Day 14 – Shakespeare Begins

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Wednesday and Thursday yielded nothing worth noting in blog form (though some people may argue that everything is worthy), so I apologize for not posting. But Friday? Oh, man, did exciting things happen!

Friday began my Shakespeare class, something I’ve been looking forward to all week. I sat down in a lecture hall FILLED with freshers and associate students, the air thick with anxiety. I, however, was ready to go! Romeo and Juliet? Bring it on! The class began with a clip from BBC favorite Doctor Who, one involving Martha and the tenth Doctor going to the Globe Theatre in the actual time of Shakespeare. It was a pretty interesting way to begin the lecture. I will say I have my doubts about the class considering I’ve already read two of the plays we’ll be covering, but there’s always room to learn something new. In just the first lecture and seminar, I already learned a bunch of new information about R&J that I hadn’t learned or thought of before. I’m excited to continue!

After class, Jen and I headed out to Green Park station to get to the ever-esteemed Buckingham Palace, home to the Queen and extended Royal Family. We bought our tickets last week for a certain time and we got there just minutes before. We walked right through, wandered through airport-level security, and continued into the gorgeous Palace. Only caveat: you can’t take any pictures. With this in mind, we picked up our free audio tours and clicked the green arrow button; we were off!

The tour was fantastic and definitely worth the 18 pounds (student discount). Our tour only involved the State Rooms and not the Gardens, but it was still fantastic. It felt so surreal to walk in the very building that the Queen resides! The place where royal childhoods were had and fostered… it was all so amazing and dreamlike. I still don’t feel like I was truly there.

The gift shop was pretty cool as well; I purchased some gifts/souvenirs for family members and bought myself an adorable stuffed Corgi (I named him Poppy) with a little Buckingham Palace medallion around his neck. It’s safe to say that I am properly obsessed with him and do not regret the 15 pounds I paid for him.

After the visit to the Palace, we traveled to a Pret a Manger for dinner (the chipotle avocado chicken wrap wasn’t good D:) and then headed across the street to Harrods to look and NOT touch. I’ll probably reserve an in-depth talk about Harrods for a later time; it needs much more than a sentence mention. Let’s just say it’s the type of store where people actually go and pay 10+ pounds for ice cream. And bring their children. And pay 8 pounds for their ice cream. It’s strange and intriguing.

We gave Harrods a fair shake (though we didn’t get to hit every floor and every room) and decided it was time to head back. That is, until we saw that the Museum of Natural History had a science-y after hours event. We simply had to stop in! There were scientists and specialists spread about the museum (which is quite large in itself) talking about all types of things, from the flu virus to venomous snakes. There were drinks available for purchase as well as snack things, and naturally people left their rubbish all over the museum. I’m not sure if the museum sanitation staff appreciate the mess, but the event itself was quite cool.

It had been a long day, so we retired as soon as we entered our rooms. I gave my parents a call, tried to map out a Tube itinerary for an expedition later in the week, and happily fell asleep. Saturday proved to be an eventful day as well, so thank goodness I got a good night’s sleep! You’ll hear about it soon enough.

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Day 8 – Being Productive in a Touristy Way

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Today did not turn out as planned, but that’s definitely not a bad thing. Jen, Nicole, Danielle, Michaela, and I had plans set to travel into Leicester Square to purchase tickets to see a Saturday matinee show. After being unsuccessful and disappointed with the seating options for the prices given, we traveled to the theater of each show we wanted to see. We did this in the hopes of being able to get a student or “day of” discount for any of the shows, but the best we got was some helpful advice: come on the weekdays. The box offices open at 10 on all days, and during the week they have fire sales of 15 front row seats for, at the very least, 15 pounds. After being a bit distraught over the unsuccessful attempt to get tickets for tonight, this bit of information was very exciting. We made plans to have a couple of us run down to Leicester Square at some point during a weekday (you could get 2 tickets per person), so the play will happen another day! Now it’s just a matter of which one…

After the long quest to find a play ticket ultimately crashed and burned, we decided we were hungry from our efforts. The selection of a place to eat, though, took longer than expected because our budgets aren’t exactly the biggest. We finally settled on a Pret A Manger (an apparently common chain around these parts) and were satisfied with the results. I bought a chicken caesar and bacon sandwich, crisps, and a water and it cost around 8 pounds. It was cheaper than our other options and it tasted great! I would definitely go back again, though it is a toss-up as to whether it’s better than Eat.

Danielle, Nicole, and Michaela decided to head back to campus, but Jen and I decided we wanted to explore a little bit more. After all, now that my week-long travel Oyster card is expired, the pay-as-you-go is slowly burning a hole into our pockets. We figured that, as long as we were in the area, we’d walk around and see some sights. The worst we could do was get some exercise and save some money while doing it!

First things first, we entered the National Gallery. It was right across the street from where we parted from our friends, so it was the logical place to go! The paintings in the Gallery were absolutely breathtaking and beautiful, some of which I actually studied in Art History last semester which was super exciting. It was amazing to see in person paintings I had studied from a projector screen just months ago! I truly felt so lucky. After prancing around and gawking for an hour or so, we exited and took off on our next adventure: to Buckingham Palace!

We arrived at the ticket booth for the Palace only to find that they were selling tickets for the 3:15 tour… and it was only 1:00. We had hoped to do something in addition to the Palace, so we actually ended up buying tickets for later in the week. I am very excited to see it! But I’m also excited that we were able to buy ahead of time; it left us time for other big sights we wanted to see. Yep, you guessed it, like Big Ben and Westminster Abbey!

It is needless to say we did a lot of walking today. To be honest, I’ve probably gotten more exercise in today than I have ever in my life. We followed maps and street signs all the way from Piccadilly Circus up to Victoria Road, finally ending up in front of Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. We saw the legendary clock tower on the bus tour a couple days ago, but that far-away glance paled in comparison to being close enough to breath on it. Jen and I each took an obligatory picture in a phone booth just in front of Big Ben and took way too many pictures of “just a clock.” After fangirling over an inanimate legend, we crossed a bridge and ended up next to the London Eye and in front of the SeaLife Aquarium. It still amazes me how close all of the big sights are to one another! It certainly helps when you’re on a budget and can easily walk between each thing.

The line to get tickets to the Aquarium was supposedly an hour long, but we decided to wait anyway. Luckily the line (or queue I guess) only took about 40 minutes, and we were inside! It was absolutely beautiful and one of the bigger aquariums I have seen. In recent years, I have developed a certain love for aquariums. I just think there’s something calming to watching and taking pictures of fish swimming around. I also enjoy the shark tanks and interactive activities like touching starfish and sea anemone. It took a couple hours to walk through the whole building, but it was certainly worth it. I’m not sure I’d go back again (because once you’ve seen an aquarium, it pretty much doesn’t change), but I would recommend it. Jen and I paid for a combination SeaLife Aquarium + London Eye ticket for 33 pounds each. We can use the London Eye ticket any day for the next thirty days; I think it was a good deal, considering the tickets for the London Eye alone are 17 pounds each!

The exit of the aquarium spit us out next to the River Thames and in front of a mini carnival. It was cute and all, but certainly a bit overpriced. We simply walked past the attractions and street performers and walked across the pedestrian bridge back to where we had come from. It was time for some dinner!

We wandered a bit aimlessly for a while (after all, we were told we should get lost in London a couple times to fully experience it) before finding a cute alley (those words should never be next to each other) lined with bookshops. We stopped in a couple of them before we reached the end of the alley and saw… that’s right… a Chipotle.

I am not lying when I say that Jen almost had a heart attack. She loves Chipotle more than anything in this world, I’m convinced, so naturally that’s where we had dinner. It satisfied a certain craving I had for American Mexican food and filled me up quite nicely. I topped my chicken burrito off with a Raspberry-Apple juice and called it a successful dinner! Off to the next place, we said.

Since the night was still young, we hopped on the Tube to head to King’s Cross station. We had already been there earlier in the week, but it was only for a short amount of time as we had prior commitments to honor. This time, though, we went with a reason and no time limit. I was going to get my picture taken at Platform 9 3/4! I was so excited to finally get the picture taken. Even though it took a little while to get through the large line, we finally arrived at the front and I was able to select my scarf. Naturally I took Ravenclaw and took my place at the cart. I felt too legit to quit, as the kids say these days! Now that I have my official picture at the platform, I feel like a true Potterhead. As if I wasn’t already one, am I right?

We stopped in the Platform 9 3/4 shop (of course) and I bought a pin with “Platform 9 3/4 King’s Cross London” on it and a lanyard with the same text that holds a “ticket” to Hogwarts. I walked happily out of the store clutching my purchases and felt lighter than air! And to think I thought today would be bad because we didn’t get play tickets.

After agreeing that our feet hurt and that we should return to campus, we hopped on the Tube and took it back. We stumbled into our dorm rooms and now here I sit, writing this post. I am so happy that I got to see all I did today, but I’m even happier that I got to spend it with my best friend! Today was one of those days I would like to put on repeat and never stop; it was that good. If I could bring my family back to see all the sights, I would. In a heartbeat.

Day 7 – English Induction & Anxiety

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So… today was a rollercoaster of emotions that left me exhausted and (you guessed it) just a bit homesick. However, those feelings did pass and now I just feel exhausted. That’s when you know the school term has begun.

This morning was the final induction I had to attend: the induction for the School of English & Drama. The two women who headed the induction seemed brilliant and nice enough, but the words they were saying seriously worried me. There were a lot of “don’t do this” statements and not enough “do this” ones to balance them out. Overall, the messages they were giving us seemed negative and not at all encouraging, so naturally I had a bit of a breakdown. I had entered the induction with the hopes of switching out my Gothic course for something a little lighter on reading, but then the words they said seemed to tell me that I couldn’t switch. Jen, always the voice of reason, told me to just go ask her anyway because the worst that she could say was no. It was sage (albeit obvious) advice, so I took it.

After waiting in a line of ten students for about forty-five minutes, I finally switched out of my Gothic class without a hassle. The head of the English department (or one of the heads), Dr. Bari, is extremely nice and told me that, despite the stern tone of the induction, they just want us to be happy and comfortable. So switching out of my class was no big deal! Unfortunately the Victorian Fictions class I wanted to replace it with didn’t work in my schedule, so I opted for a Modernism course. Hopefully it isn’t as bad as I’m thinking it will be. -crosses fingers-

After all of the hullabaloo with my classes was sorted out, Jen, Nicole, and I decided to travel to Buckingham Palace for a tour. These plans were thwarted, however, when the random London rain started to arrive. The droplets came slowly at first, but then they picked up speed and fell sideways. Then, as if we were experiencing all of the seasons at once, it started to hail. Shortly after the hail, thunder rumbled through the clouds and cleared up the skies. We were off to Buckingham Palace!

Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, the last tour had already left and we were left with nothing to do. We decided to find Charing Cross Road (home to many amazing bookshops), but I believe we ended up at the wrong place. We walked down a couple streets, our feet throbbing and our legs aching from the extended amount of time we had been walking. Luckily the path we were taking included walks through Green Park and St. James Park, but we didn’t find any bookshops. At long last, we just decided to take the Tube back to campus; we were all exhausted anyhow.

We arrived safely back at campus and went our separate ways. Jen and I made ravioli and watched Memoirs of a Geisha on Netflix (it was quite good, by the way). The flat was uncharacteristically quiet, which was an interesting change, and we were actually able to hear the sound of the movie coming from the iPad. It was a relaxing night and I’m grateful for it!

We then FaceTime’d with my parents because it’s their anniversary (yay! plus I just wanted to talk to them), watched some episodes of Pokemon Indigo League, and that brings us to now. I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep before the exciting events we have planned tomorrow. Classes commence in three days; best to make the most of the next two in preparation! Though, I do have to find some time to complete the preliminary reading for some of my classes… wish me luck.

P.S. – Happy first week in London to me! I’ve been enjoying my time here so far. Hopefully I can continue to enjoy it even as classes begin.