19 Things Learned in Italy

So hey, I spent 10 days in Italy for Fall Break!

I haven’t blogged in a while because of that, and we’re now back on the air. Hello, testing, testing… ah, yes. We flew first to Roma, took a train to Firenze, then to Venezia. I’m sure you don’t want a day-by-day recap of what happened so I’m going to do what I do best and list it out for you, Buzzfeed-style.

1. Italian bus drivers are the worst.

We took buses in every city we went to, and they were all jerky as all get out. This was, of course, compounded by the fact that a lot of the cities are built on cobblestone.

2. The best gelato you’ll have is not going to be in the cities.

We had a religious experience with the gelato in a small town called Greve in Chianti and it was miraculous.

3. Tuscany is just as beautiful as you think it is.

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Gretchen demonstrates the beauty of Tuscany at a wonderful little vineyard we visited on our wine tour.

Panzello vineyard!

Panzello vineyard!

There’s just no getting around that.

4. Italy will ruin wine for you.

Wine tasting in Tuscany? Don't mind if I do.

Wine tasting in Tuscany? Don’t mind if I do.

Andrew and I model a cart of wine at Panzello Vineyard in Chianti.

Andrew and I model a cart of wine at Panzello Vineyard in Chianti.

We had wine and gelato every single day and I don’t regret a thing.

5. Say goodbye to vegetables.

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Pizza and pasta are great for a while, but when you don’t want to shell out another 4 quid for some green stuff, you’ll end up missing things that will help round out your meals.

6. Tap water at restaurants isn’t a thing.

This is, by far, the only real qualm I had with Italy. You shouldn’t need to pay another few euros just to have a glass of water. Perché, Italia, perché?

7. Don’t pet the dogs.

Lint ball in Venice (that, fortunately, we were allowed to touch).

Lint ball in Venice (that, fortunately, we were allowed to touch).

I don’t know why. But I got yelled at.

8. Everything costs money.

I think I got way too used to being in London, where a day can be well spent with free museums, free activities or just wandering through parks, which are free. There’s definitely a lot to see in Italy, but if you want to get in anywhere, you’re going to have to pay for it.

9. Cover up!

We are now properly dressed to enter a church, apparently.

We are now properly dressed to enter a church, apparently.

I’m not sure why this didn’t occur to me, but the very first day in Italy we were in Rome and attempted to visit a church. It hadn’t even crossed my mind – even as a born-and-raised Catholic – to not wear shorts. Yeah, no. Cover your knees and shoulders or Italian bodyguards will be upset with you.

10. Tourists are disrespectful.

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So many people at the David. SO MANY.

So many people at the David. SO MANY.

And it’s super annoying. We visited the Sistine Chapel, where you are asked to remain silent. But with so many people packed into such a tiny room, there are some chatterers. Which takes away from the whole experience, believe it or not. Michaelangelo’s work is breathtaking, of course, but the tourists were not. Bleh. The same deal with David in Florence – not unnecessarily noisy, just disrespectful and more focused on the *ahem* anatomy than anything else.

11. Look at so much art.

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Madison examines a sculpture at the Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

Madison examines a sculpture at the Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

12. Walk everywhere.

London is a lot of walking, but Italian cities are much smaller, meaning it’s totally feasible to walk from one end to the other in most cases (not so with London – I’d like to see you walk from South Kensington to Islington, HA). Wear comfy shoes and get ready to see a lot of the city (and maybe get lost a lot).

13. Be nice to your waiters.

Free limoncello shots!

Free limoncello shots!

Sometimes they bring you free shots.

14. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions.

I’m always terrified of looking like a tourist so I try and avoid asking people for things most of the time. But Italy can be confusing, and (most) Italians are really friendly and willing to help.

15. Ask the locals.

We found some of our favourite spots through just asking the front desk at our hostels or chatting with people we met at bars. Chat it up, you may discover some gems.

16. Vatican City is just as breathtaking as you think it will be.

Hey from Basilica di San Pietro.

Hey from Basilica di San Pietro.

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17. Eat biscotti for breakfast.

This is one of the best things about Italy – breakfast cookies!

18. Eat so much Nutella.

Italians have Nutella with everything. I don’t know why. But it’s amazing.

19. If you look like me, Italian men will fall in love with you.

"Let me tell you how to make Italian men love you"

“Let me tell you how to make Italian men love you”

Andrew is convinced this is because I look like the pinnacle of Italian beauty. Regardless, I got hit on almost every day by shopkeepers and other various locals. Who knows why. A guy I bought cannoli from tried to make me a drink. A mask-maker called me “bellissima.” Who knows. Come to Italy with me and I’ll find us husbands.

Overall, I can’t wait to return. Italy has been my dream country for a while now and going there absolutely solidified that. Venice for Carnevale is still something that is at the top of my bucket list and I want to see so much more of the countryside. But for now, I’m just chillin making ridiculous faces with my lunchbox in front of London Bridge.

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Power and the London Theatre

Over these past few weeks, I have seen an awesome amount of live theatre – truly, more than I’ve seen in the past few years combined. I’ve been enrolled in an amazing class called Drama and the London Theatre (and a little disclaimer, this is going to be submitted for a graded assignment, so bear with me.) And if you know me, a post relating to gender studies shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. One of the most interesting threads I’ve seen running through a lot of the shows I’ve seen in London over the past few weeks is the dynamics between men and women, especially those surrounding power and hierarchy. We’ve seen a lot of performances based in different time periods – Shakespearean, Greek, turn of the century – and one of the things that has really fascinated me is the way that interaction of the genders and their power within the hierarchy of their time changes based on a variety of things from staging to costuming to the way the actor plays the role. You could argue that some plays are inherently sexist or inherently feminist, though I think a lot of where those ideas come from are decisions made artistically, from directors and actors and choreographers themselves.

Eve Best and Clive Wood in Antony and Cleopatra. Credit to Manuel Harlan, The Telegraph.

The show that really spurred this interest (besides a personal intrigue in the subject) was the one we saw with our orientation group, the final performance of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra run at the Globe (not that I was overly excited about it or anything ridiculous like that). Obviously, there’s already a really engaging gendered interaction written into this Shakespeare classic. While I’ve never been the biggest fan of Shakespearian tragedies, especially those with political undertones, this was an awesome start to a semester and a really wonderful rendition of a very difficult script. Eve Best’s Cleopatra was clearly the focal point, an emotional fortress who commanded the stage every time she set foot on it. While I wasn’t convinced with Clive Wood’s performance as Antony at first, the interactions between the two title characters was enthralling. The way they both played with the idea of who was truly the alpha and the omega in their relationship was creative and dynamic – Cleopatra clearly using her “feminine wiles” to play the game of politics, while Antony’s classically masculine role, defined by war and sword-fighting, softened around Cleopatra. This was an interesting contrast with the next performance I saw, since Antony and Cleopatra work together emotionally and on many other levels, the dynamics of the relationship in Medea are very different.

Helen McCrory and Danny Sapani in Medea. Credit to Tristram Kenton, The Guardian.

Director Carrie Cracknell’s vision of Medea was intoxicating. This was by far my favourite performance I’ve seen thus far, put on at the National Theatre here in London. The Greek classic was set in the 1960s, giving it a really interesting and surprising setting and set design. One of the things I love about classics is their ability to be timeless – you can still perform Greek and Shakespearian classics in the modern day and they make sense. A lot of people criticize the “older” theatre but these shows have the ability to ascend beyond generations, casting a spell over a wide audience. Helen McCrory’s performance as Medea was absolutely enchanting. She dominated. The entire performance was an emotional roller coaster, tender and loving in parts while shocking and terrifying in others. Our first image of the title character is of stumbling on stage, curls exploding out of place, brushing her teeth. Medea was a broken woman, and the audience was right there with her. But Medea also knew what she was doing – every decision she makes in the show she makes for a reason. If you know the story, you know that many of the decisions Medea makes are extremely questionable (such as killing her own children), but one of the wonderful things about this production was that we, as audience members, could see exactly what she was thinking at some points but at others, were just as far under her spell as Jason was.

Danny Sapani’s Jason was a force of strength and tenderness, regal in all the ways he needed to be. The dynamics between Medea and Jason were captivating – Medea’s emotional manipulation is cruel yet so powerful that you cannot help but respect the ways she can bend everyone to her will. Many of our class discussions circulated around who we thought we were supposed to “root” for – which really begs the question, who is the “good guy” in any show? Medea’s decision-making process may be questionable, but arguably, so is any other character’s. She does everything in a horrifically human way, which I think connects her to the audience in a way that a lot of people are truly uncomfortable with. Regardless of the morality of Medea’s decisions, it’s inarguable that the character, especially in the broken, dynamic and manipulative way that McCrory played her, holds all the cards.

Little Revolution. Credit to Tristram Kenton, The Guardian.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, where a character is powerless in the moment (at least from her perspective), is the story of Little Revolution, a verbatim play where actors are fed lines from real interviews through headphones and must repeat them, word for word, pause for pause, sneeze for sneeze and cough for cough. It’s a really intriguing way to perform, and definitely something I hadn’t seen before, however, I’m not sure it was entirely successful. Little Revolution follows the story of riots occurring in the Hackney area a few years ago, where locals started to riot because of the unfair ways police were treating people of colour. The “verbatim” lines are from interviews conducted during the riots by Alecky Blythe, who also created a character for herself inside the show. In theory, this sounds like a really engaging story, but I don’t think it was entirely successful. For me, there wasn’t enough from the actual riots – there was a lot of information from a committee Blythe was involved in afterwards, but very little from the people actually involved in the rioting. And as a white, middle class woman, Blythe is not the most trustworthy narrator. One of the students in my class pointed out that since she created a character for herself (and not always the most flattering one with a comical giggle and annoying vocal cadence), this pointed out how hypocritical it was for white people to try and “save” those of different races. Though I think if this was the juxtaposition that Blythe was going for, it should have been a little more satirical. Her place in society gave her a lot more privilege than a lot of the other people involved in the riots and that changed her perspective on it – for me, there wasn’t enough direct involvement with what was happening. It seemed to me that Blythe didn’t want to get her hands too dirty with engaging directly with those in the middle of the riots and that reflected poorly on the final performance.

The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd. Credit to News168.

From the modern day political issues, we jumped back to older ones and saw a performance of The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd at the Orange Tree Theatre. As a quick interjection, this was one of my favourite spaces we saw a show in. It was tiny and in the round, bringing the audience right into the action. This worked well with this show specifically because a lot of it circles around the tension between the title character and her – edging on abusive – husband. This is a show that also really played with the dynamics of gender in a relationship. The show focuses on Mrs. Holroyd and her decisions in the marriage, which was a very forward-thinking perspective for 1914, the year it was written. In the performance itself, while it was not the best we had seen, it was engaging and dramatic. Mrs. Holroyd herself is a tower of emotional distress, torn between her husband and an electrician who proclaims his love to her. This puts her in an interesting position of power over both of them, because the decision is really hers. While she has nothing on her own, she has the ability to choose between her fates, an option not a lot of women had in that era.

Promotional poster for the RSC production of Love’s Labours Lost. Credit to Royal Shakespeare Company.

This is similar to the Victorian time period, in which our next show, Love’s Labours Lost was set. We saw this performance in Stratford Upon Avon, Shakespeare’s birth and burial place. This was a really interesting backdrop to have for this rendition of a rarely performed Shakespeare show. I was honestly not expecting to like the show as much as I did. I think it’s a hard one to do in an interesting way, but the Royal Shakespeare Company succeeded. And talk about a great show for observing gender dynamics. Shakespeare’s shows are always really intriguing when it comes to gender, what with all the cross-dressing and falling in love and confusing sexualities and beastiality and whatnot… that Love’s Labours Lost is actually pretty straightforward. With four couples – four men, four women, what else could ensue but lots of mixups? The thing I loved most about the show was the fact that the women were often the ones pulling the tricks on the men, even when the guys thought they were outsmarting the girls. Most importantly, in the end, it is the princess who tells the men that they should essentially wait a little while to get married and see what happens afterwards. Patience is a virtue that is not often respected when it comes to Shakespearian weddings, and that was a great, realistic ending that I wasn’t expecting from a Shakespeare play.

Actors in Pitcairn. Credit to Helena Miscioscia, The Londonist.

But realism wasn’t a big factor in the last show we saw, another performance at the Globe, but this time Pitcairn, a strange combination of cultures trying to work together to populate a new island. While it was definitely an entertaining show, I thought that the language of the show itself didn’t always mesh together. Sometimes it seemed like more modern-day language, then slipped back into what would be considered a more “period” English banter. In any case, the story itself was one dramatic event after another. The show was extremely sexually charged, something I definitely didn’t expect going into it, but learned to appreciate as it went on. This was another performance that really got me interested in how gender tied between all the shows we had seen – in the end of the show, the Tahitian women band together to essentially hold the men prisoners and kill one of the men on the island who violently raped some of the women (including one onstage, which was unexpected and I’m not sure was entirely necessary). The power dynamics of the island shift throughout the performance – just as in Love’s Labours Lost, even when the men think they control the women, the girls are simply manipulating the men to help them in ways they need help.

Overall, the shows we’ve seen in London have been phenomenal. There are interesting connections between all of them in ways that I don’t always see right away, but enjoy discussing in class and seeing threads that tie together. Adventures in Italy are the next journey, and more theatre after we return.

Disconnected in Dublin

These past few weeks have been full of adventure, both wonderful and horrendous. Last week, my smartphone slipped out of my pocket on a 254 bus to Aldgate, leaving me completely absent from the world of mobile devices (even if its only purpose here was a wifi machine… it was an expensive and treasured wifi machine). After crying a couple days, I had a girls trip to Dublin with my two roommates and our friend Sara.

The four girls, photo credit to Gretchen (but really some random guy who took our picture in Glendalough)

The four girls, photo credit to Gretchen (but really some random guy who took our picture in Glendalough)

I wasn’t going to bring my laptop to Dublin for a weekend, so I went without any form of communication. Except my dumb phone, in case of emergency. This simple fact definitely gave me a different perspective on how we live today. I can tell you it was undoubtedly annoying and stressful being sans-iPhone, and I’m sure much to the chagrin of my older peers, I honestly don’t necessarily think it was for the better.

The first day it was pouring (welcome to Ireland!), so we kind of wandered around with our friend Kat who’s staying at Trinity College, visited their science museum, and did a mini-pub crawl in the evening. It was a fairly uneventful day, as we were exhausted after a morning of travelling.

Madison and Kat hanging out at the Pepper Pot on our first day.

Madison and Kat hanging out at the Pepper Pot on our first day.

On Saturday, we took a coach down to Glendalough (pronounced glen-da-lock, not glen-da-low for those playing at home) and saw some beautiful Irish countryside, monastic ruins, a waterfall, and a lake.

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Oh, and sheep.

SHEP

SHEP

By far the most exciting thing that happened that night, though, was being waken up at 4:30am on Sunday by a panicked Gretchen asking for Advil because her ear pressure was too much for her to physically bear. Mommy Sam immediately kicked in, having to shake off my sleepiness and hustle Gretchen downstairs, ask reception what they suggested we do, and then promptly caught a cab to the emergency room because the hostel reception couldn’t do much for us and Gretchen couldn’t function. So I spent a couple hours in a Dublin ER on Saturday morning. Luckily, the pressure was just an ear infection so Gretchen got some mighty good painkillers and a strong dose of antibiotics to kill whatever is inflaming her ear canal.

After that excitement, we went back to the hostel and slept. For a long time. Then, we saw the city of Dublin, checked out the outside of St. Patrick’s and Christchurch cathedrals (cause they charge to go in… so rude), wandered by the docks, and visited the Irish Oktoberfest. Sara left early on Sunday so it was just an adventure with Kat, Gretchen, Madison and I.

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Dublin Castle!

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Our little group grew even smaller on Monday as Madison left to take a midterm in the morning and Gretchen and I stayed for the whole day to experience the rest of Dublin. Unfortunately, we had exhausted a lot of our options (meaning anything free), so we went on a mini museum crawl, checking out the Writer’s Museum, National Gallery and National Leprechaun Museum. Then we returned to our lovely city of London after an hour delay on our very late flight, rolling into our flat at about 2:30 this morning.

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Gretchen confused by our audio guide in the Writer’s Museum.

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Under the “Giant’s Causeway” in the National Leprechaun Museum!

While I enjoyed Dublin, I have to say that I guess I was expecting a lot more. When people say “city,” it always confuses me when you can comfortably walk from one end to the other. Dublin is definitely quaint, but my advice would be to use it as a hub to visit other places in Ireland. Glendalough was unquestionably the most fun and most interesting place we saw, all for only 20 euro round trip. Gretchen and I had wanted to go somewhere like the Hill of Tara and Trim Castle on Monday, but we didn’t book tickets in time. So advice for those travelling to Ireland: look into places to go. Day trips are the thing in Ireland. You really only need a day for Dublin.

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Also, go with a phone. Especially if you’re with young people. While I definitely have to admit that one of the reasons I missed my iPhone so much was because of the weird and unpurposeful amount of exclusion I felt while sitting in a café, surrounded by my friends looking things up or surreptitiously Snapchatting while the only thing I could really do was twiddle my thumbs, sip my tea and maybe flip through the images I had snapped on my DSLR, there is definitely a reason we’re so attached to our phones.

They’re useful. Even when just using them as wifi hubs, being able to look at a map on a phone and not look like a dumb-ass tourist pulling a huge paper map out of your pocket is not only easier, but decreases your risk of immediately being targeted for pickpocketing. You can buy tickets for things on-the-go. You can look up free stuff to do if you randomly get to a museum and find out it’s closed on Mondays (because that definitely didn’t happen to us. WHY WOULD YOU CLOSE A MUSEUM ON MONDAY. Not bitter or anything). You can calm yourself down from a panic attack in the middle of a hostel with meditation and music. You can contact people you’ve been talking to.

So to whomever is now in possession of my phone, I hope you treat it well. I paid a lot of money and worked very hard for that because I was relying on having it for two years at the very least and it should be put to good use. But for now, I have to figure out technology-less adventures.

25 Things I Have Learned in London Thus Far

1. Be prepared to walk.

 

Even with the amazing public transport in London, you’ll have to walk from the tube to wherever you’re going. And since you’re underground, that also means stairs. My thighs currently look like those of a Greek god’s, so that’s a bonus.

2. Never transfer from Bank to Monument.

The signs all say you can do it. The announcement on the train says you can do it. But you’ll have to descend into the depths of hell and back up again in order to. Trust me, it’s not a good plan.

3. Respect the queue.

4. It’s an international city.

We say in the States we have international cities, but I now realize that we have no idea what we’re talking about. In London, there are languages of all kinds wherever you go. Step off the Whitechapel tube stop and it’s like you’re in a bazaar in the Middle East, though go a few blocks North and you’re in the hipster capital of the city. People circulate in friend groups of all colours and countries. There are so many different cultures. Get ready to absorb them.

5. For God’s sake, stand on the right.

6. For God’s sake, keep left.

7. Dress in layers if you’re travelling on the tube.

For some reason, the Central and Northern lines don’t believe in air conditioning. This makes rush hour so much fun (not).

8. You have to flag down the waitstaff if you need anything.

9. “The gap” isn’t that bad at some stations.

At others, you could throw a small child down it.

10. TFL is your best friend and your worst enemy.

A lot of Londoners complain about TFL, but I have to throw in some praise for them because if something’s messed up, by god, they’ll let you know it’s messed up. The CTA could take a few pointers on this point.

11. Don’t expect to get a cocktail anywhere for less than £6.

12. If you want to bake with chocolate chips…

Sucks. You can’t really find them anywhere.

13. Accept your American status.

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This has been a really difficult one for me because I hate stereotypical American culture and I’ve definitely done things like avoiding talking out loud to people so they won’t know I’m American. But a lot of people haven’t been, and they often want to hear about the differences between London and the States.

14. Don’t talk on the tube.

15. For normal streets, remember to look right, then left.

For one ways, good luck, bud. Especially cause parking in London? It’s a free-for-all.

16. “Cheers” is a universal term.

“Have a nice day” = cheers. “Thank you” = cheers. “You’re welcome” = cheers. “I think you’re cute” = cheers.

17. Subscribe to everything.

I know people hate emails but London has a TON of great weekly newsletters that let you know what’s going on in the city for the weekend for very little or free. Some of my favourites are Twenty-Something London, Broke in London, the Londonist & Time Out London.

18. Primark is bae.

19. London is obsessed with green space.

Take advantage of the fantastic amount of public gardens.

20. Visit markets.

This is one of my favourite aspects of London. There are often really cheap cute clothing and accessories, great food and handmade goods depending on where you are. (East End markets are where it’s at).

21. Sign up for the Waitrose rewards card only for the free coffee/tea.

22. Never, ever visit Piccadilly Circus, Oxford St or Leicester Square without being prepared to be slowed down/mobbed/annoyed/etc. by tourists.

23. England may not be famous for that many great foods, but they are doing scones and clotted cream right.

24. “Subway” signs do not mean public transportation.

They mean little tunnels so pedestrians can walk under the street. What you’re looking for is “Underground.”

25. Homesickness happens.

It’s hard to see posts from friends back on campus. Studying abroad is undeniably an emotional roller coaster and it’s not going to be as easy or exciting as you think it will be all the time. But roll out of bed, drink your cuppa, and remember you’re living in one of the most vibrant cities in the world for only a couple months. Live it up.

Touristing

So I feel like I need at least one post that’s just a recap of all the touristy things I did over some weekend. And this is that post (mostly because I can’t think of anything important or life-changing that I should blog about. I hope to have a post about hunting for wi-fi in a large city soon, but I need to visit more cafes in order for that to happen).

This weekend, most of my flat were major tourists. Our friend Kat was here for the weekend and we decided we needed to show her the sights.

But prior to Kat’s arrival, one of my classes went to Kew Gardens in Southwest London on Thursday and boy, was that one of the best places I’ve been so far. We spent most of the class running around and staring in awe at the beauty of all the different types of flowers and plants and open space they had there.

Andrew wandering though Kew Gardens

Andrew wandering though Kew Gardens

A leaf that was bigger than me!!

A leaf that was bigger than me!!

They had a pagoda, a treetop walkway, greenhouses, groves, zen gardens, and more. Oh, and just a peacock wandering around. Because London.

Casual peacock that was like SIX INCHES AWAY FROM ME

Casual peacock that was like SIX INCHES AWAY FROM ME

Our first stop with Kat on Friday was the Victoria and Albert Museum which we didn’t have time to see nearly enough of. I could have wandered around all day but my compatriots were not quite as enthusiastic about wandering around a museum all day as I was, so I’ll have to pop back by again sometime because I was just in awe of how much stuff was in that building. From fashion to history to jewelry to art and beyond, there were just so many things to see.

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Andrew and I for scale at the V&A

Gretchen in the corner for scale of this GIANT object

Gretchen in the corner for scale of this GIANT object

"I will wear this and sit on this at my wedding."

“I will wear this and sit on this at my wedding.”

We wanted to show Kat some of the London sights so we ate dinner in St. James’ Park, someplace none of us had been yet. It was a beautiful day and we got to see lots of dogs, which was a bonus.

Wandering around St. James' Park

Wandering around St. James’ Park

Afterwards we popped by a very strange art exhibition and grabbed drinks at the Carousel Bar at the London Wonderground which is always an enjoyable time, wandering past the London skyline in the evening. It’s one of those things that reminds me that I’m not in Kansas anymore.

Sup, Ben.

Sup, Ben.

We rose early (for college students) Saturday morning to go on a wander around Greenwich with Bill. It was a ton of fun and excitement as we got to see the Greenwich Market and stand on the prime meridian line. Oh, and walk under the Thames river. That was amazing too.

Under the Thames we go!

Under the Thames we go!

Trying to show Bill Snapchat with the Greenwich geotag. I think he kind of got it?

Trying to show Bill Snapchat with the Greenwich geotag. I think he kind of got it?

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Casual tree pose between two hemispheres.

This morning, we had to return to schoolwork. I cranked out a paper, a response and started a collage for classes. Bleh. But I found an amazing cafe that I adore called Look Mum No Hands!, a cafe/bike repair shop combination that offers a ton of plugs, free wifi and a cozy atmosphere. I got to take my shoes off on the bench while I did my work and drank my mocha, so that’s what counted for me.

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Until next time – maybe I’ll write about all the travelling we have planned, or cafes, or all the dates I’ve been on… who knows!

Cheers from London.

Rocks & Rhythms

Settling. It’s a weird feeling to sink into that word “home,” but here it is, in London, for a few more months. I haven’t written in a bit just because I felt like nothing has happened, while at the same time a lot has happened.

Last weekend, we visited Salisbury, Avebury and Stonehenge.

Amazing selfie with Tim & Madison in front of the Salisbury Cathedral.

Amazing selfie with Tim & Madison in front of the Salisbury Cathedral.

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Salisbury Cathedral

So, we saw some pretty windows. And the magna carta. It was pretty cool, I guess.

(I mean, it was phenomenal. It’s moments like these that I remember I’m not in the States anymore – there’s a history in the countryside here that we don’t have back in America because we’re a baby country, comparatively. It’s another moment where you just recognize your sheer tininess in the magnitude of the universe.)

And some underwhelming rocks.

Stonehenge. Much less exciting than expected.

Stonehenge. Much less exciting than expected.

Stonehenge was interesting and good to see, but much smaller than expected and one of the worst tourist traps I think I’ve ever visited. There’s more to explore in the gift shop than there is at the actual site.

We also saw some other rocks at Avebury. Apparently (according to Bill), if you run around all the rocks three times you’ll get pregnant, or something like that. But we did find a blessing inside one of the rocks which was pretty awesome as well.

Madison hanging out on some rocks at Avebury.

Madison hanging out on some rocks at Avebury.

During the week, it’s been a lot of classes, a lot of exploring cafes, a lot of wandering around near our flat. I discovered the largest art material store in London, which is just a hop skip and jump away from our flat, and it was heaven.

Atlantis Art Materials (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧

Atlantis Art Materials (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧

Over the weekend, we went to a lovely pub in Southwest London to hang out with a bunch of our friends. It was a great night, and we consumed a lot of pitchers and glitterbombs. And maybe talked about placentas.

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Madison and I explored the Hackney One Carnival earlier today, which was a hot mess but a lot of fun. It was similar to a parade, though people were just everywhere, scantily clad and consuming a lot of alcohol.

Hackney One Carnival!

Hackney One Carnival!

We’ve been exploring and meeting new people and enjoying London, and I think we’re ready to start exploring more of Europe (well, I definitely am. But I’m always ready to adventure). Some of us in the flat are planning a trip to Dublin to visit our wonderful friend Kat and see some of the Irish countryside, and we’re headed to Stratford Upon Avon for a weekend with a few of our classes.

Adventure is out there, and there is more exploring to be done.

It may be small, but it is ours

We had a bit of an emotionally draining flat-hunt experience. I think most of us would agree it was pretty much work it because our weekly payment is in the double digits, but it drained most of us all the same.

But we’re settled now, and it’s started to feel a little more homey. As you can imagine, a low weekly payment means a pretty bare-bones flat. We’ve got basically a kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms for the five of us with a cute little enclosed “winter balcony” that we’ve started to use as our hangout space.

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But the other day we had our first sit-down meal as a flat – ravioli and pasta with marinara sauce and garlic bread. It was delicious and made us all feel like real people again, which was wonderful.

Dinnertime in the flat!

Dinnertime in the flat!

On a walk with the director of the London Centre and Honors seminar professor, we hit six different markets in the East End and at Spitalfields, we found a pile of vintage scarves for £1, which meant decorations for our porch (and my bed!). We also popped by the Columbia Street flower market and bought a heather plant as well to spruce up the place, and Bill, the director, gave our flat a bouquet of mini roses which we put in a glass on our dining room table.

We've "confetti"ed our walls, and Madison added this handy schedule so we have an idea of where everyone is.

We’ve “confetti”ed our walls, and Madison added this handy schedule so we have an idea of where everyone is.

We also attempted to explore some other parts of London, and ended up wandering around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Hampstead Heath park, which, as one of our professors told us, had some swimming ponds. So, we thought we might try it out. But the water was a bit cold (read: freezing) and only Andrew (bless his heart) was brave enough to fully submerge himself in the pond. We also saw a ton of dogs, which made up for the disappointment of the swimming ponds.

Post-Hampstead Heath swim

Post-Hampstead Heath swim

On Monday, we saw the National Theatre’s haunting production of Medea, set in a quaint 60s-style house and accented by disturbing dances from the chorus members. It was, quite potentially, one of my favourite productions of all time. And afterwards, a group of us went and explored a bar on a carousel at Andrew’s suggestion, and it was lovely.

Party at the carousel bar!

Party at the carousel bar!

Madison is very excited about feeding a carousel horse our pitcher of Strongbow.

Madison is very excited about feeding a carousel horse our pitcher of Strongbow.

We’ve started to fall into a rhythm here in London, which always makes me feel better. I’m a free spirit to a certain extent but after a stretch of limbo I’m always happy to be in a place where I know what the next day will bring, at least to a certain extent. We’ve made our schedules and started to branch into our local and not-so-local venues, checking out Craft Cocktails and some lovely local grocery stores in our neighborhood. We visited Stonehenge, Salisbury and Avenbury earlier today so be on the lookout for more adventures!

Chilli chicken ramen soup at our local Japanese Canteen.

Chilli chicken ramen soup at our local Japanese Canteen.