So Saturday was supposed to be the Windsor and Eton daytrip that the program set up for us. We all woke up real early, got ready for the trip, and headed over to where the bus meets us. What we didn’t know is that our tour guide had other plans for us. It was the Trooping the Colours day, also known as the Queen’s public birthday. Even though her real birthday is sometime in April, they have a big celebration in the summertime to celebrate it. Our tour guide told us that instead of going to both Windsor and Eton, if we wanted to, we could go to the Queen’s birthday, and then to Windsor, leaving out Eton. This was definitely something that we all wanted to do, because the only thing in Eton is a prestigious boy’s school, nothing too exciting. We were able to get pretty close spots to the road, and watched the processional as they went toward Parliament. First there were bands, and soldiers, many platoons of them. Then was a band riding on horseback which was pretty cool. I couldn’t imagine having to do that but they did it with ease. Finally towards the end, the Royal family passed us by, including Prince William and Prince Harry. People were clapping for the Queen and the Duke as they rode past in a horse drawn carriage. After the main part of the processional passed us, we had to go to get to Windsor. Apparently afterwards, there are other ceremonies including a gun salute, and the processional passes back by everyone on the street, but instead of separately, all together, creating one big massive band. It is quite the experience even though we only got to see a little of it. I was very excited that we were able to go. We did get back onto the bus after that though, and headed over to Windsor to see the other castle that the Queen likes to stay at.
We got there, and the castle was just gigantic. There were a few areas closed off to us, but the part that we were able to see was pretty crazy. There were walls and gardens everywhere. We got to go into one area where the dollhouse was displayed, and it was like nothing I have ever seen before. The house was huge to begin with, with running hot and cold water. There were cars, furniture, gardens, and even hand knit quilts with the tiniest little stitches in it. Apparently it took years to build and prepare to be set on display at this castle. There were other displays of the china of the castle, many cabinets worth, and more artwork from a Henry the VIII exhibit. When we entered the castle, there was a British flag flying, which means that the Queen is not residing in the castle somewhere. Once we left though the queen’s flag was flying. Apparently in the few minutes we were marveling over the doll house and china, she slipped in fairly secretively and they changed the flags to announce her arrival. Some people actually got to watch it happen from our group which was probably pretty cool to see, knowing it meant that the queen was stepping into the castle as that was happening.
Once we were through with the castle, we left and headed back to Kensington, where I live. Instead of going straight back to the dorms though we walked over to Kensington gardens and decided to relax in the grass and read. That didn’t last too long though because within 20 minutes, Gina and I were both fast asleep. It was very relaxing, and I woke up refreshed. After watching people and their very well behaved dogs for a little while longer, we headed back to the dorms for the night.
So I am very behind again, but I have been very busy, so my exhaustion is well worth it. Wednesday turned out to be a very interesting day because of the tube strike. Class met by Trafalgar Square in the morning, which is only about 20 – 30 minutes from where I live; in reality though, it took us almost 1.5 hours, and two different buses to get there. We got onto one bus to start after waiting a little for it, and about half way there, the bus driver pulled over to the side of the road and kicked everyone off, saying that his shift was over, and we all had to find another bus to get where ever we were going. We waited almost 20 minutes after that for another bus, but it was so packed that only half of the group that I was with made it on and the other half was kicked off. They finally got a bus about 5 minutes later. Finally we were able to meet our teacher, and took a pretty interesting walk around the area, and over to by Parliament. He told us a lot about the “second London”, or the royal London, which is separate from the financial, city London. After a lot of walking, and learning a lot of interesting information about London and its history, class was dismissed. Instead of trying to do some of the stuff we had planned though, we headed right back to the dorms so as not to get stuck on the buses again. It wouldn’t have mattered as much, except for the fact that we had tickets to see Wicked for the night, and everyone was nervous about getting there on time. After getting back and having a very quick dinner, we headed off to catch the bus to Wicked, 2 hours early just in case. It was a good thing we did leave that early, because after waiting about 45 minutes, and about 7 full buses later, we ended up having to walk all the way to the theater, well speed walk actually. It was a good hour away walking distance, but we did it. We arrived at the theater with about 20 minutes to spare, very worn out, but very excited. The show of course was amazing, again. It was definitely funny to hear the British accents, and it took a few minutes to get used to, but it was very worth it. After the show was over, we headed over to the tube station, to try out our chances. One line was actually working a little bit, so about 20 minutes later a tube finally showed up, and we took a 10 minute ride back to the dorms. Exhausted from a long day, I collapsed for the night.
Thursday class was in the classroom, thank goodness. He talked a little and we watched a movie on the fires of London. It was kind of cool, and we got out early which was even better. Around 1, I went with the program and braved the tubes, trying to get over to Wimbledon. It was a pretty long tube ride, and about a 20 minute walk, but it was a pretty crazy place once we got there. I’ve never seen so many tennis courts before! They were all grass also, which was pretty crazy, all very well kept, and in preparation for the Wimbledon tournament coming up in two weeks. We got a two hour tour around the whole place, seeing the courts 2-19, court #1 and the center court. We even got to check out the museum there as well once the tour was over. I’m hopefully going back when the matches start to watch from up close some of the very famous tennis players in action! I can’t wait! Then we came back for dinner and decided after walking around for a while just to sit outside and enjoy the nice weather for the night. It was definitely very relaxing, and helped to get my feet to stop yelling at me in pain.
Friday everyone had left already for the weekend, either to just go exploring, or to go on the session B Paris trip. My class was very empty, but it was pretty short which was nice. Gina and I decided to head over to see some of the museums for the day, the two Tate museums in particular. The tubes are finally working again so travel was definitely a lot easier than it has been the past week. We started off at the Tate Modern, which is basically all modern art (as you have probably already guessed from its name). It was definitely very weird, and we didn’t stay for that long. Modern art is not for me apparently, too abstract. After the first Tate museum, we decided that instead of taking the tube to the other one, we would take the “Tate boat”. It was about 20 minutes long, and took us down the River Thames. I haven’t been on a boat here yet, only walked over the river by bridge so this was definitely very cool. It took us right over to the Tate Britain, which was thankfully a little more normal than the Tate Modern. There were a lot of portraits, landscapes, and a few abstract paintings. It was a pretty interesting museum, and we stayed pretty much until closing. I was so motivated I even bought a sketchbook for myself. Probably won’t have much time to use it here in London, but once I get home it’ll be cool to have a sketchbook from another country. We headed back to Atlantic House for dinner, and a movie night. Nothing too fancy at night, because Saturday morning is another early day getting ready for Windsor Castle.
History of London started yesterday, my class for session B. Luckily we only have one 1500 word paper, one 1 hour final, and just a lot of other fun trips all over London. I think I can deal with this (although I did switch from politics to history, I’m not sure what I was thinking…I do not really like either). After our introductory class, we only had a few hours before we had to sign up for all of the exciting stuff the program has planned for us this session. We decided to go to Piccadilly Circus, a very touristy place, with many shops, and people everywhere. It was nothing too special, but still nice to just get out and walk around. We came back right in time to get in line and sign up for the activities. I am officially going to: Wicked (YEY!!), Wimbledon Tennis tour, Windsor and Eton daytrip, Jack the Ripper Walking tour, Greyhound Racing, Bath daytrip, Comedy Store players (comedy show), Dirty Dancing, Cricket, and finally a Midsummer Boat Party. All this, plus more, is to come!! I can’t wait! After waiting forever to sign up, and then finally signing up, we had some dinner and headed over to Builders Arms, a pub where there was a free comedy show. It was very funny (for the most part), and a lot of fun to watch. After watching many people make fun of the fact that we were American (that seems to be a common theme around London when they see or hear us talking) we headed back and went to bed.
Today was a little more exciting than yesterday. First, class wasn’t in the classroom, we went to the Museum of London and walked around the old time period of London area. That was pretty cool actually. It was one of a few trips we well have to this museum because it stretches over the long time span of London that we will learn about in this class (o boy… can’t wait). Afterwards we headed outside and saw remains of the wall that used to surround the city of London, mainly the financial district, back in the time of the Roman Empire (I think that’s what he said anyway…). After leaving our teacher at the end of class, we decided to stay in the area and walked around the financial district for a while; see some of the banks and activity that goes on. It was like a whole different world from the normal happenings of London, especially from the palaces. People walked around in business suits, very determined to get where they were going. It is common knowledge in London that the finance London and the palace, royalty London are two very different things, it was just very cool to see that difference for myself.
After that we headed over to St. Paul’s Cathedral which was absolutely amazing. I think it is one of my favorite places that we have gone to so far. The inside of the cathedral was just incredible, the ceiling, the walls, everywhere you looked was something exciting to see. We went into the crib where people buried in the church are laid, which was just incredible to see also. I just walked around the entire place speechless, in awe of what this cathedral looked like. The worst part was that I was not allowed to take pictures, but it’s ok because I bought the brochure book to make sure I remembered everything. After walking around the main part of the cathedral, we found the entrance to the staircase, and about 250 very wide but short steps later I was at the top of the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral looking down at everything I was just looking up at. Then we went up about another 150 narrow but large steps and were even higher up in the dome, but this time looking out on the world. It was very tiring but so incredible. It took about 2 hours to get through this cathedral because there was so much to look at and explore. I absolutely loved it in there.
After walking through the cathedral we headed over the millennium bridge (the large walking bridge that goes over the Thames River) and into the Globe gift shop. There was nothing that exciting there, so we headed back across the river again and onto the tube. Instead of going directly back though we went to Kings Cross train station where Harry Potter was filmed, particularly the 9 ¾ platform. When we finally found the platform, you see a sign about saying Platform 9 ¾ and a cart below the sign half way through the wall, similar to what they did in Harry Potter. Katherine and I took turns taking cheesy photos of ourselves “running” through the wall with the cart in hand. We couldn’t stop laughing, out of a little embarrassment for being there, but also just out of fun and joy.
After we had our fun, we headed back to the house for dinner, and a relaxing night of watching movies and hanging out. The tube (a.k.a. the London form of a NYC subway) shut down at 7pm tonight (Tuesday) due to a union strike, and will not open again until Thursday night around 7pm. This makes getting around town very difficult, as in about 3 million people set foot on a tube every single day in London. The city is going pretty crazy over it, and we decided that our safest bet would be to stay in tonight, and deal with the madness in the morning when it is absolutely necessary. Goodnight for now, although I am sure I will have at least one “we got a little lost” story from my bus travels tomorrow.
So Friday was my last day of classes for session A. After a long rough night and morning of not having internet, and then barely having internet, I was finally able to get my paper finished and printed. (Thank goodness I decided to bring a flash drive with me to London). Friday morning I handed in my paper, took my two hour test (6 long short-answer questions) and was done! It’s not like it was a bad class or anything, I actually enjoyed it, but I was getting tired of having to do work. Hopefully History of London will just be trips and fun learning experiences all over London, and not that much work. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow though. So after class and getting myself back together, I packed up a small suitcase and headed over to the tube. We took the tube to the Victoria Coach Station and from there got on a bus, much like the one I take back and forth from Ithaca. 5-6 hours later we finally arrived in Liverpool. It was pretty late at night at this point though so after getting pretty lost, we finally found our hostel. It was nicer than I expected. There were four of us on this trip, and it was a four person room which worked out. Two bunk beds, about 2 feet in between, and very little other space besides that. It was cramped but at least we had our own bathroom attached to the room. After a long day, partly because of the method of travel (long bus rides wipe you out…) we all pretty much crashed until the morning.
Saturday was our exploring day. We woke up bright and early (around 7:30am my time) and headed out into the rainy weather. We headed down to Albert Dock to see most of the attractions. First stop was the Beatles Story. This included a gift shop, as well as a museum. We walked through the museum, which was basically the story of the Beatles from their beginnings when they weren’t together all the way until they broke up, and even a little after that. It was pretty cool thing to walk through, a lot of lights and good music and informational headsets which seem to be used at many of the attractions we’ve been to so far. After the museum and the gift shop, we headed over to the Tate Liverpool, a modern museum right on the water. It was interesting to say the least. There was a lot of artwork that I just didn’t understand at all, but I guess that’s the case with me for a lot of modern art. We didn’t stay there too long; a mix of not a lot to see and not having much of an interest there. Next we headed over to the Maritime Museum. That was a lot of fun. There was a huge display on the Titanic and other ships which sailed near its time. There was actually a man who swam down to see the Titanic wreck who worked in the museum. He standing and talking about it while I was there. That was pretty amazing. There was another part of the museum which was called the International Slavery museum. We walked through there a little before heading back out into the rain to go to our next location. We decided to walk over to the St. Nicholas Church after that so I could walk around there. It was, like so many of the other churches that I’ve seen, just amazing to look at, the architecture, and the design behind it. After walking through the gardens, into the church, and looking at the pier where Nick’s ship was docked last year, we walked to the Metropolitan Cathedral. That was one of the oddest looking churches I have ever seen. It was definitely the more modern of the churches that we have seen while on the trip. It was still pretty cool though and we walked around there for a while before going to the Liverpool Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in the world. It was pretty amazing there too. Everything was just so big and towered over us. We walked around there for a good hour just exploring the entire place and taking it all in. At 6 we were scheduled to meet a taxi, “The Beatles Fab Four Taxi Tour” as it was called. It was a private tour to all of the Beatles sights around Liverpool, including Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, all the Beatle’s houses they grew up in, and some other cool areas. That lasted for a little over 2 hours and was just tons of fun. We listened to music, and learned about all these cool places around Liverpool having to do with the Beatles, and saw places in their songs. That was basically the end of our sightseeing. We got some dinner after the tour and just walked around the city for a while, partly to look around and partly because we got lost…again. We did so good getting places from the hostel but not so much getting back to it. After a very long day we all passed out again once we got back to our small room.
Sunday, today, I didn’t do that much. We woke up pretty early again, had some more of the crappy breakfast they had for free at the hostel, and then headed over to the bus. That was at 9:30 am, and then around 3 or 4pm today we got back to our dorms finally. The rest of the day was just relaxing. I unpacked, cleaned a little, and had some dinner. I finally was able to do laundry after that. It took from around 7 all the way until 11 tonight to finish doing laundry, and I still now have stuff handing dry in my closet. It’s a bit of a mess, but it’ll be all done by tomorrow hopefully. That’s about all for this weekend though. First day of classes tomorrow for session B! I’ll be home in 3 weeks from yesterday. Pretty crazy how fast time flies by here. Half way through my trip, and so many things to still see! Can’t wait!!
Since I have failed with getting pictures onto this sight, I made another area where you can see my pictures from the trip so far.
It’s the same beginning of the website, but with a number 1 at the end (my other one was taken already).
So this week has been pretty crazy with my paper due tomorrow and everything else, which is why I haven’t written at all. So here’s a short and sweet version of my last week in Minority and Ethnic Relations before heading onto Session B and my last 3 weeks here in London. It seems pretty crazy that I am already half way through my stay here, but I am very excited to be coming home soon, even though I am having a fabulous time. So here goes:
Monday I handed in my paper to be checked hoping that would be the end of it (no such luck …). After class we ran over to the Hampton Court and Palace where Henry VIII lived and all his wives. It was a pretty cool place, not to mention one of the largest palaces that I have seen so far. We spend a few hours there, wandering all over, and seeing almost every part of the castle. The gardens around it were amazing too. Flowers and fountains, statues and even a maze which we were too chicken to go into for fear of never coming out (we also only had about a half hour left and did not want to be late). After seeing as much as possible we headed back to the Atlantic House, taking a bus and then the tube. We have become very good at the whole public transportation thing. Then after an early dinner we headed over to the Thames River for the guided tour the program set up for us. It turned out to be pretty interesting. We saw a bunch of hidden away passages and markets that I didn’t know existed. We also went to 3 different pubs, each one older than the next, and the last one the oldest pub in London (I think…). After walking around and hanging out afterwards, we headed back for the night.
Tuesday I got my paper back. “Good first draft!” she wrote so enthusiastically across the top. I was not very happy with that response. I apparently had some work to do after that. After going through a lot of my paper with her and hearing, you should add this, and here is a suggestion for that, I finally was free to go and scrutinize over it by myself. She also suggested watching Bend it like Beckham because it is about a Sikh family, which is the general topic of my paper, so that is exactly what I did. After watching the movie which turned out to be pretty good, I headed into the computer lab and booked my trip to Liverpool, which is where I am leaving for tomorrow (Friday). We got everything all set up right in time for dinner. After dinner we headed back to the Thames River, but this time to see Romeo and Juliet in the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. It was really cool to watch, and I was standing right next to the stage, front and center. I was so close that once or twice the actor’s spit hit me. Pretty gross, but it was worth it being that close. After standing for almost 3 hours (with one 10 minute intermission where everyone sat – kind of backwards from normal actually) we walked back to the tube and back to the dorms to pass out. So much for working on my paper…
Wednesday I had to do a presentation on my paper for my class, if I didn’t have to do enough for this teacher already. It went ok, although I didn’t expect much of myself because I hate speaking. After getting through that, I came back to my room and worked on my paper trying to finish it (no such luck again). The only thing that I really did all day besides getting through about half of the paper was to go out and play football (well soccer but London people call it football). It turned out to be a very nice night, so playing out in the park was a lot of fun, and it felt great to be able to run around. After a fun game of soccer, my team winning, we headed back to the dorms. I attempted to look at my paper again but was unable to, and decided to pass out for the night.
Today, Thursday went pretty much the same. There was no class this morning so I went and paid a visit to Sonja instead, the person in charge of the classes here. I decided, after much struggle with my college back at home, to change my class to History of London for next session, because the Parliament teacher expected a politics background (of which I do not have). That’s ok though, because now instead of having to go to class from 2-5 each day, I have to go from 10-1, giving me more time in the afternoon and night to continue my explorations through London. After talking with her, I headed back and worked on my paper even more. I took a break for a little while to go to the Sherlock Holmes museum and Harrods. The museum was pretty cool. Four floors of statues and scenes from the shows (I’m assuming). Then we went to Harrods and marveled at how much money people spend on things. A tank top looking shirt was almost 64 pounds. A bag, too small to fit anything more than a phone and some money, was almost 3,000 pounds. It was crazy! After walking around that store for a while (almost 2 hours spent over 4 floors and a city block’s length) we finally made our way out and back to the dorms. We ate some dinner and I spend the rest of the night working on my paper which I have finally had enough of and am finally done with.
This weekend I will be in Liverpool without a computer but I will be sure to write all about it when I get back on Sunday. I can’t wait!!
We woke up really early Saturday morning and headed out for some breakfast before getting onto the bus and heading over to Stonehenge. We were driving and then all of a sudden it was just there! In the middle of the big empty fields it just appears. After parking and walking across, well actually under, the highway, we were finally standing right in front of it. You were able to walk all around the huge stones, but not very close, so all we could really do was take some pictures of every angle we could find. It really is pretty amazing and so weird at the same time. After walking all around for about an hour (all that is needed there … really), taking in the sights, and learning a lot about Stonehenge, we headed back to the bus and went to Salisbury. There wasn’t too much there, but it was a nice little town. We walked around their outdoor market, and of course I ended up buying a book (it was only 3 pounds though so it’s ok…). The big attraction of the town was their cathedral, which actually was very pretty. One of the copies of the Magna Carta is actually located there so we had a chance to see that too. The whole thing was very cool to walk around, very much like all of the other cathedrals here; all very grand and magnificent. After touring that for a while we headed back to Kensington.
For dinner, once we got back, I had fish and chips for the first time! It turned out to be very good actually, and I ate the whole thing. After dinner I was finally able to meet up with Michelle and we hung out the rest of the night. I was able to see the Ithaca College London Center, which turned out to be nothing too special. We then ended up back at the Greyhound and just hung out and talked for the night. It was really good to see her even though it was for a short amount of time. After that headed back to the dorms and went to bed.
Sunday (today) was pretty boring. I was able to wake up at 9am which I think is the latest I have slept during my stay here. We got ready and headed over to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guard. It would have been a very cool ceremony except for the fact that I am short and could not see over everyone there. I was able to get a few good shots of the soldiers with the funny hats, and some of the musicians, but that was about all. It was fun while we were there, but it definitely would have been better if we could see more. After that we headed back to the dorms and I spent the rest of the day doing my paper which I finished!!! Had a relaxing night, some good Italian food for dinner, and got to bed ready to start my third week here (I can’t believe it has gone so fast already!)