Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Skating down Abbey Road

Last Friday was a really fun day. It was a nice relief to get away from the center and finals for a few hours and do something exciting. First a huge group of us went to Abbey Road. It was such a good time. After a lengthy tube ride and wandering down some streets we finally arrived. It was really cool. There was the actual crosswalk they used and the official Abbey Road Studios.

First we signed the wall in front of the studio. That was a lot of fun. It was cool to see how many signatures have accumulated on it over the years, and what all of them said. A lot of people quoted John Lennon, Beatles songs, and other well known words. I went for simplicity and just decided to write my name. Classic right? I thought so. All the other girls had fun signing the wall too. It was after this that we decided we better cross the crosswalk...


It was pretty embarrassing to behave like complete tourists. After living here for over 3 months I've kind of taken pride in the fact that I now behave like a Londoner. However, there are just some things that can't be helped and this was one of them. You could tell that the cars who drove on that street are completely aware that the crosswalk has frequent visitors. They always stopped and had this look on their face like "here we go again". And of course you can never get the shot you want the first time around. We had to go back and forth a good four or five times before we were satisfied. It was a lot of fun, just totally touristy. I was happy with the results though.

Later that afternoon we had another fun activity in store. A group of us decided to go ice skating at the Somerset House! Cath and I have been wanting to do that since we heard about it in September so we were really excited. It didn't disappoint either. I had a blast! I admit I'm a terrible ice skater, but I still love it. I just held onto anyone in sight so I wouldn't fall over. The rink was quite the site too. They decorated it with a "Tiffany's" theme so everything was Tiffany Blue, and the gift shop was even shaped as a big Tiffany's Box. I couldn't get enough of it. We got a good 45 minutes of ice skating in before our time was up. By the time it was over I had gotten pretty good too. It was just so much fun because it made it finally feel like Christmas in London and took my mind off of all the school stress I had been feeling. Plus, it pretty much completed my list of "Must Do's" in London! Perfect!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Reese Witherspoon strolling through the halls of Parliament.

On Wednesday our group went on a tour of Parliament. It was a really good time. We started the day by getting our own personal photo badges to enter the building. However, we weren't actually aware of the pictures being taken so the result was an assortment of awkward faces strewn across all our badges. It was pretty entertaining to see what everyone's looked like. In mine I've got a nice half-blink going on, and due to my shortness I'm halfway out of the screen... priceless. The guard that took Laura's picture told her that Reese Witherspoon was in the building that morning and to keep a close eye out. We were all hoping for a glimpse of her somewhere in the halls. Well we didn't have to look far or wait too long because while we were waiting in the entry hall to start the tour who should walk by us but REESE! It was the strangest experience. All the sudden there she was just strolling on past us. I admit I felt a little starstruck. She looked just like she does in the movies. See famous person in London--Check! It took me a minute to focus in on the tour after that, but eventually I got there and found it all really interesting. I learned that the Queen had been there just 2 weeks previously to open Parliament, and that they still keep to every tradition no matter how long it has existed. I think that is so cool. It really is still so structured, orderly, and exact from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. We even got to watch the Speakers of the House enter at 11am. It was a very formal affair including silence, and the removal of hats. At the end of the tour we took a group picture on the stairs. It was a really fun activity!

Nutcracker smacker

On Monday night Laura, Ann, Abs, and I went to the Nutcracker. I have a special bond with the Nutcracker because of the 6 years I actively performed in it when I was younger. While this version was different it wasn't any less satisfying. It was actually quite delightful! In London they have a professional dancer play Clara and she was beautiful. She had the most amazing feet. I loved watching her. The Sugar Plum Fairy, and the Nutcracker Prince were amazing as well. The whole production was just perfect. We saw it on December 1 and I think it was exactly what I needed to kick off the holiday season. At the end I think they knew we liked it because the bows went on for almost as long as the ballet. It was a little ridiculous. Like with Sleeping Beauty it got me really excited to take ballet next semester! I'm so happy we went. It was a great night!

Happy Thanksgiving Back...

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving and it was a great day! Abs and I started it off with a morning run. It was a beautiful day... not a cloud in the sky. That was definitely something to be grateful for. At 11am Ann, Lauren, Cath, and I headed down to St. Paul's Cathedral. Every year they put on a Thanksgiving Service for all the Americans in London. It was really, really great. We sung "Come Thou Fount", and "America the Beautiful" and an American Reverend gave a really nice talk. It really brought the spirit of Thanksgiving to life. The best part about the service? When we got back it was time for our feast! I didn't eat all day so that I would be hungry for JaeLyn's food and I was not disappointed. We had turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, stuffing, rice, and vegetables. The stuffing was particularly outstanding. And for dessert we had pumpkin pie and chocolate chip pie. Both were delicious, but I have to say that the pumpkin pie was especially tasty. I literally could not get enough of it. After we managed to tear ourselves away from the servery we decided to watch a little "Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" and take a nice afternoon nap. I fell asleep almost instantly and woke up so refreshed. That night Abs, Ann, Lauren, Cath, and I went to "New Moon". I'd been wanting to see it since it came out so I was so excited! It was so much fun. We all wore our new Oxford sweatshirts and took some pictures with the posters. Cath and I are devoted to Edward while Abs, Ann, and Laur prefer Jacob. I loved the movie. It brought a lot of happiness to my day. When we got back I'm not sorry to say that we enjoyed some more pumpkin pie before heading to bed. Thanksgiving will definitely go down as a favorite day here in London!

The ABC's of Gratitude: London Version
A- Apples
B- Borough Market
C- Covent Garden
D- Double decker buses
E- Eiffel Tower
F- Friends
H- Hyde Park
I- Ireland
J- JaeLyn's Cooking
K- Ketchup

L- London Eye
M- Marks & Spencer
N- Notting Hill
O- Open Markets
P- Palace Court
Q- Queensway
R- Rainy Days
S- Skype
T- Tea Time
U- Underground
V- Victoria Line
W- Whole Wheat Crackers
X- Xcellent shows
Y- York
Z- Zizii's

Oxford College

Last Wednesday our group spent the day at Blenheim Palace and Oxford college. It was freezing cold, and the weather wasn't great, but we still managed to have a lot of fun. The Palace was really neat. It is still used today so there were Christmas decorations everywhere. They said you can tell when the Duke is in because his Land Rover will be parked in the driveway and the butler will be properly dressed. He wasn't there this day, but I thought it was a funny way of revealing if he was home or not. I also learned that Winston Churchill was born here. Very cool. I really enjoyed it. After our tour we had some time to wander in the gardens. The grounds were amazing. It looked like they went on forever. They had lakes, and fountains, and gardens, and lawn everywhere. If it hadn't be frigid outside I think I would have taken more time to see it all.

After we left the palace we headed to Oxford. I had the chance to go to Cambridge last summer so I was excited to see Oxford. Of course the second we stepped off the bus it started raining on us. It made us all a little weary to think we had a 90 minute outdoor tour ahead of us. However, we zipped up our coats, put on our gloves, and put on our best faces. Our guide had been working with the university for over 60 years so he really knew what he was talking about. The tour was actually really interesting. Oxford is a complex place that is continuing to grow. I could understand why it is such an elite school to attend. There are 37 colleges in existence now and each one has specific subjects it teaches. One of them, Christchurch, is known for people like C.S. Lewis and Andrew Lloyd Webber attending it. I thought that was really cool. Another cool thing about Oxford? It was where they filmed The Great Hall for the Harry Potter movies! Ann and I kept waiting for him to tell us where exactly that was. It was, of course, at the very end of the tour that he showed us the building. Typically, you have to pay extra to go inside so we only got a picture of the outside, but we decided that was probably better so we didn't ruin the magic of it.

After the tour we had a good 2.5 hours to kill so spent in wandering in and out of shops. Abs, Ann, Cath, Laur, and I inevitably ended up buying the same grey, crew neck, "Oxford" sweatshirts. I love it. We're all going to wear them next semester in our apartment. I can't wait. By the time it was time for the coach to pick us up we were pretty cold and ready to go. We learned that it was to be our last ride on the coach with Tony! I'll miss those days on the back of the bus. Such good memories!
It was a really fun day. I loved Oxford and am really glad we got to go there.

Paris: Practically Perfect in Every Way, Day 5

Saturday was our last day in Paris. We decided to enjoy the day and do everything we hadn't done yet. First, however, we had to sneak out of that darn hotel one more time. Once again we were successful and it was a relief to know that I won't have to do that anymore. From there we decided to drop our bags at the train station before actually beginning our day. It took us a good half hour to actually find the place to store our bags and then another ten minutes to find out way out, but we managed. From there we went in search of the "Moulin Rouge". We knew the general location so we decided to go from there. Everyone kept telling us to keep heading down the street so we did. The area was getting sketchier and sketchier so I was pretty sure we were in the right place. After about ten minutes we arrived. I'd have to say that the movie makes it appear much cooler than it is. However, it's still cool to say we've seen the official Moulin Rouge.

After that we were starving so we decided to return to our favorite crepe place by Notre Dame and get some lunch crepes.  Today Cath and I decided we better share ours. We ordered a chicken and cheese one again and he made it huge! It was just as delicious as before. I still consider it one of the better meals I've had in my life. With happy tummies we wandered along the river for a little bit before heading over to the Eiffel Tower. It was fun to see it in the day time. It's like a completely different structure. Because they do have the best in town, we couldn't resist picking up some dessert crepes. Cath and I shared a banana-coconut-nutella one. And yes, that was 2 crepes in the span of about 2.5 hours, but it was our last day...we had to splurge. We weren't in any hurry so we just wandered down the way to get some fun pictures in front of the tower. It was a fun little photo shoot. We made sure to get plenty of pictures. At one point a group of boys hopped in our picture that were dressed in spandex, feather boas, and wearing masks. We asked them what it was about and they said, "Initiation". Possibly Paris' version of Greek Row? It was pretty funny.

As we got further down the lawn we got a little more creative. First we took some pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower throwing leaves into the air. We found it worked pretty good when you set the camera on "continuous". (Although you then end up with about 50 pictures in the span of 5 seconds.) It was a lot of fun to see us throwing the leaves from start to finish like in a flip-book. After leaf throwing we started the jumping pictures. Those were fun too. My dad made the comment that you could track mine and Catherine's life together in jumping pictures, and he's probably right. We just love it.

After saying goodbye to old Eiffel for the last time we headed over the Gallery Lafayette. It is a huge department store in Paris. When I say huge, I mean huge. Plus, it was jam packed. I'm guessing that a Saturday afternoon during the holiday season is a busy time for the French. However, we had a goal in mind. Cath and I each wanted to get Longchamp purses. We'd seen them all over London and Paris and I really liked them. I decided that it would be my Paris Purchase Memory. After waiting in line to even get into the Longchamp section I picked one out. I went with black and was very happy with my purchase.

It was feeling pretty claustrophobic in that store so we left and went to the Champs Elysees for the last time. We had a lot of time on our hands so we took our time strolling in and out of all the shops. It was a lot of fun, but I was definitely feeling the exhaustion of all we had done in 5 days. We went in Sephora, Nike, Haagen Daaz, and the candy shop for the last time. When it was time we headed back to the train station. I was really excited to get back to London for our last 3 weeks. I love love loved Paris though! It is still one of my very favorite places in the world! I hope I get to go back there soon!