Thursday, June 17, 2010

Once in a Lifetime!

So, this week one the student life planner emailed the international students at Regent's with a great deal she found for tickets to the Royal Ascot. The Royal Ascot is one of the largest horse races in the world that is an old English tradition--it's a huge event! Seriously, tickets go for 100 pounds and we get our train ride there and back PLUS tickets to the race for 25 pounds. So like 12 of us at the last minute decide to take this once in a lifetime opportunity.

A few things to know about the Royal Ascot: 1. The men who sit in the Grand Stands are required to wear coatails and tophats 2. The women wear hats and feather fascinators, or some sort of large thing in their heads 3. The Royal family is presented

So after we got our tickets finalized, the girls ran around town searching for hats and feather fascinators. The day of the race, a few of us had class at the National Gallery--which is absolutely amazing! We took chairs around with us and sat in front of paintings, discussing their significance--I could definitely do this forever. We left class a little be early to catch our train to Ascot at Waterloo station and to grab lunch beforehand. As we were waiting to board our train, we saw men and women of all sorts dressed in their best coattails and hats---we were jumping out of our skins, itching to get to the race!

Upon our arrival, we go straight to the betting booths! What an experience, let me tell ya! Haha, I had no clue what I was doing, but I ended up betting for a horse in the Prince of Wales betting race which was neat because the Royal Highnesses presented the trophy for that race. My horse ended up getting fourth or something, so I didn't get any money (which I only bet 2 pounds so I wouldn't have won much anyways).

The stands we were in were next to the Grand Stands (where the boxes are and where Royal family sits) and we had our own seperate stands, but also a huge lawn to set up tables and chairs to have picnics and what not. There were benches all around for people to stand on during the race as well. For the first race we sat in the stands, but moved to the fence to sit up close on the grass. As for beverages, we had some Pimm's, which was the best I've had in London so far! If you haven't had Pimm's its a yummy liquor (kind of) with mint leaves, cucumber, and lemons! The fruit varies...Anyways, this was by far my favorite experience in England yet!

After we left the Royal Ascot, we met the rest of our Auburn group as well as the professors and went to watch Henry IV at the Globe Theatre! This was a great cultural experience that I reccomend anyone who goes to London to do! The Globe is still set up as it was when Shakespeare was around, which etails floor standing and seats all around. To stand, it's 5 pounds, and seats are 10 pounds. It's really neat to be in such an interactive audience!

So that day I left my dorm at 9:30 and didn't get back until almost was a packed day. Oh yeah and I had a paper and a book to read for class the next day---oops. This weekend we are off to Dublin, and then it is our last week in the Beautiful London. Cheerio!

Crunch Time!

Alright last week, we all made a list of things we have left to do in London, so we've been running around the city like crazy trying to get everything done! One day a few of us history nerds went to the Churchill War Rooms that are underneath on of the government buildings by parlaiment. This is wear the British moved their headquarters during the London Blitz of WWII so they could be sheltered by the bombing raids and still work on defense strategy. It was so neat seeing everything left exactly as it was! However, ironically while we were walking around the speakers came on asking everyone to evacuate the building. Given our sinister moods from looking through bomb shelters, it was a little freaky. Everything turned out to be OK, but we still don't know what happened. So as we were waiting to go back into the museum, we decided to walk around a bit. We ended up behind some more government buildings that had an open field full of brown gravel in the middle of London---weird. So we walk through the area and come out from under these arches where we see some beautiful horses. So naturally, being the tourists we are, we get our cameras out to begin snapping pictures. Little did we know, we were right in the middle of the changing of the horses with the Royal Guard! Haha, they didn't even tell us to move! So there are going to be quite a few tourists who will later look at their pictures, wondering who the Americans are running around in the background. Eventually we got to go back into the museum, but it was indeed an eventful day that ended with us riding the tube all over town to find our favorite cookie place, Ben's. College kids, what do ya do?

This weekend a big group of us went to Paris, which of course wonderful. Relaxing as Nice? Not so much...the first day we got there we went to the Louvre and afterwards had lunch in the park next to the Arc d'triomphe. Afterwards we walked for 2 hours straight--our luggage on our backs, looking for our hostel. I'm not going to lie, that was pretty miserable and by the time we finally got to the place all we wanted to do was sleep since we had been up since 3 in the morning to catch our train. However, we did not sleep we went on top of the Le Tour Eiffel, which was breathtaking, especially at sunset---better than I remembered! We saw a couple get engaged which was soooo sweet and romantic! The next day we went to Notre Dame, went on a river tour on Le Seine, and oh yeah, ate crepes, crepes and more crepes!!!! My favorite food in the world!

That night we were all super tired and we stayed close to our hostel to eat dinner and watch the USA vs. England World Cup game. I am SO GLAD we were not in town for the game---the English are violent about their soccer, they don't mess around. Sunday, we went to a beautiful church on top of the only hill in Paris called Sacre Coure...this was the first place I had not been to in Paris, and it was my favorite place by far! We got to walk through it, which was during a Sunday morning service--at first a little weird, but the choir literally sounded like angels were singing. We left the church with chill bumps and tears in our eyes because it was such a beautiful experience. Oh yeah, and the view of the city was amazing! Also, while we were walking around on top of Mount Mart Tour de France bikers were training for a preliminary race (I think) so there were hundreds of people and radio stations and buses, etc for that.
The rest of the day we took it very easy because we were dead on our feet. We grabbed some crepes for lunch and had a picnic on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower, and we laid around for a couple of hours, it was ideal. When it was finally time for our 9:00 train, we were beyond ready for a beds awaiting us at Regent's. And as soon as we got on the London tubes, we realized how much we missed the cleanliness of London (which who would have thought to say that?). But Paris, smells horrible--it's beautiful, but I'm almost positive they do not know what proper sanitation is there.

London is definitely home to me. I feel like I've been here for at least 2 months--not just 5 weeks. And I can't even think about leaving this beloved city. We are definitely going to live it up the short time we have left here, and mark off the London bucket list!
The first picture is the beautiful park behind Notre Dame where we ate lunch one day, the next is a us on top of the Eiffel Tower, and then the last one is of the girls at the Eiffel Tower!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sweet Home Alabama, War Damn London

WOOOW ok so I haven't updated in a while! Last week we went on the London Eye and a river boat cruise on the Thames. It was absolutely beautiful, because it was at sunset and it was perfect weather! This weekend our group went to Bath, Salsbury, and Windsor! Bath was soooo neat because not only did I get to see the ancient Roman Baths, but I got to see where Jane Austen lived for a couple of years! Last week in class we read Pride and Prejudice so my head was stuck in Jane Austen's fantasy world. After we toured the baths, we went to a bookstore and bought way too many Jane Austen books for so cheap, and by an English publisher, so you can't get them in the states. I have turned into a complete English nerd! Haha, but we also stopped at the "Real Italian Ice Cream" store and had the best gelato in the world! (Considering, I haven't been to to me, it was amazing).

Next we went to Salisbury, which was actually quite enjoyable because once we got to the town, we took a bus to Stonehenge which was in the middle of nowhere so I got to see some of the English countryside. Stonehenge was so neat, and even though it is a bunch of rocks, I reccomend anyone who is in the country to venture that way. When we got back into the town, a huge group of us decided to go to pizza hut, and let me tell you how different it was than in America! First of all it's a sit down restaurant, and we had 3 courses...and there is a pizza hut in every town I have been to in England so far--wow do the British love there pizza hut! After our rather large meal we walked around the markets for a bit and I ended up getting a 5 pound watch--what a deal! My friend got one as well, however hers stopped working within an hour...haha I guess that's what you get for being cheap!

When we got back from Salisbury, we were all ready for a night out, so we headed to Piccadilly Circuis and went to a pub called O'neils. It actually turned out to be so much fun because the band took a great liking to us Americans once he found out we were from the South and he played Sweet Home Alabama for us! Ha it was one of my favorite nights so far! And everytime he would sing "Sweet Home Alabama" he would give us the mic and we screamed "War Damn Eagle", it was wonderful!

We had just gotten to bed when we had to wake for our tour of Windsor Castle. The flag was flying when we got there and Queen Elizabeth was there, which was neat because we were touring a castle which was still being used. One of my favorite exhibits we saw was Queen Mary's dollhouse, which was absolutely amazing!!!! Every little girls dream...a miniature palace for her dolls...

After we toured the castle, we ate at a very good restaurant on the river. I had Sunday Roast, and I'm sorry to say Mr. Matt but the beef, yorkshire pudding, and gravy was the best I have ever had in my life! I still can't get it out of my mind and I had it 3 days ago!
The pictures in order are the Roman baths, a view from the London Eye, some of the group at Stonehenge, and a beautiful sunset on the Thames!

So all in all, it was a great weekend, however we are all cracking down on our list of things to do since we only have less than 3 weeks left! Ahhh it's already gone by so fast!!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cote d'Azur

This past weekend (memorial day weekend) was a bank holiday in the UK and me and four of my friends were blessed to spend our long weekend in the south of France. Nice is a city on the Mediterranean, which is pretty close to Italy. The architecture looked more Italian or even Spanish than French. The water was the most beautiful crystal clear blue with a rocky shore much like the Cape in Massachusetts. It was absolutely beautiful, I did not want to leave! It was a huge relief getting to use the Euro as currency instead of the pounds, because that made everything much cheaper. The first night we got there, we ate at a cafe close to our hotel and I ordered a glass of wine which was 2.50 Euros and much to my surprise, it was about three glasses worth of wine--so cheap! The whole trip mainly consisted of catching up on our sleep because we have been going none stop since we got to London. Whenever we aren't site-seeing, we're doing homework, which doesn't leave much time for sleep. So every night we sat on the beach until sunset which is about 9:30 and went straight to bed and woke up the next morning at 10 and did it all over again. It was perfection! One of my favorite meals of the trip was a seafood risotto that had Mediterranean octopus, muscles, and tiny tiny shrimp. It was amazing!

OK, so the French people are definitely my least favorite people in the world. I have enough french background to where I can communicate with the vendors, waiters, etc. And one of the other girls I was with could as well. One day, we sat down at a cafe, and before we even opened our mouths the family right next next to us started talking about us--little did they know we could understand them. Also, they are constantly trying to take advantage of us "stupide Americains". Needless to say, I was ready to get back to London, which I now consider home and my comfort zone. Too bad I still have to go to Paris--haha I'm just kidding, I know I'll have fun, I'm just not looking forward to the dirty French. Anyways, long live the queen! Cheerios!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Cultured Life...

Ok wooow, I have been going none stop since I have arrived in London! A week ago was the last time I updated, which feels like soooo long ago! Our first weekend in London, we went to Hampton Court friday, and Canterbury on Saturday. Hampton Court was absolutely magnificent! We were there for 5 hours, and I still feel like I did not see everything. This was home of Henry VIII as well as William and Mary. Basically this was the palace until Queen Elizabeth had Buckingham Palace built. The gardens were 60 acres surrounding the palace and absolutely gorgeous. On Saturday we went to Canterbury, a quaint 14th century-old (or possibly older) town with a cathedral at it's center. We enjoyed some fish and chips and a bit of shopping before we toured the montestary. In the church were the tombs of archbishops and other significant medieval figures. The coolest thing, in my opinion, was the Black Prince's tomb and his armor. This was a war hero from the 100 years war, that took place in the 14th century, so the armor that was on display was about 700 years old! Unbelievable.

For my art and religion class, we go somewhere everyday. As I mentioned last time we went to a Hindu temple last thursday and actually watched a service, which was very interesting. This is the largest Hindu temple in Europe (the largest one in the world is in the US, go figure) and was completely covered in stone carvings. The gods in the temple were so ornate and detailed, however it was strange seeing people worship them. In the Hindu faith, they believe that god is actually in the statues, looking back at them.

Yesterday, we went to the Victoria&Albert museum to have class. We learned about the Buddhist religion and afterwards walked around to look at statues of Buddha. This religion struck me as the most interesting so far because it is an atheist religion, however it is open to all other religions. What this means is, as long as you reach Nirvana (reaching complete enlightenment and overcoming the ego), you have reached the goal of the Buddha. So if you reach peace and enlightenment through praying to the Hindu god or the Christian god, it's ok. So the Buddhist statues had other religiouns incorporated in them, which is quite interesting. Also, many people think Buddha is an idol, but the statue is only there to help remind you what temptations Buddha overcame in order to reach Nirvana.

Anyways, now that I am all cultured, I can tell you about my first football experience in England. Last night was England vs. Mexico, an exhibition game for the world cup. The whole group watched the game in the college's sportbar (yes they serve alcohol on campus--weird) and it was so much fun! At first we were going to walk down to a pub nearby, however that plan was quickly abondoned given how loud and rowdy and crouded the pubs already were at 4 o'clock in the afternoon on a weekday. Haha I love England!
The pictures up top are of Canterbury Cathedral and Regent's College Reid room is on the third floor (second floor here because they have ground floor and then first floor) and it's the window next to the balcony. The courtyard is absolutely fabulous to have picnics, do homework, or just hang out. The weather has been WONDERFUL! It has been clear skies, sunny and high 70s. On Sunday we went to the park all day, along with every other European in the city, and we laid around playing cards and reading and napping. The English, do not know how to act in this type of weather because one out of every five people I see walking down the street is burnt from laying out in the parks. Ok, I have written enough for now. Cheerios!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We partied by where Audrey Hepurn was!

Hello all! My first class was on Monday, and of course I was an hour late because of my newfound dyslexia, and I did not realize I had class on Mondays and Wednesdays. Ha shocker. Anyways, as I embarassingly walked into the classroom my wonderful professor, Lady Lawes, warmly greeted me. If you didn't catch the "Lady" prefix, yes her husband is a Lord and was Knighted by the Queen. How awesome!? We also have a professor from Oxford named Jessica (who I haven't met yet) and another professor named Julia who works for the British History Museum. These lovely ladies all have backgrounds concerning religion and art (the class is called Religion and Art Culture) and there are only about 4 of us in the class. Tomorrow, we get to go see a Hindu Temple during class. My class today is with our Auburn professor, Dr. Bertelot called "The Makings of English Comedy" or in his words "What makes the British folk laugh". It is definitely going to be an amusing class. Right now we are reading Canterbury Tales.

Yesterday afternoon, the group ventured to Westminister to see Big Ben and other "touristy" sites. Last night, a guy from Regent's college guided us to Covent Garden where the famous old Opera House is, you may know it from My Fair Lady, Audrey Hepurn passed out flowers on the steps of the old building. We browsed the markets for a while and ended up at a restaurant called Flume for pizza and pasta. Afterwards we headed up to the roof of the restaurant for drinks looking down on the square. It was a beautiful second night in London! Some of us girls went to a bar called Roadhouse for some live music and kareoke afterwards, which was of course fun as well.

The pictures are of Covent Garden and Big Ben. Talk to you soon!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

This day has lasted forever...

I made it to London safe and sound! As of right now I have been awake for 27 hours, and I'm trying soooo hard not to fall asleep seeing as it is only 5 o'clock here. When we arrived in London we had to catch two trains to reach the city and we walked 5ish blocks to Regent's. Imagine 19 Americans walking down the cobblestone streets of West London pushing/pulling massive suitcases (mine weighed 57 pounds, with an overflow bag weighing about 30 pounds). When we finally arrived at the college, us girls had to carry our 80 pound-plus luggage up 3 flights of stairs. I've never been in so much pain in my life.

As soon as we put our luggage down we toured the campus and the surrounding area of our new summer home. Regent's College is surrounded by Regent's Park which is absolutely beautiful! There is a pond/lake that runs through the park with paddle boats and conoes to use. The park is right across from Buckingham Palace (I'm almost positive at least-I haven't quite ventured that far) and there are benches everywhere, which will be perfect for reading the six books I'm assigned to read for class. Right now I am sitting on my bed which overlooks a courtyard that opens up into the park, with the window open, listening to the rain. What a perfect British setting!

Just a five minute walk from Regent's there are at least 2 starbucks, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, KFC, Boots (our CVS), as well as many pubs and restraurants. We are so close to everything! Tomorrow classes start, but my classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I might get a head start on my reading, as well as catching up on sleep tomorrow.

Well, so long for now!