Wednesday, March 28, 2007
At Russell Square, the trains apparently go and come far far under the ground. There is a sign at the top of the stairs directing passengers to the trains and under that is a small note informing you that these trains do their going and coming exactly 175 stairs underneath you. Since the queue at the lift was pretty long, Deborah and I decide to brave the stairs. These stairs are like a long spiral staircase to the depths of hell with periodic, but very picturesque tile signs, informing you that you are in fact approaching the train platform.
After what seemed to me that we had been walking since time began, we met a woman coming up the stairs. She was very out of breath, and she pitifully asks us if it's too terribly much farther to the top. We gave her some encouraging words and Deborah congratulated her on her fortitude for braving the stairs on the way up (and in high heels no less). But really, that staircase went on and on in a never ending downward spiral. I felt like I was in some sort of really bad Beckett play a la Waiting for Godot. But at last we (finally!) made it too the bottom and hopped a train back to the hotel.
The next evening we were at the Covent Garden stop, yet another really cool old station with yet another spiral staircase which the sign helpfully informed us was 193 steps long. Needless to say, we took the lift.
A week full of fun-ness in London and a staircase in a London tube station is my favorite anecdote.
Thursday, March 1, 2007
Unfortunately I had a relapse of some sort today, so I'm starting to get sick all over again. I've made numerous pitiful phone calls to my mother, who is a saint to listen to me whine and complain about how much my throat hurts. I'm trying to look on the bright side though. Being stuck in my room so much means that when I'm awake I can get lots of reading done. I figure I can get quite a bit of my reading done well before my classes next week. And my mom is always there to listen to my pitiful complaints. It's always nice to have a sympathetic ear, especially when I'm so far away from home.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
I hate being sick in a different country. It makes me feel so small and far away from home. Everything seems even more unfamiliar and foreign and what I'm wanting right now is familiarity (and a cough lozenge that isn't black currant flavored).
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Anyway, you get the picture. Stonehenge is really old, and it's a huge tourist trap. There were people everywhere. In the movies you always see it as some solitary figure on the Salisbury plain with absolutely nothing around it. You don't see the gift shop (which includes such wares as a Stonehenge Rocks t-shirt, Stonehenge Socks, and the ever popular Stonehenge decorative spoons. I totally bought the Stonehenge socks, and I'll sport them proudly), the large car park, and snack bar.
Then we moved onto Salisbury, site of the Salisbury Cathedral. It's 800 years old and possesses one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta, which is also about 800 years old. The cathedral is absolutely awe-inspiring. It's massive and it sports one of the tallest church spires in the United Kingdom. And I was lucky enough to climb to the top of the spire because we roped a guide into taking us up to the top. I climbed a lot of really tiny spiral staircases. It's a miracle I didn't trip and fall. And I saw some thirteenth century wood and two hundred year old graffitti. It was pretty awesome. But when we got to the top and went outside on the balcony, the view was breath-taking. That's all I need to say. The view speaks for itself.
Everyone in the play was incredible though, so--no suprise--it was a production of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Antony and Cleopatra is part of the Complete Works festival they've been holding for the last year (I bet their staging of Titus Andronicus was really cool). I've been gushing about this for the past three days. I can't say enough how amazing it was, as anyone I've talked to since Thursday has seen full well. It is by far, my favorite England experience.
And who am I kidding--it wouldn't have been nearly as exciting without Patrick Stewart. I'm such a trekkie nerd. I'm going next month to see him as Prospero in The Tempest. We're also travelling to Stratford to see Ian Mckellan as King Lear. I bet that will be a really really great performance.
Feel free to be jealous of me now.
Monday, February 5, 2007
First we went to the Roman Baths. Looking back at my pictures, I seemed to have been fascinated with odd bits of brick. It probably had some sort of significance when I was actually taking the picture, but what that was is lost to me now. The water actually bubbles--apparently it's some reaction to underground gas or something like that. There I am in my requisite red coat at the Baths--every picture from England that I've been in I've been wearing that red coat. I'll be really glad when it's warm and I don't have to wear it any more. Next, we went to the Bath Abbey. We were particularly happy to go there because it was free, although I did leave a small donation to help with the church's upkeep. Besides, the volunteer at the front desk was really the nicest man. There are tombs and memorial plaques everywhere, and I saw one dated as early as 1683. It was cool just to bask in the historical oldness of it all.
Here's a picture of the Abbey I took right before we left to return to Leicester, one of my better efforts if I do say so myself. We went to an evensong service that evening, and it was really beautiful--very calming and majestic. I wish you all could have heard it.
Of course, we had to take a tea break and where better than a place with a clever name--they serve really good tea too. So if you're ever in Bath, and you want a pot of tea, I recommend the house blend. Yummy.
And just because I had to throw in something really weird--and there's not much stranger than two men on really tall unicycles wearing hot pink tutus and holding torches (they juggled those torches as their big finale). This street show was truly one of the high points of my trip to Bath. I haven't laughed that much in a really long time.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
I went out on Thursday afternoon to run a few errands, and the whole enterprise turned into a lovely wander around the
After the Farmer's Market, I wandered through a small alleyway and found a place called
I love when I find great places while wandering aimlessly. I'm going back next week to see what I can find.
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Okay done venting, I'm just frustrated. I just want to teach 1302--and I will.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Friday, January 26, 2007
We did make a sad attempt to go out last night though. We got all dolled up and took the bus to the city centre. We arrived at the pub of our choice, The Orange Tree, but it was too crowded and smoky. We ended up at McDonald's drinking milkshakes, and we were back to campus by 11:00. In the end we went to the Chicago girls' room (which is so large that I swear that you could fit the whole of my old apartment within it) ordered pizza and talked about girl issues, much to the chagrin of the one guy that was with us.
Tonight, we were a little more successful. We had a craving for Indian food, so we took the bus to Leicester's Golden Mile, which is the part of town where all of the Indian shops and restaurants are located. After wandering around on the Golden Mile for a bit, we settled on a place called Friends Tandoori, where apparently you need a reservation. Luckily they seated us anyway, but the staff acted like it was an imposition to serve us. I swear the server looked offended when we asked him for water He actually had to go and ask someone if we could have water (and quick sidebar--other people in the restaurant had pitchers of water). We got our water, but I felt nervous and out of place just being there.
The food however, oh my god--it was so good. By far the best meal I've eaten in the United Kingdom (of course I do eat most of my meals in the worst cafeteria ever). My mouth was so happy to experience spicy again. Even now, several hours later, my stomach is still happily full. We probably won't be going back there again--not because of the service, but because this meal cost us 60 GBP--that's close to $120 for those of you not familiar with the exchange rate. We'll find a cheaper Indian food place in the future, but I still say it was worth it.
Full and sated we left the restaurant and proceeded to spend thirty minutes waiting for a bus that we spent less than five minutes on. By some miracle, the 80--the bus that goes to the residence halls was at the stop and waiting when we got off the bus. We made a run for it to get to the other bus in time (so we didn't have to spend another 30 minutes waiting for yet another bus), but I quickly discovered that I've lost so much weight in the last two weeks that my pants will fall off my butt if I attempt to run. I'm very thankful that I had a long jacket on. It saved me from flashing my underwear--albeit super cute underwear--to all of the Leicester city centre.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
When class began, all of the lecturers conducting this module were there, and we briefly went over what was expected of us this semester. There' a presentation (and really, I'm beginning to think that no graduate level class would be complete without a presentation of some sort), and the standard seminar length paper.
The class itself seems like it's really going to be interesting. We're reading a ton of stuff I've never even heard of, which is good because I want to read and discuss new things--broadening the mind and that kind of thing.
And now I'm done with class for the week. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with myself. I'm sure some sort of reading/writing paper type work will be involved, but I'm certainly not going to stay holed up in my room reading the whole time. The sun is actually shining today, so I want to get out enjoy a little of that.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
At about midnight tonight, I was sitting in my room nice and cozy chatting on the phone and I hear the call--it's snowing. Most of the residents of Gilbert Murray Stamford halls were outside of their respective houses living it up and playing in the snow. Apparently, it doesn't snow in England that much. American television and film depicting England in the winter has lied to us. This is the biggest snow storm they've had in quite some time. I can see why the Brits were out playing too. Coming from a warmish locale myself, I was pretty excited. The ground is covered in a beautiful thick layer of snow.
I have to admit that I was a bit intimidated at first. I wasn't really on comfortable turf. I felt like they were going to know so much more than me, that I wouldn't have anything relevant or important to say, that I was an intruder in their orderly British class. I didn't really speak during the first hour of the class, but the lecturer was really nice. She spoke a bit about the English Renaissance and how that affected the development of the country-house poem, and she asked a lot of leading questions about the assigned primary texts. After a while the feeling that the whole class would collectively stop and laugh at me every time I spoke died down a bit, and I started to contribute to the class a bit more. And, for the record, the class didn't collectively stop and laugh at me every time I opened my mouth to speak.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Yes, I live here, lucky me! These are photos from the botanical gardens at the university of Leicester. A lot of people live in these really old fabulous looking Edwardian houses. Sadly, I live in a building akin to a prison cell block without the bars, but all of this beauty is literally right outside my bedroom door.
If you want to see more, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/barbi7/
I've uploaded (or as of right now, am attempting to upload) all of the pictures of my trip to the botanical gardens. Enjoy!
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Sorry there are no new pics of Leicester, this is from my trip to the Victoria and Albert on Monday. Sadly, I've been immersed in international student orientation for the last two days. I spent hour after hour in session after session about one thing or another. It was defintely information overload. It was just plain boring. But orientation is over now, and I'm all official, registered and ready to start school next week.
Now it's Saturday night, and unfortunately I'm sitting here alone in my room listening to music and writing my blog because I have a cold. Too bad too, there's supposed to be some big party tonight. Well, I'm sure it's not the last. A healthy chunk of the study abroad students here at Leicester are under 21. They're pretty excited to drink legally, so I'm pretty sure they'll be having other parties in the not too distant future. Since I've been over 21 for eight years, it's not so new and exciting.
And leave me some comments guys! Let me know you're reading!
Thursday, January 18, 2007
After the orientation, we all walk around campus a little bit, and it is so windy that we literally cannot walk. It was blowing people over. I kept falling over on the girl next to me. It was actually a bit funny. If you were walking in the right direction, the wind would take you right where you needed to go.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Well, there it is, my new palace. Isn't it spacious? I took both of those pictures while standing on the opposite side of the room. So yes, it really is that small. It's not that bad though. I have my own bathroom, and they come and clean your room every two weeks. I'm provided with linens, including that "lovely" bedspread you see (please don't think my taste is that tacky), which they replace for me every two weeks. No American dorm I've ever seen does this, so all in all, it's not a bad situation. It's not like I have a lot of stuff to clutter up the room anyway.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Thankfully, I arrived in Leicester fairly quickly. After the horror that was my restless and uncomfortable plane trip over here, I wasn't ready to deal with a long trip. And thank God, baby Jesus, and any other deity listening, the station had an elevator to the ground level, or I'd be hating the suitcase even more right now. I found a cab right away, and we take off, but he's not sure where the motel is. After driving around for a bit, I figure out why. It's not in Leicester. Apparently Leicester Forest East is a bit outside of Leicester. The city listed on the address is Leicester, but apparently it's still not Leicester. So I end up at what is essentially a glorified rest stop on the M1. My room looks out on a BP petrol station and convienence store. But I will say this, the staff is certainly friendlier than at the Thistle Kensington Palace, the bed is much more comfortable, and the internet working here. I'll have to take a cab to the university tomorrow because there's no public transit out this far, but that's okay. I'll finally be able to unpack the monstrosity. I've been living out of suitcases, bags, and boxes for the last month. It's time to settle somewhere. And from what I could see in the cab, Leicester looks like a pretty nice place to be. I'll try to take some pics and post them tomorrow.
Yes, I'm enduring a painful separation from my beloved clothes, About twenty minutes before I left the airport, I decided that I should only carry one suitcase. All of the clothes and things I had spent days carefully packing and organizing were suddenly in a giant pile on the floor of my bedroom. Good thing though, dragging that mammoth thing across London, its train stations, airports, and the underground is not an experience I want to repeat. I'm shipping some of this stuff home before I leave, I don't care how much it costs. However, I consolidated my suitcases so quickly that I didn't realize that I didn't bring a lot of stuff that I needed. Somehow, I ended up with only two pairs of shoes and no skirts or dresses. Fortunately, my mom has graciously agreed to ship some of my stuff to me (and even better, I don't have to pay her back for shipping).
One of my first big "English" meals. At least it was cheap. And, FYI--I thought British Chicken McNuggets did taste better than American ones. I've consequently eaten at a British Pizza Hut, a British KFC, and I can say that their American counterparts are tastier. Tomorrow, I'll try eating something more British.
12 January 2007
Being here is a dream come true. Getting here was an absolute nightmare. All total, I spent twenty-one exhaustion inducing hours travelling. I now know that no matter how excited I am, I need to force myself to sleep the night before a transatlantic flight. The flight was awful. I had a six hour layover in
And you can’t just get off the plane. When you arrive at Heathrow, you have to walk through this really long maze-like series of corridors to get to immigration. Then I had to walk through another series of maze-like corridors to get to baggage claim. And when I got my bag, I was certainly sorry I had packed it so heavy (it weighed about seventy pounds) because I had to drag it and my carry-on bag (which was also pretty heavy) across half of London on the tube. I had to change trains three times. There are no escalators at the tube stations. I had to drag my suitcase up the stairs. Fortunately, several very nice men offered to help me with my suitcase at various train stations when they saw me struggling, giving me a very nice impression of Brits in general.
Finally, I found my hotel. At this point I was even more exhausted and I felt distinctly nauseous, so I was pretty excited about the prospect of sleeping. Unfortunately for me, check-in time wasn’t until 2:00pm. It was 12:30. The lady at the front desk (who I didn’t have a high opinion of at the time) must have seen how tired I was because she managed to get me the first available room and give me an upgrade at no extra charge.
Thankfully, I went upstairs, called my mother, and sank into bed.
13 January 2007
I slept pretty late today. I still don’t feel very good, so I only went out for a few hours. (Sidebar: Did I mention that I’m here in
I called my mom when I got back to the hotel. I hate to admit it, but I’m a little lonely here, and I feel really cut off from the world. When I arrived in
Saturday, January 6, 2007
My bedroom is in a state of disarray right now. Suitcases, clothing, space bags, books, shoes, purses, and one sleeping cat are scattered all around my room. I'm in the midst of packing. I knew this would be hard; parting with my clothes for six months is difficult. The good news is--they all fit in my two suitcases. The bad news is nothing else will--not shoes, not toiletries, not books, not anything.
So I have no choice--I have to make some cuts, and this is hard for me because I really love clothes. (It really doesn't help that I went to Old Navy today to buy one pair of pants, and I came out with that, another pair to keep it company, a handful of shirts and a sweater) Right now I have a "no" pile and an increasingly large "I'd really love to take it if there's room" pile. I'll butch up in the end, and at least I'll spend the next six months only wearing clothes that look absolutely fabulous on me.
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
Right now, I'm trying to take care of all of those last minute things, which involve, sadly, a root canal and a meningitis shot. I'm also in the midst of the rather unpleasant task of deciding what I really can survive without for six months. I'm buying my luggage tomorrow, so the real decision making can begin. It's probably going to take me all week--I'm a chronic overpacker.