Symphony. I liked this one even more than the last one; I really don't think it could have been performed any better. I especially liked the trumpets, which shouldn't be a surprise to any of you. Oh, I forgot to mention the best part. All of the girls in my room decided to dress up just for fun. I love it when we dress up together because it's like a community effort. I got to borrow Kelsy's skirt again, which I am currently plotting to steal. It shouldn't be hard since her closet is right next to mine and is left unattended most of the day. I'll let you know how the progress goes. But for that night wearing the skirt was especially fun because I got to wear my brand new black and white heels that I bought in Paris. Love them. However, walking over the bridge in heels isn't the most enjoyable thing in life. It takes a lot of concentration. But it was worth it.

Wednesday-- This was the day of our very last excursion outside of London. Sadness. This wasn't exactly my favorite day trip since it revolved around Jane Austen (yes, I don't like Jane Austen and there's nothing you can do about it) but I still managed to have a lot of fun. Our first stop of the day was Chawton, where Jane Austen used to live. We checked out the house and frolicked through the gardens. It was a cute little house, but by this point in the program I can pretty much tell you what you'll find in an author's house before I even step foot into it. It was really funny because we had a couple of hours to check out the town where she lived, but the town also happened to have a park in addition to the historical sites and by the time we were supposed to live everybody was playing on the swings and monkey bars and stuff. From a distance it sounded like the park was full of children, but no it was just full of college students. We're so mature. We did walk over to the house Jane Austen's brother used to live in that was their ancestral home or something and the church that was next to it. I went with them mostly because the town was adorable and I like walking around places. Our second stop of the day was Winchester to see the cathedral where none other than Jane Austen was buried (who would have guessed! Ok, I'll stop being so cynical). Winchester was way cute as well. We spent most of our time at the outdoor market thing they had going on. And we found the North Pole! It may not have been the real one with Santa and all that, but it was no less magical.

Then we walked over to meet the group at the Cathedral where we got to go on tours. This might have actually been one of my favorite cathedrals, mostly because our tour guide was fantastic. He was just this great old guy who told fantastic stories that made me actually interested in the history and architecture of the place. There was even a crypt that we got to go into that usually is covered with water. The best story he told though was about Jane Austen, and it's the source of the title for this blog entry. The tour had actually finished, and I went over to thank him for being so fantastic. When I went over he asked me if we would like to hear another story and I was all over that. So he gathered the little group of us in to share it with us. Apparently in the 1920's or 30's they added central heating to the cathedral, so they had to move Jane Austen's grave 6 inches to make room for the piping. Since it had been so many years since her demise the coffin she was buried in was all rotten, and her little finger was poking through a crack. One of the workers decided that it was his lucky day. He went home all excited and told his wife that they had hit the jackpot-- he had snatched Jane Austen's little finger and they were going to be rich. His wife was appalled. She was horrified that he would show such disrespect for the dead and demanded that he return it to the grave. So he sulked back to work the next day planning to put the finger back where it belonged, but to his surprise he found that one of his coworkers had already finished covering the coffin back up. So he decided to just toss the finger in whatever coffin lay open nearby. So now Jane Austen is missing one of her little fingers.

We got back early from the trip, but I can't remember for the life of me what I did with the rest of my day. Oh wait, I've got it. On a whim I went to Billy Elliot with Michelle. It was pretty much incredible. For those of you who don't know anything about it, it's about a boy who grows up in a mining town and just wants to dance. The best part of the show was hands down the choreography. And the kids in it were all just amazing. They had a ballet class of girls and they were just hilarious. The kid who stole the show was definitely the one who played Billy Elliot though. He deserved to be the star. I can't even describe it to you. He sang, acted, tap danced, did ballet, gymnastics, everything. He even did one of those back flip off the wall things right in front of us. We were in the front row so we got to see everything up close and personal. It was liked we were part of the action. We even got snowed on and lost in the fog machine. But the best part was that we got to see all the facial expressions, and the kid's facial expressions were priceless. He was just so funny. The best was at the end, when he did that "hey babe, we should meet up later" thing with the wink and hand gesture to the girl next to us who had been applauding like none other the entire show. I think you know you've got good seats when you can actually interact with the actors. But the kid was great, in case you can't already tell from what I said. He got a standing ovation at the end, which you hardly ever see in London and the best part was that you could tell he genuinely enjoyed it. And he so deserved it. So that was a lot of fun as well. Have I mentioned that I love life?

Thursday-- Thanksgiving! Sadly I had to ask one of my roommates what happened on Thursday, and then I felt really stupid. So technically we had the day off from class, but we had three things scheduled during the day so we weren't exactly free to roam the city. But we had a ton of fun. The first thing we had planned was actually to go to a Synagogue for religion that's just around the corner from where we live. It's actually even closed than the tube stop. Anyways it was pretty awesome because we had this guy talk to us about the history of the building and told us more about the Jewish religion. It was all really interesting and the synagogue was just gorgeous. The amazing thing about London is that there are gems like this everywhere. There are so many cool places right next to where we live that you don't even realize are there.

We did have a couple spots of free time between scheduled festivities, but they were kind of awkwardly timed so that it was impossible to get anything real done (something from 10-11, 1-2:30, 4:45-6). In between these times we tried to go get tickets to Mama Mia, but apparently this is an impossible task unless you want to pay 40 pounds so we failed. But we accidentally did a lot of walking around London, including walking past the Hyde Park Chapel where we were supposed to stop by for class so we did that. We also managed to squeeze a little chopping on high street in, which is always enjoyable.

One of the highlights of the day was having tea at the Orangery and Kensington Palace. Kensington Palace is actually in Kensington Gardens, which is just across the street from where we live and is totally awesome. It was fun because it was all fancy and an authentic English tea setting. We didn't have real tea of course, but we had something close to it so it was fun. They also gave us a short lesson on tea so that we won't sound like an idiot when talking to English people in the future. We thought that it would just be a light snack, but it turned out to be a full lunch with three courses in addition to the tea. Round one was cucumber sandwiches that were artistically stacked. Round two brought the most delicious scones I've ever had complete with clotted cream and heavenly jam (I couldn't decide which I liked better). Then round three was lemon cake. Meanwhile they had been giving us unlimited refills on our drinks. We may have also been incredibly mature and eaten some of the sugar cubes. This luxury was all thanks to the falling value of the pound. Life is much better now that the dollar is worth more. By the time we left the orangery we were completely full and still had our thanksgiving feast ahead of us.

Thanksgiving dinner was fabulous. I can't imagine cooking it for almost 50 people. We had five whole turkeys-- one for each table. And then there were endless amounts of mashed potatoes and all sorts of wonderfullness. The table was all festively decorated so that was fun too. It had been a little strange out in the city during the day since it seemed like everyone else should be celebrating the holiday too, but once we were in the center eating pumpkin pie everything felt just right.

Once we were done with dinner since we couldn't go to the play we went to the Winter Wonderland that's set up in Hyde Park. Hyde Park is connected to Kensington Gardens and is thus also just across the street, which is wonderful. So we hiked all the way to the farthest corner of Hyde Park to go check it out. It was actually really funny because being the really smart people we didn't check where in the park it was actually set up in. Lucky for us we spotted a giant Ferris wheel way off in the distance through the trees so we decided that it must be over there and we blindly walked through the park to it in the dark. I know, it was an excellent plan. And it totally worked. We totally came out of nowhere on the backside to enter the party though, which I thought was kind of funny. I had this picture of us emerging from the bushes with leaves in our hair and scaring little kids holding candied apples. Luckily we didn't have to climb through any bushes though so that problem was averted. The festival was really cute. They had all sorts of rides and stuff set up (including a haunted Christmas house complete with Scrooge. Oh yes.) and little chalet's with stuff for sale. So we wandered through there and enjoyed the Christmas atmosphere.

And that was Thanksgiving. Yay!

Friday-- This was the day that I gave in and bought the exact same camera I had just broken in the English version because I missed taking pictures. I was way lucky because I just happened to decide to but another one during the two days they were having major sales so I got it for 40 pounds less than I would have if it had been last week. Yay for sales.

Then as far I can remember I just killed time at the center doing homework and such until 1ish at which point I left with other girls to go to an Old Operating Theatre and Museum for British Studies. We made a pit stop in Borrough Market though since it was right next to where we were supposed to go. It was exciting because I had the privilege of introducing Sam to the magic of the market there. And I bought handmade truffles, which is always a good thing.

After eating some sugar we made our way over to the operating theatre. I'm sure that all of you are wondering what this theatre is, so I'll tell you. It doesn't have anything to do with plays or acting or any of that. It's actually this old surgical theatre that they discovered in the attic of a church from the Victorian Era that had been abandoned and left in pristine condition. It was slighlty terrifying. They had all sorts of medical equipment that was used at the time. Let's just say that after looking at all of it I would never have wanted to go to the doctor ever. The theater part of it was where they would do the actual surgeries while students and other doctors would watch what was happening. Having the surgery done was not exactly an enjoyable experience though because there was no pain medication at the time. They person doing the guide had Anna get up on the operating table to demonstrate the techiniques they used with the real knives. Apparently at the time a skilled surgeon would take off a limb in 30 seconds. The desciptions were kind of brutal and a bit more than I felt a need to know. Some of the other people got a little queasy. Once the tour of the inside was over we moved outside for our "cholera walk" where we got to learn more of the ugly side of London and medicine, especially as it pertained to Soutwark. We even get to hear all sorts of exciting stories about body snatchers and grave diggers. I've decided that if it was the Victorian Era London would ba an awful place to be, at least on the south side of the Thames. So I'm glad to be here now instead.

After the class and the walk I think I was lame and just went home to write one of the many papers we have coming up. We did take a marvellous break to go back to Mio Gelato and have a tasty break though.

Saturday-- This was my first day of kitchen crew, so I had to get up to set up breakfast with the other girls in my room. All of us take turns cleaning the dishes and putting the food out and such. We have two weeks we're supposed to do it, and we just go to dinner an hour early and then stay after to clean everything up. It isn't too bad since we take turns. So I have it this week and Saturday was the start. It was a fabulous day to have kitchen duty because we had belgian waffles with strawberries and everything, and we were some of the first ones to eat them.

Since we were already up early me and Annie decided that we wanted to make use of one of our last weekends and go to see Wimbledon. We see the name on the end of the district line almost everyday, so since we knew it was so close it was pretty much neccessary that we go and see it. Of course, being us we didn't bother to find out where the tennis courts actually were though and just took the tube to the end of the line and assumed that it would be right there. This would be the wrong assumption to make. A couple hours and tube stops later we finally made it there, and we felt that our quest was worth it because we got to go into the gift shop and take pictures. And best of all we can say that we've been there. It was pretty cool. Obviously nothing was going on now, but I bet that it would be a hundred times better with everything bustling around and tennis matches going on. As for our wanderings, we just like to think that we are now intimately aquainted with the area.

After Wimbledon we decided to hit up one of our favorite places yet again-- Covent Garden. Our first order of business was to go back to Candy Cakes where we had delicious cupcakes for lunch. I got the banana-toffee one again for lunch, and then an apple-raspberry one for lunch today. I know, I'm extremely healthy. Then we checked out the sweet stands and such, which were different from the last time since we're closer to Christmas now.

Annie had to go to her ward talent show and I needed to go to another art gallery for humanities so we parted ways after covent garden. I went to the Courtauld Gallery at the Somerset House where I got to check out more impressionist paintings. It was also fun because they had an 0utdoor ice skating rink set up outside that looks just like it does in the movies.

Then I met up with Megan in the gift shop of the Tate Modern (we have fun meeting spots) to go to the Southwark Christmas Festival on the Thames together. It was really similar to the other Christmas festivals in Paris and Hyde Park, but they never get old. Christmas is just fun! They had the trees all lighted up and there were cute chalets with food and things for sale. So that brought more happiness to my life.

I spent the last part of Saturday figuring out my tube pass and finishing A Certain Justice by P.D. James for my mystery class. It was funny because I was actually in the basement by myself doing some dishes while reading about murderers. Not the best location.

Sunday-- I went to church like normal and it was fun. We even got candy from South Africa in sunday school. I've decided that candy tastes a hundred times better during church. It's a little early to be getting all sentimental, but I'm really going to miss my sunday school class when I go back. It's just a lot of fun. Our teacher is one of the sweetest people ever and she even had a Scottish accent, which makes listening to her lessons really fun. And everyone is just great. I'm really spoiled in my ward, because no one else has any single adults their age and we have a class of about 15. So I basically love going to class everyday.

The rest of today I pretty much just spent writing this blog, eating, and doing some readings for class. Sundays are always nice and relaxing. I'm really tired though and it's only a couple minutes 'till midnight so I'm going to go to sleep now and just post the pictures tomorrow. It always takes forever and I don't really have the patience right now. Plus, I have to get up early tomorrow for kitchen duty. Breakfast starts at 7:30 every morning. I'm not a morning person by any stetch of the imagination. So just check back tomorrow. I'll stick the pictures at the end of this entry. Enjoy!
A Sample of Christmas on Oxford Street

Kelsy and the skirt I'm going to steal from her

Me being unhappy because I got dragged to another Jane Austen site.

Us being cute in Jane's backyard

The North Pole! We found it!

The Cathedral. At this exact moment I was actually standing in dog poop and didn't know it.

Thanksgiving dinner!

The Operating Theatre

Candy Cakes! You want one.

Wimbledon. Yep.

View from the South side o' the Thames.

1 comment:

Annie said...

That is a great title. I love how I randomly found your blog on Sam's blog when I don't even have a blog...and I don't actually even read people's blogs ever. The title drew me in. I'm telling you. You are destined for journalism.