Tag Archives: the Tube


30 Jan

I miss the small bits of British slang I heard tossed about London. I miss walking on the pavement, not the sidewalk. I miss hearing cheers instead of thank you/you’re welcome. I miss going out for a pint, not a beer. I miss preparing for the week-end, not the weekend. I miss the colorful curse words and rampant use of the four letter words Americans frown on (sorry, Mom). I miss saying round instead of around. I miss hearing children say muh-ma and puh-pa. I miss going to the pub. Taking the tube. Walking the High Street. Living in a posh neighborhood. Fancying someone. Going on holiday.

I miss England.


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.


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.

Tower of London (take two), and the London Eye

8 Mar

On Tuesday the 22nd I met the family at the Tower of London after a half day of work. I’d already been to the Tower twice (once in 2005, once a few weeks back) but it’s such a neat place I was more than happy to repeat it. Plus, there was no way it would be as cold as the last time I went.

And while it wasn’t as cold out we were stuck with a consistent drizzle of London rain. But it was still a great trip; we got to go in some of the minor towers this time and Dad and Mark really loved all the armor and weaponry while Mama quite enjoyed the Crown Jewels. I won’t bore you with a second explanation and photos of the Tower, but if you are interested in reading about it again, click here.

After the Tower we took the Tube to Picadilly Circus and prowled around Cool Britannia for a while before heading to Planet Hollywood for dinner. It was quite underwhelming but they did have an R2-D2 from Star Wars.

Excuse me sir, but that R2-D2 is in prime condition, a real bargain. (I accept the fact that I am a nerd.)

On Wednesday the 23rd, our last full day, I had to work but met up with the family for dinner and the London Eye.

The London Eye, one of the world's tallest ferris wheels. It is a great way to see the entire city in about 45 minutes. I definitely recommend it at night, having now done it both day and night (day in 2005).

The Eye is just amazing. You ride in these pods that can hold up to 20 people. You can sit or stand as you get panoramic views of London.

Parliament at night. The reflections on the Thames make everything even more stunning.

After one last breakfast in London together, the Thomas family (minus one) left for the states. It was a whirlwind visit but so much fun. I’m lucky that they were able to share this part of my life with me. Love you guys!


The Tower of London: executioners have more fun

30 Jan

Friday was freezing. I preface this post with an alliterative comment about the weather because it truly was a bitter, Jack Frost’s revenge kind of cold day. I wouldn’t recommend going to a 75% outdoors museum during such temperatures.

It so happens that Friday we went to the Tower of London. By we, I mean Sam and Gabriella from my program, my very good friend Jack (http://unionjackinlondon.wordpress.com/) and his friend Caroline who are here with their home institution, and myself. Obviously.

We took the Tube out to Tower Hill and ventured forth to one of the most haunted places in Britain, the Tower of London. The Tower is located right on the River Thames (pronounced Tems, the Brits are tricky) which provides views of…

City Hall, also known as the Erotic Onion

Tower Bridge, peeking behind the trees

To get a better idea of what the Tower is like, here is an aerial shot (thank you, Google) and a few from me:

The large structure in the center is the White Tower, which was started in the 1070s and completed by 1100. The exact date of completion isn't known. The set-up of the Tower now is as it was in 1547.


The exterior wall of the Tower

and more of the exterior...

The Tower isn’t just one tower as the name implies. It is a fortress consisting of a castle (the White Tower) and several smaller towers and buildings (The Bloody Tower, Wakefield Tower, etc.) and a moat and outer wall.

The best part about going to the Tower is getting to tour the grounds with a Beefeater. What is a Beefeater, you ask? Well, a Beefeater is a guard at the tower. Why are they called Beefeaters? No one knows. Simple as that. Another name for them is a Yeoman. In order to work at the Tower of London a Beefeater must serve in one of her majesty’s armed forces for at least 22 years. Our Beefeater guide, George, served in the Royal Air Force for 28 years!

George stood about five foot seven, and that was with the hat. He spoke with a thick accent but his diction and projection made him an excellent tour guide.

One thing that George did throughout our tour was add emphasis to the word “executioner” by sounding out each syllable. He followed this by facing the group and raising his hands so that the crowd exclaimed, “Oooooooh!” This carried on throughout the tour and even though our group was frozen solid, we managed to maintain high spirits thanks to George’s enthusiasm.

A few highlights from the tour…

A catapult; I always think of Monty Python and the Holy Grail when I see these...

St. Thomas's Tower. What a great name, Thomas...

I loved the blue doors on some of the Yeoman's quarters. On the right is the chapel where Anne Boleyn and a few other wives were buried.

The Waterloo Barracks, home to the crown jewels. Unfortunately, you can't photograph them. Notice how bundled up everyone is, it was frigid!

The White Tower. The largest structure in the Tower of London, it houses the main museum pieces but it was once a royal palace.

One of eight ravens kept at the Tower due to superstition. I did think of Poe yet again when I saw the birds, which live like kings by the way.

Henry VIII’s riding armor

A close up of the last image. The detail on a lot of the armor is unbelievably intricate.

Henry VIII's armor... This was when the gluttony kicked in, and the pride apparently.

More armor, not Henry's though. Again, notice that detail? As the saying goes, they just don't make things like they used to.

Banners of kings

The Chapel inside the White Tower; gorgeous natural light and columns.

Because it was so cold out we didn’t go into all of the buildings; there will be a future post about the rest of the Tower once it is warm enough to enjoy it in its entirety.

After we finished the exhibits in the White Tower (armor, canons, weaponry) we headed to a pub for a late lunch. A cheese and tomato panini called my name. I also had a pint of cider, Strongbow to be more specific. It’s the most popular cider in the UK and I certainly enjoyed it.

Looks like beer, tastes sweeter and cleaner.

A morbid walking tour followed by pub food

18 Jan

Sunday night we took the Tube out to Tower Hill (right across the street from the Tower of London)

Home to the crown jewels and a gaggle of ghouls

We waited  in this neat sort of square. In the middle of the square is a giant sundial. It must look really cool a.) during the day and b.) in sunlight (which is a rarity here in London). I couldn’t get a good enough picture at night so the sundial is a topic we will have to revisit. In the meantime:

Roomies outside the tower; hopefully we won't get thrown in prison there.

The required tourist pic of the underground sign...

We met up with a tour guide, Shawn (Sean? Shaun?), a Scottish man with an odd sense of humor and a fascination with kittens. He knew his facts though, and we had a fun, informative, grizzly story time as we walked the streets of London. A lot of the murder sites from Jack the Ripper’s killing spree are now covered by buildings but we did get to see a few sites.

On the way to our first site we walked through this ancient wall. It was made to keep the poor separated from the wealthy in London. Now only a small section remains and it is home to many pigeons.

As if they weren't gross enough, pigeons like to sleep in groups and defile historic walls. Abby would not be impressed with these birds.

One of the most “intact” sites we saw was Mitre Square, which is right next to an elementary school. So that’s always fun for the little children.

Street signs are in the most varied places- either they are right by the ground or they're way up high on the building and sometimes there are no signs. London certainly keeps you on your toes.

So far my favorite street we have passed is…

According to our tour guide, you could literally buy frying pans at frying pan alley. Go figure! Now it is just an alleyway, sadly.

Learning about Jack the Ripper was pretty fascinating. What a seriously disturbed man he was. To this day they don’t know his true identity. I won’t go into the gory details of his crimes here but it’s worth looking into if you’re into things like murders and blood and guts like I am.

After the tour we headed to a pub (correction: a two floor, massive pub) where I had my first plate of fish and chips and my first glass of Pims. Both were delicious and will be consumed many more times before the semester ends.

Camden Market: Where the wild mohawks are

17 Jan

First order of business for Saturday: sleep in. Once we finally dragged our tired bodies out of bed, Sam and I headed to the Camden Town Tube stop. We had to transfer lines but it was a cinch. Like I said, the Tube and I are becoming quite friendly.

Camden Town is home to Camden Market, which is essentially like a massive flea market. It is also comparable to Canal Street (Chinatown) in NYC. Basically there are hundreds of vendors selling everything from t-shirts and sunglasses to knock-off handbags and jewelry. Street food is also abundant.

We met up with a friend of mine from school back in the states, James, who lives just outside London. It was weird seeing someone from school abroad, even though this is technically home for him.

And so the three of us set out in Camden, into the hustle and bustle of tourists, bargain-seekers, and punk rock punks. I’m talking multicolored mohawks and giant spikes in the hair. On forty-something men. Who also wear plaid pants and combat boots. It was like going to a Clash reunion concert.


It's comforting to know that they spend more money and effort on their appearance than I do.


There was an entire store of gothic/punk clothing. It looked like a costume shop. Who needs a floor-length jacket with frilly sleeves unless they’re dressing as a pirate for Halloween?


This is where I plan to go back-to-school shopping for next year.


Navigating the stalls was a bit draining, mostly because there is so much to see and the people peddling “I <3 Justin Bieber” t-shirts tend to hover over you, murmuring prices and trying in vain to convince you to try on the hideous sweatshirt you just had to touch because it looked too ugly not to touch.

Eventually the racks of cheap, child labor-produced clothing part to reveal a lane of food stands. Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Italian… You name it, Camden has it.

Street food is wonderful for many reasons; it is:

  • Cost effective.
  • Delicious.
  • Messy.
  • Fast.

I had a messy, delicious, cheap, quickly made fajita which I devoured whole-heartedly. Chances are if there is cheese, salsa, and tortilla involved, I’m going to enjoy it.

After our jaunt through Camden we hopped back on the Tube and headed for Oxford Street, which, as I mentioned earlier, is a major shopping center of London. Aside from the obvious reason to go there, we went for a little (big) place called Primark.

Two massive floors of discounted wonderment.

Imagine a store that sells clothing for men, women, children and babies, linens, pillows, shoes, luggage… Kind of like a department store. Only cheap. And by cheap I mean dirt cheap. Think of Primark as Wal-Mart prices at forever21 or H&M. The clothes are surprisingly fashionable, completely synthetic, and in a year you’ll toss them out without feeling buyers remorse.

Now, we all know how shoppers get around low prices. People get greedy, people get frustrated, and people get rude. At Primark, people turn into frenzied animals, jumping about the store in chaos, grabbing faux leather jackets and 2 for 5 pounds pillows. Sheer madness. But, being Britain, though the people shop like fanatical beasts, everyone is still polite. There is no yelling or elbowing like in an American store. No eye-rolling or sneering. People just work around each other amicably. I thought I was in an alternate universe. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t seriously claustrophobic and on-edge, keeping one eye on the exits. In hectic places I like to get in and get out, and even though I snapped up some bargains, I was happy to get out of Primark.

After a full day of walking, Sam and I relaxed for a bit before heading out to a local pub, the Gloucester Arms, for a drink. I went with cider again, I’m thinking it might be my go-to drink. Cheers to that.

Stand-Up comedy and internship news

15 Jan

On Thursday I met with the internship coordinator, Scottish Sarah, and we chatted about what I want to pursue for a career and what kind of an internship I would want. After telling her that I want to get into book editing she told me about a ridiculously amazing internship with Black Spring Press, a small publishing house, that would have me working with a book basically from start to finish. I would get a say on editing and design and have a lot of hands on experience. Obviously I jumped at the chance to interview with them and Sarah told me, (in her thick Scottish accent) “We’ve got you an interview with them next Thursday.”

I know it’s not a guarantee, but I am really keeping my fingers crossed for this one. After a little rest, Sam and I went out in search of macaroons and mac book accessories.

This involved using the Tube (London’s subway system) for the first time. I’ve ridden the T countless times. I’ve taken the subway in New York, but taking the Tube was something that intimidated me a bit. That is, until we got underground.

Sure, it looks scary, but every station has multiple maps, arrows, pictures, and how-to-get-wheres.

In comparison the subway in NYC, the Tube is easier to navigate, cleaner, more efficient, and the seats are huge, cushioned, and have armrests. Compared to the T, the tube is similar in terms of set up: you have several different lines that are colored but unlike the T they have names like: Jubilee, Picadilly, Victoria, Northern… Also unlike the T, the Tube is clean and efficient. Basically, I love the Tube. I understand the Tube. The Tube and I are becoming fast friends.

Our first stop was Green Park (on the Picadilly Line) for Sam to get macaroons from Laduree, the same place in Paris where Marie Antoinette ordered all of her macaroons and cakes.

Compact, colorful, cost-a-fortune cookies.

From there we hopped back on the Tube and got off at Covent Garden to go to the Apple store so that Sam could get the travel adapter kit. That took all of 2 minutes so we decided to explore a bit and came upon this gem:

For those of you who aren't aware, the term "Snog," in the UK, is slang for making out. So what was sold at Snog? Low-cal, fat-free, fruit-topped fro-yo. Talk about a disappointment when, with a name like Snog, one would expect to find something a little sexier than frozen yogurt.

After a quick bite back at school (still gross food but at least tolerable this time) Sam went off with a group to see Wicked and I went with a much smaller (three other kids, four RAs… so awkward) to the Comedy Store, a famous comedy club in Picadilly Circus.

Picadilly Circus is like Times Square only more enjoyable. There are no ostentatious light displays (at least, not covering every inch of the place) and while there are a good amount of tourists it’s still easy to move around.

The Comedy Store had an emcee, three acts, an intermission, and two more acts. A few notes on British stand-up:

  • If you are sitting in the first or second row, you are fair game. If you are not from London and you are in the first or second row, be prepared for jokes about you and your native land for the rest of the night. If you fit the prior descriptions and you are an American student, good luck.
  • The Brits are diiiiiirrrrrrtttttyyyy.
  • Even swearing sounds better in a British accent.