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.

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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.

Carnaby Street

28 Apr

One of the most lively neighborhoods in London is Soho, which is home to Carnaby Street, the birth of the Mod fashion movement of the 1960s. Think Twiggy, Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol… Glamourous.

Hampton Court Palace

28 Apr

On the 17th it was mid-sixties and sunny, the perfect day to head a half hour outside of London to visit Hampton Court Palace, home to Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII, and later, William and Mary. Cardinal Wolsey took a lavish house and turned it into a palace fit for the then-archbishop of York. After Wolsey failed to help Henry get a divorce from Katherine of Aragon (to marry the much prettier and younger Anne Boleyn) Henry took Hampton Court Palace for his own and proceeded to live there with all of his wives (at different times, of course). Henry even rebuilt rooms for his brides. Later, Hampton Court was a retreat for his children and succeeding monarchs James I and Charles I. When Oliver Cromwell took over as Lord Protector during those crazy days where the monarchy fell, he used the palace for his own enjoyment (quite interesting considering he was “puritan” and believed monarchs to be greedy…). After the monarchy was restored with Charles II the Palace underwent changes. Charles II preferred Windsor Castle and before you knew it, William and Mary took over. Queen Anne liked Hampton Court for its hunting grounds. George I preferred to stay in his native Germany and his son, George II, was the last royal family to stay at Hampton Court. Queen Victoria made the decision to open the palace to visitors.

Now that the background information is over, let’s talk about Hampton Court today. It is separated into the William and Mary apartments, Young Henry’s story, the Tudor kitchens, and Henry’s apartments. There’s also vast gardens and a hedge maze.

National Gallery

18 Apr

On the 9th it was beautiful out so I hopped a number 9 bus to Trafalgar Square to visit the National Gallery, one of London’s largest art galleries. I had already been to the National Portrait Gallery a few weeks ago so this time I just went to the main building.

The National Gallery

It was a busy day in Trafalgar Square… Then again, that part of London is always busy on the weekends. It’s right by Picadilly Circus and Covent Garden which are both huge tourist destinations.

Countdown to the Olympics clock in Trafalgar Square

View of Big Ben from Trafalgar Square

In terms of art, I tend to prefer sculpture to paintings but the National Gallery has a few Monet paintings and a few Van Gogh, two painters I enjoy. For Van Gogh I saw the Sunflowers and for Monet I saw two japanese bridge paintings and a painting of London:

The Thames with the Houses of Parliament in the background. My new favorite Monet painting.

After the museum I took a walk through Covent Garden which is a fun area.

The Ice Creamists -- I thought their flag was cool

Voltaire's London plaque