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Life in London Part V: Silly Things and Lovely People

6 Jul

Things I’ve fallen in love with while in London…

General Sillyness

The is the last stop on the Picadilly line going North. The trains announce where they are travelling to, so in this case, you hear: "This is a Picadilly Line service to: Cockfosters". What makes this so great is that it is said by an almost robotic sounding British lady. And I take the Picadilly line about ten stops. So I hear this over and over. Does it get old? Nope.

Of course.

I'm just silly. But I don't care, I have fun.

People

I love love love Sam to death. She and I went through a lot together at the beginning of the semester and our friendship is solidified after this experience together. Our mutual love of Robert Downey Jr.'s wax figure certainly helps.

Matt and I have intellectual conversations about literature and the state of the world while enjoying a glass of wine... or two or three. We also enjoy pretending to be hipsters and having a photoshoot, lounging in the parks on sunny days and dancing the stress away at night.

Obviously I love Jack and have loved Jack for years. And next to Jack is Meggie, who is probably the funniest person I have ever met. Her angry cat noises and Wisconsin mom accent will always make me laugh uncontrollably, no matter where I am.

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Life in London Part IV: Royal Wedding Mania

7 Jun

You should have seen this one coming. And now that I’ve had a month to bask in post-wedding tabloids, entertainment news programs, and Barbara Walters specials, it’s my turn to write about the Royal Wedding.

William and Catherine. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Future Prince and Princess of Wales (once Charles is finally king). Future King and Queen (once the current Queen dies, Charles becomes king and dies). Quite a lot of titles and future titles. I like to think of them as Will and Kate, this blog tends to be informal (see: awkward statues, nerdgasms, my new boyfriends).

How adorable is this photo? Answer: too adorable.

I’ve always been in awe of royalty, it kind of comes with being a girly girl. Then I went to London in 2005 and, in two short days, I was hooked on all things House of Windsor. Add an obsession with Shakespeare and the History Plays and a fascination with all things “sparkly” and my current obsessions are warranted.

One of my favorite things that was shown to me so graciously by my dear friend Sam, is this blog:

Kate Middleton for the Win

Now, I love Kate Middleton. I think she’s an incredibly classy lady who will do wonderful things for the British monarchy just like Diana before her (but in much better clothes and hair, naturally). But this Tumblr takes images of Kate and slaps snarky phrases on them, such as this:

What makes these so funny to me is I don’t picture her to be at all like this, and I doubt the blog’s creator does either. But nonetheless, they’re good for a laugh.

I was lucky to be in London during the lead up to the Wedding, and saw much of the preparations…

Like people camping out and camera crews setting up at Westminster Abbey two days before.

Some of my friends joined the chaos by camping out by Buckingham Palace! I flew out the day of the wedding (no lines, no waiting!) but I waited to leave for the Tube until Will and Kate were officially married. I couldn’t leave without seeing that part of the ceremony.

And now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for: What did I think of the dress(es)?

Kate wore a dress by British designer Sarah Burton, the late Alexander McQueen's protege. She took over the label after his tragic suicide last year. To start, I love the modest train. Diana had a 25 foot train which was, let's say it, RIDICULOUS. A tradition of respect at Westminster Abbey mandates that shoulders be covered, which is why the dress has sleeves. I love that Kate went with a lace overlay for the sleeves and collar of the dress. It gives the look a classic feel while still being a little sexy underneath. As for the veil it's quite sheer, which I like as I detest most veils. Plus that loaned tiara suits her.

Notice the detail of the lace: it is completely sheer at the sleeves but a bit denser at the shoulder/collarbone. The edging is lovely. Her makeup is flawless, and as most people (well, most royal wedding obsessees like myself) know, she did her own makeup. Is there anything she can't do?

For the after party Kate changed into another Sarah Burton design. The overall silhouette is similar to the first dress, but this is a little less church and a little more party. The shrug is playful (but looks kind of itchy to me) and the crystal belt highlights her slim figure. As usual, her hair is glorious.

Pippa Middleton in Sarah Burton. Who wouldn't want to look this good in a dress this beautiful? She (almost) upstaged her sister. I want this dress. Also, perfect hair clearly runs in the Middleton family.

How can I resist posting a picture of the ever-charming Prince Harry? Especially when he is in uniform...

I should note that, since being back in the states, two people have told me I look like Kate. The highest of all compliments, if only my hair looked like hers every day…

Life in London Part III: Food and Drink

23 May

Things I’ve fallen in love with while in London…

Food and Drink

Banoffee Pie. The most delicious dessert ever. A graham cracker or shortbread crust followed by a layer of toffee and bananas and topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate or cinnamon. Absolute heaven in your mouth. (this Banoffee Pie is from Balans on Kensington High Street)

Jacket potatoes, also known as a baked potato in the states only a jacket potato is filled with... well... whatever you like. Commonly though, for a super cheap meal, Brits eat theirs with Heinz beans (also a breakfast staple) and a bit of cheddar cheese if feeling fancy.

Naan. A delicious flatbread that is standard with Indian cuisine.

Vindaloo. A very spicy Indian dish. Do not try it unless you can handle extreme spice. It has become a staple in my diet here.

I love nice a glass of white wine. Very sophisticated of me. Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc, please.

In addition to wine, you all know I love cider and this is my favorite…

I am on the hunt for this in the states. Berry cider... Swedish berry cider... That I only found twice in the UK... Someone help me

Life in London Part II: Words

12 May

Things I’ve fallen in love with while in London…

Words

I’m a voracious reader. After months of agonizing how I was going to bring at least 10 books abroad with me (knowing full well that I would end up buying about 5 more to make it til May) I decided I wanted an e-reader for when I travel. It has been the greatest device ever. If only I could morph it with my iPod… Oh wait, if I could afford an iPad I totally could. But I can’t. So I have the next best thing which is a Nook Color. I can surf the web, do crosswords, play Sudoku, read magazines in color and store thousands of books.

Love.

So what have I been reading?

I read all of the Percy Jackson books within the first two or three weeks here. I love Greek myth (as you know) and this makes it accessible to young readers while also being interesting and well-written, thus keeping the adult reader's attention.

Another book I’ve read is Less than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis. And then its sequel, Imperial Bedrooms.

It’s Ellis’s first novel, published when he was only 21. Reading something written by a 21-year-old inspires me so much. I know that it doesn’t matter how old you are, if you’re a good writer and a publisher takes a chance on you, you can be published.

The sequel to Less Than Zero was written 20 years later and thus the action takes place 20 years later. If it's possible, this was even more disturbing than the first. I love Ellis's writing style. It's very quick: short sentences, heightened emotions. Brilliant.

One Day, by David Nicholls, is one of the best modern books I have read in a long time. It is a love story of sorts that spans 20 years, each section taking place on the same day (July 15th) each year. It looks at the lives of two people on that day, whether they are together or apart. It is funny, sad, and well-written. Could not put it down- I even missed my stop on the tube one day from reading it so intently

The Hunger Games: Another genius young adult series about a dystopian future where children are forced to fight to the death on national television. It is gripping, horrifying, and honest in its portrayal of violence and the media. One of the best young adult series out there.

I also re-read Pride and Prejudice, but haven’t we all? Several times?

In addition to reading for pleasure I also read the newspaper every day.

London's free evening newspaper that you can pick up at any Tube station. I read it daily and not only do I feel informed, but I also get my daily dose of William and Kate.

Life in London Part I: Music

7 May

The first installment on things I’ve fallen in love with while in London…

Music

I’ve always loved Adele, but being in London has made me love her even more. She is a singer/songwriter who was born in north London. I love her for her talent, her confidence, and her ability to write the emotions that we all feel and can relate to at every point in our lives.

Adele just released her second album, 21, and being in the UK allowed me to hear it (legally) before those in the states which was exciting. She performed at the Brit Awards (the UK Grammy’s, essentially) and it is a performance that will bring you to tears. (skip ahead to the 0:30 mark)


Another bit of music I can’t stop listening to is, of course, Lady GaGa’s “Born this Way” which I blogged about a few weeks ago.

Like I said in an earlier post, I am obsessed with this song.

Another GaGa song was released while I was in London. Like a lot of her songs, this one has some controversy around it. Basically there are those who feel she is advocating for the biblical figure Judas, the betrayer of Jesus. In actuality she is using Judas as a comparison to a lover. People need to chill out when it comes to metaphors. Seriously, it’s a song. And a damn good one at that.

Another British discovery is Jessie J. She’s basically the Brits’ answer to Rihanna and GaGa. She’s definitely fun to dance to and she’s a bit of a nutcase, like all good performance artists.

She's just crazy enough...

And then there’s all the fun club music I heard on a weekly basis… Not a lot of variety there but dancing doesn’t need variety it needs familiarity. So hooray for Top 40 from the last three years!

Natural History Museum: Let’s talk about sex

7 May

One of my favorite places in London is the Natural History Museum. I first visited this museum five years ago with a student travel group and since I first saw the building I have been in love with the architecture. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in London.

After a few visits to the Natural History Museum I finally went to the Sexual Nature exhibit. I’ll describe the exhibit first as it was both informative and hilarious.

Sexual Nature is (until October 2011) an exhibit at the Natural History Museum which aims to educate visitors about sex in the natural world. This means I spent an hour or so in a hall dedicated to how and why animals have sex. Immaturity aside it was fascinating to learn about the different mating rituals and parenting styles of animals like snails and gorillas and giraffes.

One of the best parts of the exhibit was the video series by Isabella Rosallini. This woman is insane. Her videos are hilarious. And here is proof:

I can’t begin to comment on the response this video triggers from me. And this is only one of her videos. We saw at least 10. And the gift shop sold a DVD. Kind of wish I purchased said DVD…

As for the rest of the museum, there are several permanent exhibits including (but not limited to) human biology (This is what your insides look like! This is what puberty is!), taxidermy animals of all species (So cute, yet so sad in a way), dinosaur bones, geology and meteorology.

Here is a slideshow of some of my pictures from my (3) visits to the museum…

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Amsterdam: Let’s wear wooden clogs

28 Apr

I’ll start off by saying, no, I did not smoke pot in Amsterdam. I don’t smoke marijuana and going to Amsterdam (where it is legal and socially acceptable in public) didn’t change that. Proud of me, mom and dad?

Anyway, on to my trip to Holland. I left on Friday the 22nd from Stansted airport which is a weird set-up for an airport. It’s basically like a giant warehouse with different wings…I flew EasyJet which is actually a neat airline because there are no assigned seats, so if you get there super early (like me) and make it to the front of the line (which I did) you get first pick of seats. The flight to Amsterdam was only 45 minutes which was weird. So before I knew it I was in the Netherlands.

Etana (one of my oldest, dearest friends who visited me back in February for my birthday) met me at the airport and we took the train into the city to her flat. Because I took a night flight it was too late to do anything so we just chatted until the wee hours of the morning and I slept in. And I slept so well. Something about being in Holland or maybe just a cumulation of a busy semester? Who knows. I slept over 8 hours every night I was in Amsterdam so I can’t complain. I couldn’t tell you the last time I slept that much or that soundly. But enough about my sleeping habits.

On Saturday we went to a street market where I had some Dutch chips (or french fries… I’m so used to saying chips, how British of me) which were fantastic. After that I had to have a fresh stroopwafel. A stroopwafel (stROWp waffle) is actually two very very thin waffles with a carmel syrup in the middle. I had only had the packaged ones so having it fresh was exciting. It was warm, buttery, and the carmel was messy and delicious. A perfect street food snack. We wandered the stalls of the market and enjoyed the sunshine before heading to a park. We spent the rest of the day continuing our gab fest and soaking up some rays. At night we went to a barbeque at Etana’s flat where I met some of the other students at the university.

On Sunday we went to the beach, a town called Zandfort. It was weird to go to a beach in Holland. I never really gave much thought to the fact that it is, in fact, on the edge of the continent and therefore has many beaches. It was chilly at the beach but I read a lot and got to know some of Etana’s university friends better.

Monday was the touristy day. Etana and I went to the “I Amsterdam” sign to take some pictures and she dropped me off at Museum Plein (Museum Square) so that I could go to the Reijks Museum (state museum) and the Van Gogh Museum.

While the Reijks Museum would have been a great source of new boyfriends, I wasn’t allowed to take photographs. All in all I didn’t really enjoy it, which coming from a museum nerd like me is unexpected. I don’t particularly care for Dutch art and since I was in a Dutch museum that was what I was looking at. I also found it incredibly small. Compared to London museums this place was more like an art gallery.

After the slightly disappointing start to my museums day I went to the Van Gogh Museum. I love impressionism. It’s my favorite art movement and so this museum did not disappoint. It is home to over 200 Van Gogh paintings and hundreds of drawings and letters. In addition to the vast collection of Van Gogh the museum also had several Monet paintings. Since Monet is my favorite artist I spent a lot of time in front of his paintings.

On Tuesday I went to the Anne Frank House. I was excited to go here because when I was younger I loved reading about Anne Frank and her life in the secret annex. Getting to walk in her footsteps was surreal, especially since I have read her diary and read her thoughts on the rooms. It was very emotional there. I got to see her red plaid diary, the notebooks she used after the diary pages were filled and even the loose sheets of paper that she edited her diary on. She wanted to be a journalist and it was her dream to publish a book about her experience in hiding. I saw Anne as a kindred spirit and it made me sad to think that even though her dream came true and her words have been read by millions she didn’t survive to see the impact she has had on so many people, whether they read her diary or not.

We walked around a lot and talked a lot, two of my favorite things. It was nice to have a sort of vacation after my internship ended and I’m glad I got to spend time with one of my best friends, in the city she loves (almost) as much as I love London.