My London Adventure · Writing 101

Out & About, In & Around London

I know my blogging this week leaves a lot to be desired, but I’m planning on catching up this weekend. So there’s that. Anyway. Day 13’s assignment was to create a story through a series of vignettes. First of all, I didn’t really know what that word means. But I learned and had a really difficult time forming a story around that. Then it hit me that I never shared my London photos with the blog world, and also, that’s a series all on it’s own. So here we go with this.

Dover Castle
DSCN0225
Canterbury Cathedral
The Globe Theatre
Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre
Sensing Spaces at the Royal Academy of Arts
Greenwich
Hogwarts
Whitby Abbey
Whitby
Loch Ness
Glencoe
Ambleside
DSCN0896
La Boheme at Royal Albert Hall
Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre
St. James’s Park

Dover Castle: It was cold and misty. But we got to learn about the history there and specifically about World War II and D-Day.

Canterbury Cathedral: It’s really fancy and we got to sit through an evensong service there.

The Globe Theatre: We got to tour The Globe, which is where Shakespeare performed, so that was pretty cool, but we also got to watch a show in the brand new indoor theater they just built.

Les Miserables: This show is a musical in the most basic sense of the world. There was literally no speaking, only singing. That was a shock. But once we got past that, it was okay. Definitely not my favorite of the musicals we went to see.

Sensing Spaces: Basically the coolest art exhibit ever. Artists featured were given rooms and basically told they could do what they wanted in them. The exhibit featured was made of plastic and really long straws and all the visitors were invited to contribute, so that was pretty cool.

Greenwich: It’s a really historical city outside London. We went to different museums and things, but we also got to stand on the Prime Meridian. And it was a nice day, so we got to take pictures outside the museum about time zones.

Hogwarts: When we visited the Universal Studios Harry Potter Experience, the last room we went through was the model Hogwarts that filmmakers used to film the wide angle shots of the castle. I was in my glory all day. In fact, I scared my mom when I wanted her to call me so I could share my stories with her.

Whiby & Whitby Abbey: This was the first stop (I think) on our coach tour/ spring break. It was right on the water (both a river, pictured, and the ocean) and it was a great time to be there. The weather even sort of cooperated.

Loch Ness: Scotland was also a stop on the tour and we took a short break from being on the bus to take some photos with the lake and its monster.

Glencoe: One of the last stops on the tour, and also in the middle of nowhere. We spend the day hiking in the mountains and getting soaked in the mist, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Ambleside: One of the other last stops on our tour and the only night most of us had ever spent in a hostel. The wifi was terrible, so we did some roommate bonding instead.

La Boheme: One of the saddest shows a person could ever see, but also it was in Italian. That was cool, even from the nosebleed seats we were in. And we all decided to get dressed up to go to the opera and as cold as it was, it was totally worth it for the beautiful pictures we took.

Wicked: One of the best musicals ever. I was really lucky because I ended up going to see it twice, and just like with everything else, the second time brought new and different light to the show and that was really cool. It was the last show we went as a group to see and a handful of the girls got dressed up again.

St. James’s Park: On one of the last days we were in London, Lisa, Clarissa and I got dressed up because it was a beautiful day and we had new clothes we wanted to try out and did a photo shoot. We took turns taking pictures of each other in front of Buckingham Palace and Big Ben and also in the park with the trees and the flowers. The experience was unforgettable.

My study abroad experience was easily the highlight of my undergraduate career.

London was an experience and I can’t wait to go back.

To create this story, I went through all the hundreds and hundreds of pictures I took and found basically all the selfies I could find and though they would make for a great series of stories. Or at least a great sum of the memories I got while I was there.

I hope you enjoyed it and if you’d like to see more of this type of storytelling from me, let me know! Thanks.

Writing 101

Maps

Today’s assignment was to find inspiration in one photo. Of the four options we were presented, the one that appealed most to me is the map.

One day, I want to travel. I want to discover the world. And the best way to do that is to use a map.

I’m big on using Google Maps to get around here. But when I’ve traveled internationally, that wasn’t really an option because wifi isn’t available everywhere and international phone plans are crazy expensive. And I was pleasently surprised to discover that I am actually much better than I thought with directions.

When we visited Italy, I led my aunt and my sister back to a little shoe shop the day after we stumbled upon it when we were lost. When I studied in London, once I got the lay of the land, I didn’t even need a map to know where I was going some places. But I made an effort to carry one, just in case I got lost. Granted, the times I was actually lost, I didn’t actually have my map, but that’s besides the point.

I think that paper maps are on their way out, because technology is slowly taking over the whole world, but I think there’s a sense of romance that comes with paper, the same way books are different from ebooks.

My London Adventure

Mistaken

Every semester, when we get to finals week, I’m always ready to go home. Because that means I can sleep and hang around the house and not shower for days (I’ll admit it; I’m not ashamed. Showers are hard.).  And this semester was no different. It came to finals and I was ready to go home (in reality I was ready before our coach tour, but it was worse last week).  I just wanted to skip these last two weeks and be on a plane home. Fast forward. Bam! Home!

Well, on Monday, I finished my finals. And all of a sudden, at 10 AM, it hit me. I didn’t wanna go home nearly as badly as I had about two hours ago. And then I realized that I equated being home with being done and I just hate finals (who doesn’t?). And now I’m very sad to be leaving.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m really excited to eat Mexican food and meat that doesn’t scare me and see my family and sleep for a week, but I really am gonna miss this place.

It’s beautiful here. And it’s unique.

I’m going to miss walking through the park on my way to class.

I’m going to miss the sandwiches in the grocery stores.

I’m going to miss the adventure.

I was mistaken. I’m ready to go home, but I’m not ready to say goodbye to this wonderful place and all it has to offer. But don’t worry, London, I’ll be back.

I did learn, however, that I need to stop rushing the end of my semesters. They really are the best days and I need to enjoy every second I’ve got. So, tomorrow, I’m enjoying every minute. And I can’t wait!

See you soon, Texas!

My London Adventure

For Good

Wicked

Last night we went to see Wicked as our “end of semester treat.” And this week marks a lot of lasts. We had our last art class. We took our theater final. Our semester is quickly winding down.

And this semester has taught me a lot. I mean, I learned about London and its history (more than I like, if we’re being honest). I learned about Children’s Literature. I learned about Art and Theater. But I really learned about life.

I learned about the unfamiliar. I learned to cope with living with 5 other girls. I learned about grocery shopping. I learned about a different way of life.

And I met some of the most wonderful people on the way.

At graduation, 2 years ago, a few girls sang this song. And I had never seen Wicked, so I never really had a context for this song. Lemme give you some context. In the musical, Elphaba meets Glinda and they are stuck as roommates. They eventually become best friends and this song a duet is near the end of the show, when they have gotten over their differences and are parting ways forever. So, woah, go graduation. Good choice, ladies.

But, in context of this semester, I know I have made a few really close, really strong relationships. And I also know I will never see most of these people again. And for some of them, that’s not such a bad thing. I know it isn’t going to be bad for me to never see them again. They taught me what they needed to teach me, and that’s that.

I think it’s valuable to learn that. Sometimes, you just have to let people go, because they weren’t meant to be in your life forever. And if you learn what you were supposed to from them, they never really leave, because your relationship with them was fruitful.

My flatmates taught me so much. They taught me patience (which is going to be an ongoing lesson, for a long time; but they did help it along). They taught me to bite my tongue. They taught me the  value of communicating. And that sometimes, you just have to walk away and cool off, all of which I knew, but needed to practice.

My roommates taught me to be confident when I get dressed up. And apparently it is okay for me to wear a mini-skirt and not look like an idiot. Not that I think I’ll be wearing them a whole lot. But apparently I can dress cute and not look dumb. And also, Ali was apparently right, and you have to wear mascara with eyeliner or your face doesn’t look right.

In addition, if nothing else, they taught me I don’t ever want to live the 5 people to whom I have no relation. 2 other people is a stretch. Not 5. Ever again.

My teachers taught me a bunch of things. Dr. Romig taught me about understanding Children’s books. And reminded me how much I love to read. I forgot how important it was to me because I was always so busy, that if I was reading, I knew I should have been reading a textbook, and Sneaky Gabi got around that by just not reading. She reminded me that reading is good for me and reading fixes my life.

Ian’s Theater class reminded me how much I love theater. I love the fun of it. I love watching it. And I need to do something with that when I get home. And I learned I can appreciate a show without loving it. And he taught us to express our opinions, which is not a thing we are frequently taught. He taught us that just because your opinion “might be rubbish, it’s your rubbish” and we need to be proud of that.

The Holcombs introduced me to all kinds of new foods I had no idea I liked, because I was so sure I didn’t like them. Uhm, hello. Try new food. You won’t always like it (fish and chips) but you might be pleasantly surprised (Thai food). And Mrs. Dr. Holcomb gave me some pointers for studying, because that is a skill I am still honing.

My new friends reinforced my feelings about family dinners (which have always been a big thing in my family).  That needs to be a thing for me, always. That’s a deal-breaker. We need to eat together, and talk. Not just eat in front of a movie or show or a phone. Dinner is a good time to socialize. But don’t talk to me with a mouthful of food, because that’s gross. And I learned all kinds of new games for a night in. That’s been wonderful.

And I learned how much my parents taught me, how much they instilled in me: good manners; intelligence; common sense. You don’t show up to someone’s house to eat without something to contribute. You always offer to help with the dishes, even if no one else does. You say please and thank you. If you go to someone’s house and they serve you something you’ve never had, you try it and pretend to like it, even if you don’t; you can always get something when you get home. You look both ways, twice when you cross the street. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Don’t be a space cadet.

So, to everyone who had a hand in my education, formal or informal, I thank you. I do believe I have changed for the better. I have grown this semester (though not physically, because some of us haven’t grown since 7th grade). Thank you. And if this is good bye, good luck.

My London Adventure

You know you’ve been in London a while when…

…You don’t make eye contact with people on the street

Here, that is not a thing. You mind your own business. Plus, if you make eye contact with the street vendors, they might try to sell you things, and you have somewhere to be. No thanks.

…You’ve been asked for directions, and can give them

We must have this look like we know what we’re doing.

…You know which line on the Tube to use without consulting a map

Wanna go to St. Paul’s? That’s the Central Line.

Wanna go to Covent Gardens? That’s the Piccadilly Line. And you may or may not stop there, depending on the direction you’re going. You might have to go to Leicester Square and walk.

Also, the Bakerloo and Northern lines don’t currently stop at Embankment because of work they’re doing on the station.

See?

…Crossing the street is no longer a frightening prospect

We don’t even have to look at the arrows anymore. And, we know how to read the patterns of traffic. Watch those blinkers! (They don’t always use them before they turn).

…You learned to use the maps on the bus stops

They don’t label every stop on every route. And they don’t always stop at every stop. Make sure you’re paying attention and push the button, just in case.

…You learned sometimes the bus is faster than a Tube

Don’t try to take the Tube to Waterloo station from Holborn, you’ll be walking extra. Instead, take one of the at least four buses that stops there. They stop right at the entrance.

…You found the buses are nicer than the Tube if you have the time

London is beautiful if you aren’t surrounded by cement. And you don’t have to walk down any stairs to get to the bus.

…Squeezing onto the Tube at rush hour is no big feat

You move down into the car. You use all available doors. And most importantly, you let people get off the car before you try boarding.

…You know the peak times of the Tube

9ish in the morning is a bad time to travel, as is 5-7ish. Also, don’t expect a seat around lunch time.

…You have the thought “oh, those Americans,” before you realize that used to be you

We were coming home from Richmond last week and there was group of students, much like ourselves, who were being loud. We could hear them from the other end of the car. That used to be us. It isn’t so much anymore.

…You say “sorry” instead of “excuse me” when you run into someone or need them to move

I’ve also heard “cheers.” “Sorry” is the one I use.

…You know you either walk and drink your coffee, or you wait; don’t hold up the people behind you

I do not walk and drink, I would spill coffee down the front of my shirt. I wait until I have stopped moving, like on the escalator or at a Tube stop to take a sip.

…You watch movies and think, “been there, done that”

London Movie Collage

…You also know what else is going on outside the frame of pictures

Shakespeare’s globe is on the other side of Millennium Bridge.

The Houses of Parliament are next to Big Ben.

…The constant noise of the city doesn’t phase you

Listening to people walk by my window is even entertaining sometimes. Sirens and car horns don’t even keep me up anymore.

…The loud silence on the tube is not a thing you feel like you need to fill

There’s this odd silence on the Tube. No one talks.

We used to talk on our way places. Now, it’s almost like conversation ceases when we board. All you hear is the Tube rushing through the tunnels and maybe the wind whistling through the windows.

…There’s a certain level of organized chaos that goes with all public places

I spent yesterday morning in Camden Market. While I was alone, it was interesting to see people interacting with each other: vendors with customers, parents with their children, friends, couples. It was interesting.

…The prospect of the Bank/Monument tube stop walk, while dreadful, is no longer foreboding

It’s a long walk, but sometimes it must be done.

…You know you stand on the right side of the escalator and walk on the left, period

There are signs everywhere. And you do not want to get in someone’s way.

…You know bicyclists don’t follow all the rules of drivers or pedestrians

Sometimes, they get off, walk their bike across the street, and get back on and keep riding. Sometimes they don’t stop at the light. You’ve gotta keep a pretty close eye on them.

…Awareness of your surroundings is key

Don’t get run over by a bus because you were watching for bikes in the wrong directions. Also, just being aware of who is around you is good. Don’t let that creepy guy catch you unawares.

…You expect to visit the grocery store again in about 3 days’ time, if not less

Seriously. Things here will spoil in that amount of time, especially the fruits and vegetables. If you don’t really need it today, wait.

…You know which side of the road to stand on to get on the bus

Which way did you come from, which way do you need to go?

…You recognize the landmarks they use on the bus stops

Toward St. Paul’s? Know where that is in relation to my flat. Toward Holborn? That’s near home. Toward Aldwych? I can get us home from there.

…You know you have to ask for the check, or you’ll be sitting a while

Servers will clear your table and still not bring you the check. Ask. Or you’ll be late. On the upside, I’ve never felt like they were rushing me out the door.

…You know you don’t call a taxi; it’s cheaper to get on the bus

Taxi’s are the most expensive way to travel. Besides, a little walking is probably good for you.

…You live in a flat, not an apartment

And apparently not a house, as everyone keeps reminding me. Whatever.

…Seeing people in full business suits is not strange

That’s a perfectly expected way to get to work. So, nice shoes, nice clothes, on a bike.

…Topping up your Oyster Card is different from renewing it

They made it very clear. We needed to renew them because topping them up was just going to add money to them which would then be deducted every time we used it. Not what we wanted from the world.

…You regularly offer people a “cuppa tea” when they come over

But really. We’re all studying? “Anyone want some tea?” All stressed out? “Can I get you a cup of tea?” Just had dinner? “Would you like some tea?” I’m bored. “I’m making tea for myself. Anyone else want some?”

…Movies all of sudden start making even more sense

The uniforms in Harry Potter are standard issue for the schools here, except for the pointed hats; here, they wear top hats.

…Accents are not a thing you notice anymore

It’s gotten harder for me to be able to tell if someone has an accent. I’ve just gotten used to the British accents, and all the other accents, too.

My London Adventure

On The Road Again [and Again and Again]

This post is all about our 10 Day Coach Tour. We spent Spring Break on a tour of Northern England, Scotland, and Wales. It was blast, but not the break I needed, so there’s that.

To start off, I’d like to share a shot poem written by my friend, Emily, over at Mastering History. She read this poem to us on the morning of about the seventh day of our trip. And when she finished, we were not only all impressed by her talent at poetry, but also at her ability to put into words how every single one of us was feeling.

“Ode to Coach Travel” 

We started out with spirits high
Excited, smiling, nice as pie
Music played, voices raised
And out the windows, all just gazed.

Hours passed and we grew weary
Some of us felt rather teary.
But I was feeling worst of all
Terribly, awfully, worse than y’all.

My aching head began to swell
And of my rage, I could not tell
For it was not the kind of day
For being cheerful, come what may.

Running, jumping, bumping, darting
Screaming, yelling, burping, farting
“I’ve had enough!” I loudly said.
“I should have just stayed home in bed!”

But soon the coach began to sway
The noise began to fade away
The cheeks of many soon turned green
And there was vomit to be seen.

Comforted with ginger candy,
I sat back, just feeling dady.
At last, some peace! I sighed, relieved.
I was, once more, no longer peeved.

With that lovely visual, let me tell you a little more about our trip.

We spent the better part of seven of our ten days on a bus. 37 of my closest friends in London. On a bus. For hours at a time. Sounds just like vacation, right? And let me not complain. It was a great trip and I am blessed to be experiencing all that I am; however, when I get home, I will be sleeping for about a month.

Anyway, let me tell you something; packing for 10 days in a carry-on sized suitcase is hard enough when you know what kind of weather to expect. If you could have weather in the 60’s or in the 20’s, it becomes more difficult. I did learn that rolling clothes makes them fit significantly better in a suitcase (my Pinterest addiction, while still very healthy, has at last come in handy). Not sure how that works, but it does. Seriously. Read about it. Anyway. I somehow managed to fit 10 outfits plus pajamas and all the extras (laptop that I would pull out about twice, chargers, converters, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, towel, all that jazz that you need but don’t really think about until you need it) into a carry-on suitcase (which reassures me that I will have plenty of room for the souvenirs I plan to bring home). Anyway, packing was fun. And most of the places we stayed were one night stops, so repacking every morning was also fun. Somehow it seemed that every morning, my suitcase was getting just a little heavier everyday, which doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, because I certainly didn’t make any great purchases.

Anyway. We spent a night in York. Another in Whitby. Two in each Edinburgh, Glencoe, and Ambleside. Our last night was spent in Caernarvon. And let me tell you that my favorite was Glencoe. By a mile. Even when there was no connection, it was the best. Besides the fact that it was the most beautiful place we visited, it was different.

We spent two nights in the cutest little cabin-looking hotel. And we spent a day hiking. And we didn’t have to deal with a million people. That was wonderful. I didn’t realize how much London stresses me out. There are a million people everywhere, and trying to keep up with the two I need to be with is stressful. Because, even though now I am capable of finding my way home (I’m finally beginning to remember which buses stop here, 21 days before we go home), what if they can’t find their way home? Or what if they’re busy worrying about me? Or what if I have something they need? Big-Sister Gabi doesn’t really enjoy it, and I didn’t really realize it until we were hiking up this mountain, just three of us, and I wasn’t worrying about losing Clarissa or Lisa.

And before someone starts a lecture about “you are not their mother,” I am well aware. I just worry about the people I’m with. It’s just encoded in my genes. I worry about everyone I’m with. Confession: it’s nice when the Holcomb’s are with us, because then I feel much less ridiculous, because they can always use an extra pair of eyes on those boys.

Despite getting soaked during our hike, it was phenomenal.

Glencoe Collage
Some pictures from Glencoe. (:

In contrast to Glencoe, with it’s cute little hotel, we stayed at a Youth Hostel in Ambleside. And, I recognize that I sound like a spoiled brat, but I don’t do sharing my bathroom. When I went and visited UMHB the first time, we toured all the dorms and my mom was really excited when we went through Stribling, because I could have my own room. And I told her that I was willing to have a roommate if I got a bathroom that was my own. And all this came flooding back when we lugged our stuff to the third floor of the hostel and found that not only were the bathrooms not attached to our rooms, but they were coed. Uhm, no thank you.

There was a lot of roommate bonding going on in Ambleside, at least among my roommates. Let me tell you, if you really don’t wanna shower, you can make do with what you’ve got. And let me not say more than that.

By day 10, we were all ready to come back to London. Actually, I think we’re all ready to go home, but seeing as that’s not really an option, we’ll settle for the familiarity that is London, with its wifi and kitchens and slight personal space.

London, it’s been fun, but in 21 days, I get to go home and know what menus mean and eat Mexican food whenever I want and I get my own room and I get  to see my mama and daddy. And I am counting down the days.

My London Adventure

“Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?”

Absolutely not, because I’m in London and it’s beautiful and not snowy.

This weekend, we spent Saturday in Greenwich, which is where time starts. Lemme tell you a little about Greenwich.

First of all, the Prime Meridian is there (that’s the line that splits the Easter and Western hemispheres). So, you can be in two hemispheres. Like this:

I’m 95% sure my right foot is in the East and my left foot is in the West.

And let me tell you why this is so valuable. So back in the day, before phones and clocks and things, sailors needed to tell how far East-to-West they were. They’d already figured out the Equator and North-to-South, but since they couldn’t tell how far East-to-West they were, they could never pinpoint exactly where they were. This made for extra dangerous travel.

So they figured out time could help determine where they were. If the world in 360° (which it is because that’s how circles work), and we do a full rotation in 24 hours, by doing some magical math they figured out that every 1° was equivalent to 4 minutes. So, that’s really helpful. If you know what time it is at home, and you know what time it is where you’re at, some math will tell you where you’re at. But, since there were no digital clocks, and all of their clocks were based on rotation (or something, my teacher was confused and did a kinda terrible job explaining it) being out at sea messed up the time “at home.” So then they tried using the stars, but for that they needed charts and they built the observatory, which is where we went this week. And eventually, when we figured out time zones would be a great idea, we started in Greenwich because that’s where the Royal Observatory is.

So, we took cute pictures on the Prime Meridian…

Very cute, girly picture on the Prime Meridian with some of my new friends!
Harrison’s First Timekeeper: “This timekeeper took five years to build. In 1736, it was tested on a sea voyage to Lisbon and back. Harrison was very seasick, but the timekeeper worked. It was the most accurate sea-going clock.”- From the plaque in the museum

…went through the museum about time…

Greenwich
Lisa, Clarissa, Katie, and me enjoying the sun and the grass!

…and then spent about an hour taking pictures and enjoying the sun.

Let me tell you something about spring in London. It’s so different from spring at home, probably because [usually] our winters are significantly more mild than they are here. But, here, this winter has been the wettest in a very long time, so while we haven’t been frozen, we have been wet. And that isn’t fun. And we had a few genuinely nice days. Like, 55° and clear and sunny. And it’s amazing what the sun does for our spirits and our moods.

Spring in London is beautiful. Sunday, when we finally got going (which took until after noon), we went and read outside in the sun. And everyone and their dog (literally; there are lots of dogs in London, and they’re well-behaved) had the same idea.

So we sat in the sun, Lisa and Clarissa and me, and read our books and listened to the people around us. And that was really cool for me because in London, like I imagine any big city, people just ignore each other. I always feel very isolated from the people around me on the tube or the bus or on the sidewalk. And being in the park this weekend, while no strangers came up to me and made small talk (there was one case where some boys were playing football- or for us Americans, soccer- and they accidentally kicked the ball toward us; the older one told the younger ones to apologize and when I told them it was fine, he laughed and told me to not tell them that, “don’t give them ideas” or something like that), I felt like we were more a part of something. More a part of the life.

At home, that’s always a thing. I never feel isolated from the people around me. Telling a complete stranger “hi,” while walking through the grocery store is normal. And here it really isn’t. Everyone kind of goes on doing their own thing. But it seemed like being in the park changed that. And that is amazing.