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Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Globe and Platform 9 3/4

Well, the Globe was excellent. The costuming was exquisite, the actors passionate, and the audience respectful. Our seats had restricted views, but I was just happy to have a place to sit, as the center of the Globe is standing room only. Then we did some night photography along the Thames. Using my camera, along with some coaxing and a tripod, I finally got night pictures that weren't hideously blurry.

Platform 9 3/4 was all right, but since Kings Cross is doing renovations, it was a little platform of its own outside the station. Kind of a disappointing setting, but since this trip keeps having HP references, may as well visit the most obvious of them all.

My class is taking a weekend trip to Paris starting at 4:30 am tomorrow! We're going to see the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre in one day, and then I have the weekend free for Versailles and hopefully some unscheduled fun. :) I'll be back on Sunday.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Globe Theater and Digital Story Project

Today I've spent most of the morning working on my digital story project, which is below. Our group is planning to go to the Globe Theater tonight to see Anne Boleyn and take some nighttime photography along the Thames. It'll be great to have a night out!

Sorry about the black borders in this. I went back and tried to fix them numerous times in PhotoStory, but when I uploaded the file to YouTube, they came back. This class is actually making me wish I had a Mac for my media projects.


Schmidt, C. (Director, producer, editor). (2011). Dear Future London Multimedia Student [Web]. Available from

Music, in Order of Appearance

Byrne, David (Lyricist). (1981). Once in a lifetime [Recorded by Talking Heads]. On Remain in Light [Medium of recording: CD] New York: Sire Records.

Welch, Florence (Lyricist). (2008). Dog Days Are Over [Recorded by Florence and the Machine]. On Lungs [Medium of recording: CD] London: Moshi Moshi.

Reed, Lou (Lyricist). (1972). Walk on the Wild Side [Recorded by Lou Reed]. On Transformer [Medium of recording: CD] New York: RCA.

Torrini, Emiliana (Lyricist). (1999). Unemployed in Summertime. On Love in the Time of Science [Medium of recording: CD] London: Virgin.

Resnick, Arthur (Lyricist). (1968). Yummy Yummy Yummy [Recorded by Ohio Express]. On Ohio Express [Medium of recording: CD] New York: Buddha Records.

Blegvad, Peter (Lyricist). (1990). Blue Flower [Recorded by Mazzy Star]. On She Hangs Brightly [Medium of recording: CD] New York: Capitol.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Scottish Comedian-Turned Tour Guides and Giant Rocks

Just when I think our Blue Badge tour guides can't get any more fun and entertaining, we get another one that exceeds expectations. His name was Sean Simpson, a Scottish guide. Voice of Craig Kilbourne, humor of a deadpan Jim Gaffigan. He was very interested in our group's photo mascots and made hilarious comments on the passersby and animals we passed on our two-hour trip to Stonehenge. I wanted to beg him to talk to us more; he was that entertaining.

Stonehenge! It's located in gorgeous, gently rolling British countryside. Despite the groups of tourists roped off in a loop around the mighty stones, it's fairly quiet and peaceful. A perfect place for a picnic. There were the usual gift shops selling stone and sheep related merchandise, as there's a huge pasture of sheep across the road from Stonehenge. The experience of walking around Stonehenge was pretty ordinary, but I enjoyed wondering how the heck those stones were moved across the country from Wales. They say it was a burial site, perhaps.

After visiting a lovely cathedral in the nearby town of Salisbury (which happens to house the Magna Carta, by the way), I went to the Ye Olde Ale House with Beth, Kalyca, and Tiffanie and had my first Pimm's cocktail. Delicious. I've asked Daniel to check and see if they sell it in the states. After some shopping at the Salisbury market, in which I bought a punnet of Belgium strawberries, a used Bill Bryson book, and a beach towel for Italy, the delightful Sean and my group enjoyed naps on the coach bus home. A peaceful touring day. Oxford may have been more exciting, but I love Salisbury now too. And nope, didn't see the namesake steak on any menus.

Today's photo assignment was to create a five-picture story. Mine involves Rosie Rex. She's training for the 2012 Olympics, see, and she thought it'd be a good idea to scale Stonehenge for exercise like King Kong.

The Museum of London, St. Paul's, and Becoming One with the Steps

The Museum of London is a great, free, smaller museum detailing the history of London from the beginning of time to the present. They had a decent section about the black plague, which always grabs my attention. Over half the population of London died in 1348, and the plague continued to haunt London off and on for hundreds of years. Scientists speculate if it was caused by fleas on rats or a virus, but either way, it makes me wonder about how much the world lost due to the plague-brilliant people, criminals, and all the generations in between.

St. Paul's Cathedral is a spectacular feat of architecture and beauty. Imagine a cathedral the size of a state capitol building, with a 364 foot tall dome, beautifully detailed mosaics sprawling across the ceilings, paintings, and memorials everywhere. Alexander Fleming, the physician who discovered penicillin, is buried at this cathedral, as well as Christopher Wren, who designed something like 50 cathedrals around England. I originally thought St. Paul's was a Catholic church, but it is really affiliated with the Church of England.

After the tour, I decided to climb the 528 steps through the three domes of the cathedral, all the way to the top. Now that I know what climbing up 528 steps feels like, I can tell you that it's dizzying, it's a feat of endurance, but it also is fairly manageable if you turn your brain off and just keep going, steadily. Bring water. The steps between the Whispering Gallery and the Stone Gallery were the most exhausting. The staircase to the Golden Gallery felt shorter, but there is an open, black metal spiral staircase that will make you clutch the rails. If you survive, you'll be treated to the most gorgeous view of London ever. Climbing the St. Paul's Cathedral Dome is pretty much London's version of the Eiffel Tower. It's worth it.

Climbing down all 528 steps at once will probably make your head spin. At one point, I swear I ceased to be climbing down the stairs; the stairs were rushing me down. Still, worth it.

The next project for my class is a video. I made one about Harrods, the most elaborate and luxurious department store I've ever laid eyes on. A majority of my project decided to fail tonight, so this is what I've rebuilt in a few hours. The best part was choosing the music. Siouxsie and the Banshees and Frank Sinatra; excellent.

Monday, July 25, 2011


While my classmates were going to plays and working on their videos, I decided to pay a visit to Brighton to visit a long-time friend, Ellie! We met up at the train station at noon, and it was so lovely to see her, finally. Ever since I decided to study abroad in London in October, we've been planning to meet up with each other. Brighton is described as England's San Francisco, and it really did echo what I saw there in January: lots of seafood, quirky independent shops, rainbows everywhere, tacky, touristy places near the sea, and the overall relaxed atmosphere and scenery. Brighton is nowhere nearly as hilly, however.

We had Yo Sushi for lunch and wandered around clothing and record shops. The charity (thrift) shops are excellent here. They're selective about their merchandise, more careful about displays, and are less crowded with stuff. Josh Homme's album The Desert Sessions 9 and 10 for £1.99? A Bill Bryson book for a pound? Yes, please. Ellie suggested that we go to Brighton Pier, which reminded me a lot of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, except less clam chowder, more merry-go-rounds. As well as tarot card readers and absurdly aggressive seagulls who tried to grab Ellie's ice cream.

Brighton's Pier has a pebbly beach that becomes comfortable once you settle down into the stones. I interrupted a lady on the beach (who was about to drink out of a flask, oops) so we could get a picture together.

What I loved and appreciated most about Ellie is that she was willing to discuss my seemingly endless questions and comments about British culture. It was fantastic to have lots of casual conversation with someone from here! Here is a small sampling of what we discussed:
  • The British branches of government (conservative, liberal Democrat, and Labour) 
  •  Where's Waldo? books are actually called Where's Wally? here
  • Our oddly-named hometowns of Leighton Buzzard and Kaukauna. Never before has the word "Kaukauna" been pronounced so eloquently...I love British accents.
  • The small white soft serve ice cream cones my classmates enjoyed near the London Eye are called Mr. Whippies or 99p cones. They come with a delicious chocolate flake.
  • The differences between the US and the UK health care systems, drinking and smoking ages, and driving systems.
  • Our shared love of documentaries and my surprise that England lacks Hulu, Pandora, or Netflix. The horror. ;) At least Grooveshark still works. Ellie did recommend BBC iPlayer, which I'll have to investigate further.

    As if all of that wasn't enough, Ellie even bought Rosie Rex and me our very first English cup of tea. Did I mention how much I love this woman? Because I do. Although every day of my trip has been unforgettable, this day trip to Brighton was probably my favorite day in England. Thanks, Ellie. (P.S. Bubble and squeak is the fried vegetables left over from roast dinners, like potato, cabbage, carrots, etc. Remember that sign in the cafe?)

    Even if you don't have your own tour guide, Brighton is worth a visit. Make sure you get ice cream on the pier and browse the shops in the Lanes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mummies, the British Museum, and PJ Harvey

An unstructured day at last! After traveling all day in Oxford, I was happy to sleep in. The only events on the schedule were touring the British Museum and finishing up my podcast that's due today.

The British Museum is fantastic because it's free so I got to wander around the museum at my own pace, not worrying about getting my money's worth, nobody stopped me from taking flash photography, and it has the Rosetta Stone and ancient Egyptian artifacts and mummies. This one broke my heart, though:

You can't really see his face at this angle because of his hand, but the look of anguish on his face was horrible. The description didn't say what he died of, but the sands protected the body from complete decay. There were a lot of other Egyptian artifacts and mummies, but I spent a lot of my time in the Chinese jade section, the Turkish jewelry and dishes, as well as checking out the Rosetta Stone. The British Museum is world-class and free; it's a treasure and if you enjoy museums, you should certainly visit.

Tomorrow is Brighton! And then the rest of the weekend will be spent working on my video for class due Monday. Fun.

           PJ Harvey at a 2009 concert at the Minnesota Zoo.
A.k.a.: the best night of my life.
Here's my podcast for class. It's basically an overview PJ Harvey's latest album, Let England Shake, because it's something I really love and it was fun to research and talk about. Learning how to use Audacity tonight was a little rough, but I got it in the end, I think.

Breihan, Tom, Initials. (2010, December 2). Pj harvey: written on the forehead. Pitchfork, Retrieved from 

Harvey, PJ. (Artist). (2010). Pj Harvey let England shake Andrew Marr show 18th april 2010. [Web]. Retrieved from 

Harvey, PJ (Performer). (2011). The Words That Maketh Murder [Recorded by PJ Harvey]. On Let England Shake [Medium of recording: CD] Santa Monica, CA: Vagrant Records. (2011)  

Harvey, PJ (Performer). (2011). The Glorious Land [Recorded by PJ Harvey]. On Let England Shake [Medium of recording: CD] Santa Monica, CA: Vagrant Records. (2011) 

Harvey, PJ (Performer). (2011). Written on the Forehead [Recorded by PJ Harvey]. On Let England Shake [Medium of recording: CD] Santa Monica, CA: Vagrant Records. (2011) 

McCormick, Neil, Initials. (2011, July 20). Pj harvey: masterpiece of the first rock-and-roll war artist. The Telegraph, Retrieved from 

Oxford: Rose Lemonades and Harry Potter are Everywhere

It's been one week since I arrived in London. Today was my first visit out of London to Oxford. This was great because 1.) I adore trains and 2.) Oxford is the ultimate university town (and I adore university towns). This trip was particularly relevant because I had a group project in my Organization of Information course last fall about the Oxford Libraries. To the Bodelian Library we went.

Sign for Bodleian Library.
Unfortunately, our charming Hungarian tour guide didn't know much about the cataloging system of the books that are kept in Duke Humfrey's Reading Room. What I did learn is that the books were originally chained to the wall, spine facing in, with the pages facing outwards with a printed number on them. Accession numbers, that is. Now the chains on the books are gone, but if you try to remove a book from the shelf, an alarm will go off! How they managed to alarm the books and shelving in such a manner, I'm not sure. The Duke Humfrey library is also where they filmed the library scenes in Harry Potter.

Christ Church, which is a very prestigious college and chapel, turned up more HP references. Our rather wry, distinguished tour guide in a bowler hat showed us the places around the grounds where Chris Columbus and his crew filmed the first Harry Potter movie, the dining hall that inspired the film, places where Professor McGonagall stood, and so on. As usual, the Brits know how to make their historical tours completely fascinating and funny.
Radcliffe Camera, University of Oxford. Undergrad reading rooms inside.

Bowler-hat tour guide at Christ Church. Can this hat trend be adopted further?

A staircase in Christ Church that was filmed in Harry Potter.

Inspiration for HP dining hall, Christ Church.

This summer, I've had this thing where I make a new flavor of homemade lemonade every week: mixed berry, mojito, strawberry, blueberry peach. But tonight in the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford, I found the new lemonade love of my life, Fentiman's rose lemonade.  Made with ginger and rose essential oils, it was so refreshing. Joey let me try some of his Pimm's cocktail, too, and that was equally as delicious. Whoever said that British food is lacking lied, because everything I put in my mouth here tastes better and fresher than the US version. Even small things like yogurt, Sprite, and jam taste better. I'm not even trying that hard to have a foodie experience. Most days I buy the cheapest item on the menu or the sale items at the grocery store, and each day I'm surprised by how good things taste. Way to go, modern-day British food system. My bowler hat is tipped to you.

Rosie Rex loves her namesake lemonade.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ice Cream Roses and Abbey Road

Even with ample warning before I came here, London weather is even more changeable than I figured. Cool mornings, a bit of sun, then more cool weather, then sun, then some rain, sun, and so forth. Now I'm in the habit of always carrying an umbrella or raincoat, as well as an outfit I'd wear in a Wisconsin autumn, like a tank, cardigan, plus pants, skirt, or leggings. I don't mind the rain very much, though. This city reminds me of an early October in Wisconsin, or a San Francisco January. Two of my favorite places.

Regent's Park in London holds Queen Mary's Rose Gardens and Primrose Hill, as well as London Zoo. The Rose Gardens contain 400 varieties of roses, with immaculate flower beds, lawns, hedges, and fountains. It was easily the most beautiful garden I've ever been in. My grandparents, all excellent gardeners, would have been thrilled to see it.

Flying kites on Primrose Hill, as in Mary Poppins, was incredibly fun, even if my cheap kite broke and only flew about 6 feet high. Note for future classes: don't buy kites from the Dollar Tree. I threw off my shoes and tore across the field, trying to make my kite fly. It felt like being small again, trying to fly kites over the cornfields.

The highlight of today was Abbey Road, which turns out to be just a regular zebra crossing (meaning that when you stick a foot in the crosswalk, traffic is required to halt). Since Abbey Road is a busy road, this means that pain-in-the butt tourists are always running into the crosswalk, snapping photos. Today, I got to be a pain-in-the-butt tourist. Photo is on another friend's camera, unfortunately. For live footage, you can always check out the Abbey Road webcam under the Archives tab. I was there between 1:30-2:00 pm today.

This weekend I'm visiting Brighton to see my lovely friend Ellie. Absolutely cannot wait.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The 2012 Olympics: Revitalizing East London

Today in a Tesco bathroom, I met a very sweet girl who had an interview to produce books/published materials for a Tim Burton film at the 3 Mills Studios near where we were touring the Olympic sites. I wonder how she did. Between meeting her and the Nashville folk singer on the plane, Tammy Rochelle, I am meeting some up-and-coming famous people. This is why I adore traveling.

So, I've never really been an Olympics watcher, except for Atlanta 1996, when nine-year-old me obsessively clipped out all the swimming articles from the newspaper and made a cardboard collage out of them. Touring the sites where London's 2012 Olympics will be held next summer in Newham, London was exciting. The Olympics require new buildings, such as a 80,000 person stadium, a basketball building, extreme sports center, aquatic center, and housing for the athletes. The area around it, in east London, is undergoing a revitalization. In the Canary Wharf area, they're putting up parks and picnic tables and a walkway along the river. Closer to the Olympic buildings, a 1.2 million square foot mall is being constructed called the Westfield (I think I saw that name on a mall when I was in France). The Westfield will be the largest shopping center in Europe when it opens this fall.

Walking around the Olympic sites, halfway between the past and the future, reminded me a lot of the revitalization in Eau Claire's Phoenix Park as well as re-building the streets downtown. During the five years I lived there, watching the land and the culture go from flat to successful was thrilling. On a much larger scale, I hope the East Londoners who have lived near Canary Wharf and Newham are able to handle all of the changes that will happen due to the Olympics.

Cassie and Beth playing hand table tennis!
Yesterday, day 4, I realized that Camden feels like home now. I can navigate the traffic, know where the stores and tube stations are, and I no longer feel self-conscious about my American accent. You know that voice inside your head that narrates when you're reading or thinking? My head voice has developed a British accent. My language is shifting. My bathroom, to-go, and awesome are morphing into toilets, takeaway, and brilliant. I'll embrace it. For now, I belong here, and I love it here.

Humps in the road and Beautiful Lies

In Notting Hill, they enjoy their humps.

Today was an absolute whirlwind of running around London. Kicking the morning off was a guided tour of Westminster Abbey, which I ended up enjoying far more than I imagined. So many famous Brits are buried underneath marked tiles in the church. The poets' corner gave me a pang of longing for my English classes with Dr. Pace. Alfred Tennyson, Henry James, Thomas Hardy, and Geoffrey Chaucer are either memorialized or buried here. Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton are here, too. Walking over these famous graves and listening to our tour guide tell us royal tales gave me a sense of the deep, deep history that permeates London.

We witnessed a wedding in the observation pod in the London Eye this afternoon! The employees stopped the Eye, put a green wreath into it, and then the guests filed in. The bride, somewhere in her 60s, was wearing a printed floral dress and a little blue hat with veil. Our group, in the pod next door, cheered them on. After the ceremony ended, the wedding guests caught notice of us and smiled and waved. It was such a happy moment.
The couple are on the far left of the pod.

After the Eye, the group headed to Pizza Express and caught the last Harry Potter film at the Coronet Cinema in Notting Hill Gate. Wikipedia informs me that this cinema was featured in the film Notting Hill, which means I'll probably have to go home and rent it, even though I can't stand Hugh Grant rom-coms. Anyhow, British cinemas and American theaters are pretty comparable. The notable differences were that this cinema had alcohol, so I had a cider, there was a balcony, and the food options included popcorn with salt or sugar, toffee popcorn, and ice cream. No overpriced jumbo hot dogs, pretzels, or Icees. It was nice. They had a preview for a brand-new Audrey Tatou comedy opening here on August 12th called Beautiful Lies. It had better come to America soon. The Harry Potter film itself, of course, was epic.

Matches the heights of Amelie? :D

Overall, a busy day. Next up is the Olympic Village.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Man-sized Kleenex and Other UK Specialties

The last two days have been a fantastic introductory weekend to London as my group settles in. Our Saturday walking tour around the Bloomsbury neighborhood was cancelled due to the tour guide writing the wrong date into his appointment book, so instead my flatmate Tiffanie and I decided to get some grocery shopping done. So far, I've been to Sainsbury's and Waitrose, and I can't decide which one I prefer. Sainsbury's is smaller, feels more British, and has a smaller, yet cheaper selection. The prepackaged sandwich section was lovely, and I bought plenty of food for £24. Waitrose is larger, laid out more like an American grocery store, and has endless variety. The produce section had red and black currants, yellow plums and chunks of coconut ready to eat; things I have trouble finding in the states. There's a variety of raisins here are called sultanas, which I find such a sexy word for such an ordinary fruit. And like Paris, the bakery contains items like hot cross buns, mini pains au chocolat, brioche and packaged waffles everywhere for a delightfully unhealthy breakfast. Eggs are kept out of the refrigerated cases, and like I was saying earlier, the prepackaged sandwiches are so creative. Salmon, mint, and pea, roast chicken with stuffing, hoisin duck, tuna with sweet corn, chicken tikka, and even cheese and celery. As someone who has always oddly enjoyed a mundane task like grocery shopping, the countless differences between British and American products are a source of entertainment for me. The British like their Kleenez mansized, their toilet paper covered with assorted lotions and oils like jojoba and chamomile, and their chocolate milky. I have yet to find good British toffee, though. I haven't even found a Heath bar yet, just something called a Toffee Crisp bar.

Three days here, and I've ridden in the tube, which is clean, but an absolute mess of humans everywhere. I vastly prefer riding in the top floor, top row of a double-decker bus, which is like a cheap rollercoaster ride. The blind spots on each side of the bus are so huge that when you're looking out the top windshield, you feel like the bus has jumped a curb, smashed into a pedicab driver, and killed three pedestrians all at the same time. At night, riding in the double-decker bus was almost as good as standing in the back of a San Francisco cable car. Startling, free-wheeling, and adventurous.

Also saw Billy Elliot: the Musical at Victoria Theatre, took a bus/walking tour of London, shopped on Oxford Street, and had the most delicious takeaway fish and chips for dinner tonight. Flaky, very meaty white fish and perfect steak fries, they honestly rival the Wisconsin fish fry. Right now, everything in London is thrilling and different, and going back home to Madison sounds so boring. I'm happy to have the trip still ahead of me.

Tomorrow is Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, the London Eye, AND seeing Harry Potter in a cheap Notting Hill cinema. Can I get paid to live like this? Please?

P.S. FSU study abroad friends:
If you want to get a UK cell phone, it was surprisingly easy, and even better, surprisingly cheap. I went to Carphone Warehouse (4 Oxford Street, London, about five storefronts down from Boots). All I had to do was pick out a model (the one I chose was £2.95), stand in the prepay line, and pay for the phone and minutes. Since I paid with cash, I was required to put £20 onto the phone. The phone number is printed on the SIM card packaging.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Not-So-Keen Observations

Now that I've caught up on rest and have somewhat trained my body to obey the six hour time difference, perhaps this can be a more thoughtful post. Today consisted of more welcome-to-London orientation, fruit and croissants for breakfast, and discussion of web 2.0 technologies. Glogster was my favorite technology discussed-you can make your own digital, interactive poster to promote events.

I've only been here two days, and I'm genuinely enjoying every.little.thing about this city. Maybe this sounds odd, but England really does seem more of a "foreign country" than I thought. It's not just the US with pounds and charming accents. London has most of the comforts that the US has, but everything is just a little bit different.

  • London promotes healthy eating. I was handed a free, ripe, and purple (?) avocado in the street by a couple of women holding avocado promotional materials. There was also a walking avocado. 
  • The British value their bacon sandwiches, as well as baked potatoes (jacket potatoes). The ubiquity of Indian and Asian food around here is simply incredible. Even the small cafe offers takeaway chicken curry and tikka masala for only 5 pounds. Indian food is harder to find in Wisconsin and certainly isn't cheap. Also, the British are so creative with their sandwich fillings, which are often Asian-inspired along with the usual turkey, ham, etc. I need to take pictures to remember them. Also, prawn cocktail crisps are rumored to be excellent here.
  • Terms I find enchanting: takeaway (take-out), gents' bathrooms (men's bathrooms), washing-up liquid (dish soap), and cash points (ATMs).
  • In general, everyday terms here seem more refined. Brilliant, for instance. Queuing up. Even car parks instead of parking lots. Er, I'm just easily enchanted by differences.
  • London traffic is terrifying. Motorists zip in and out between cars with barely enough room for their cycles, buses barrel past, and everything just seems rushed. Drive here? No thanks. Luckily, my program supplies us with an Oyster card, so the group can use the bus and tube systems. 
  • Our Indian restaurant refused to give us free tap water; we had to buy bottled.
  • I'm getting the language inferiority complex like I had when I was in Paris a few years ago. The more I listen to the public speak, the more self-conscious I feel when I talk to a British person. It's like I think that they'll perceive my Midwestern accent is hideous and unrefined and be irritated by the fact that I'm American. So far, shop keepers and restaurant owners have been fine, but I feel so shy about speaking much. What I'd really like to know is how I sound to someone from the UK.
  • Calling the British equivalent of 911 (999), will get you free medical treatment. A non-emergency appointment will set you back 40-50 pounds. Bless the NHS. I bet the British don't feel as assured when they visit the states.
  • Fish and chips come with peas, and apple pie comes with custard. It was delicious. Portions are smaller here. When I buy a meal in the US, I usually feel stuffed and often leave food on my plate. The Indian food and fish and chips left me feeling like I'd had a small dinner, but could eat more. I hope I adjust, though-less food and more walking for me.
  • The architecture here is jaw-dropping.
Tomorrow is a tour of the Bloomsbury neighborhood and seeing Billy Elliot in the theater.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Settling In

The journey to London was long-7 am departure from Madison, three hours to Chicago by bus, planes to Atlanta and finally, hours later, I arrived at London-Gatwick at 7:30 this morning. It was a crowded flight, and I didn't plan on doing anything except reading and attempting to nap. My seatmate, though, turned out to be a genuinely fascinating, smart woman (tours in her own band, seasoned traveler, jewelry designer, and overall just friendly). I'm not really used to meeting people so randomly, but talking to her made the journey go faster. Miss her already.

Took the Gatwick Express train into central London, which was a nice introductory journey into London. Hedgerows, small farms, towns and villages at high-speed. I quite liked Victoria Station, too, with its array of shops and neat little Parisian-like food stands. (A lot about Britain's food reminds me a lot of the places in Paris, like the varieties of sandwiches and pastries.) Upon getting to the FSU London Study Centre, I met Taylor, a student who runs tours for new students, the FSU librarian, and students from my program as we all started to arrive from our journeys. Really, I've been amazed by how quickly I've been able to click with some of the fellow library students, who are mostly from Tallahassee and Miami. Hearing about their library program compared to Madison's is illuminating, mostly because I think their program sounds more strenuous than mine. A brief orientation, a practical walking tour, a trip to an overpriced Indian restaurant, and a quick stop to Boots filled up the rest of today.

I'd love to write more about my general impressions of London, but I haven't had a full night's rest since Sunday? Monday? And my brain is turning into soup.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Getting Ready and Meeting Rosie

I'm leaving for London in less than two days, and well, I'm pretty concerned about packing everything I need. This Wisconsin July has been in the high 80s, so I took cardigans, shirts, skirts, and dresses and compressed them in a compression bag (such a marvelous invention!). But today I read Elizabeth's blog, which highly recommends warmer clothing. So, time to re-pack. Again.

From Madison, I'll take a bus to Chicago, fly from there to Atlanta, and then catch an overnight flight to London. From there, I'll take the train to Victoria Station and take a cab to the London Study Centre. It's going to be a very long twenty-four hours.

Good thing Rosie's helping me pack. She's a friend of Reference Rex from McIntyre Library.

Until next time, take it easy.