Saturday, July 25, 2009

Okay, this is really the last post.

First day back and already going into withdrawals! We stopped by Sam's Club on the way back from the airport and wow, what a difference from our local Sainsbury's! Bulk is the name of the game at Sam's, which is something Londoners don't know much about.

Anyway, I found this card by etsy vendor paperpastries and thought it was pretty accurate! I knew I was going to love it, but I didn't expect to love it this much!

Until we meet again, London... I will be back!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The last day...

** This post was started in London, but finished at home in Indiana... I had a busy night before we left so I wasn't able to crank it out like I normally do. My apologies!

Busy Trafalgar Square

"The last day..." these three little words made me feel so sad on Thursday. For our final hurrah, the class headed to Texas Embassy for lunch to ease back into the American groove. The main attractions: mountains of ice in our cups and free refills!

Our lunch spot, the Texas Embassy

Angie, Muriel, and Nicki at lunch

The restaurant was very festive and quite a different environment than the pub scene. We filled up on chips and salsa as we looked over a variety of delicious Tex-Mex dishes.
It was great to have the group all together. It is funny to think of the first days when we were still a little shy and nervous about meeting everyone. Now, we tease and joke around with each other like old pals! Nothing like traveling across an ocean and exploring a foreign country to bring people together :)

Decisions, decisions...

The (accidentally) self proclaimed Spice Girls

After lunch, we were off on our Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. I am familiar with their music, but not a hardcore fan so a lot of the information given was new to me. We stopped at the record studio where "Hey Jude" was recorded, and the Apple office where their last performance (rooftop!) was held.

The hippest of the hip street in the 1960s

We walked through the "Swinging London" hotspot, Carnaby Street. Carnaby Street was the fashion and cool center in the 1960s, and although the culture and allure has faded, it is still a major shopping area.

The group on our way to Abbey Road

We hopped on the Tube and headed to the St. John's Wood stop to visit the famous Abbey Road crossing. We ended the tour here, and desperately tried to recreate our own Abbey Road picture. The traffic didn't quite agree with our plans, but we did the best we could!

We couldn't manage a perfectly staged Beatles walk across the road, but I still caught a stroll (notice Christina cheesing for the camera!)

Prof Williams, walking the walk

Emma, Charlotte, and Mal... the first attempt at the walk

After Beatles mania, Muriel, Nicki, and I headed to Kings Cross to check out some Harry Potter mania. We followed other fans to find the famous Platform 9 3/4. It was a perfect photo opportunity for visiting Muggles!
On my way to Hogwarts!

For my final evening, I went to the Apollo Victoria Theatre to see my sixth show, "Wicked". It was fabulous! I know I have said that about every show, but I honestly believe that every show has been great and it would be impossible for me to pick a favorite. On my to-do list for home: search for the soundtracks for the shows I have seen and replay them over and over.

Wicked, my final show of the trip

With the last day comes my last post as well. It has truly been a pleasure keeping the folks at home up-to-date with our London outings. I hope everyone enjoyed my stories and accounts!

I also wanted to thank Stephanie Judge and Kate King, the marketing mavens at Butler, for setting this blog up and giving me the chance to share experiences. More thanks goes to Prof Williams and Butler for giving me the experiences to share!! It was an unforgettable trip with a million amazing memories. I have definitely been bit by the travel bug and definitely plan on studying abroad for a semester... I just need to figure out where!

Final thoughts: thank you to the people at Butler, the readers, and my fellow classmates for putting up with my constant photography! :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Churchill, Chinese, and Lion King

Emily, Charlotte, Angie, Muriel, Ethan, and Mike

This afternoon took us underground to the Cabinet War Rooms. These rooms were a system of connected hallways and rooms used in World War II by the British government. They were built in response to the bombing in London and to alleviate the public's fear that their leaders may leave the city. Instead, Churchill and his team set up camp underground, having dining rooms, bedrooms, and a mini kitchen to keep them occupied in between military planning.

Charlotte, Emily, Kelsey, Ros, and Jenny

The Cabinet War Rooms of the British government in World War II

Entering the underground system of offices

An intro slide show including infant gas masks! (or actually, infant gas body suits)

Our man of the afternoon, Sir Winston Churchill

I did not know Churchill was a talented artist!

The War Rooms joined a Churchill Museum which I really found fascinating (I am super intrigued by World War II information). He was such a colorful character that it was fun to read his quotes and learn about his general tendencies and personal life. For example, he liked to wear velvet rompers, hated whistling, and was a very good painter!

On our way back to the flat, we stopped to monitor the filming scene that was parked just a block away from our flats. Mike did some detective work earlier in the day and found out a Leonardo diCaprio film was being filmed under a false name to avoid the paparrazi. Although we didn't see any of the star studded cast (Leo, Michael Caine, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, and others), we will still keep our eyes open! (The London Paper and London Lite tabloids have posted numerous pics of Leo about town, so I know he is here!)

The film crew lighting the interior Victoria House for their shooting

Several of us ventured down to Soho and Chinatown for some Chinese cuisine. We tried to shield Emily's (a vegetarian) eyes away from the various meats hanging in the window, but I think there were too many for her to totally block it out! After dinner, we departed to our various performances for the night. Emily, Ethan, and I headed to Covent Garden to see the Lion King. It was absolutely amazing!! Everyone has said the costumes and sets are awesome, but I couldn't really believe it until I saw it.. and I definitely believe it now!

Fifth show: the Lion King!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jack the Ripper + Indian dinner!

When our first "stop and talk" was under this creepy bridge, I knew we were in for a scare...

The evening activity took us to the East End of London for the Jack the Ripper tour. Throughout the tour, we walked to various murder sites and retraced Jack's steps of the night. The story is very chilling, and our tour guide really played it up with dramatic pauses and creepy voices.

Our incredible storyteller

He definitely kept everyone's attention!

A little background on Jack the Ripper: he (no one really knows for sure who) conducted a series of murders to prostitutes in the East End. The details are pretty gruesome, and he is considered to be the most famous serial killer of all time.

After being thoroughly chilled by Jack's story, we headed to Brick Lane for some quality Indian food. We each picked a dish and then shared them family style with our neighbors so everyone could try different items. My pick: chicken tikka misala, a dish that Rick Steves calls one of the most popular English dishes. Some people, such as Muriel and Mike, went for the super spicy!

One end of the table: Perry, Jeff, Kelsey, Mal, Ethan, and Ros

Angie, Muriel, Mike, Christina

Alison and Charlotte

Emily and I

As long as we kept the water flowing, we were all pretty good! I didn't see any major sweating from our group... and they even pass out refreshing moist washcloths at the end of the meal to wipe off your supposedly sweaty hands and face! It was definitely a new and fun experience for our Midwestern crowd.

Dinner in progress!

Garden party: invitation only

Lined up and ready to go! (This is only one of the three enormous lines leading up to the Palace gates)

This afternoon, I was walking to Buckingham Palace when I noticed a large amount of very nicely dressed people walking around. Curious, I ducked into a store and asked what was going on. The saleslady told me there was a garden party today in Buckingham Palace.

Guards at the gate were carefully checking invitations

I knew a little about the exclusive get togethers from Britt, but wanted to learn more... what I found: Garden parties consist of around 8,000 or 9,000 guests from various organizations. They can be chosen or nominated by the group as representatives. Britt said special or important deeds can also give a more common person an invite. During the garden party, there is a band playing and the Royal Family does a "meet and greet" to guests through various and winding lanes.

I have never seen so many hats...

The dress code is rather fancy. Men wear suits, and women wear either dresses or skirts and some kind of head gear. Today was rainy, so many accessorized with an umbrella!

.. Or so many feathers!

The chosen were led beyond the outer doors of the Palace

A particularly cute couple (military uniform or national dress is also acceptable dress)

I believe the man on the left is the definition of "dapper"

I people-watched for a rather long time and was quite intrigued by the people who were granted access. I think my invitation must have gotten lost in the mail... maybe next time!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hampton Court + afternoon tea

Good morning!

To start off the week, we met in the morning at Waterloo train station to make our way to Hampton Court Palace. Everyone was a little groggy after a busy weekend, but coffee and bagels seemed to do the trick to energize!

Our tour guide for the morning, Britt's bff Sarah

We toured Hampton Court Palace, a palace that traded hands from Cardinal Wosley to King Henry VII- two key players in our book for tomorrow's lecture, "A Man for All Seasons". The style of the estate is torn between Tudor and Baroque because of renovations as ownership and favored styles changed.

Hampton Court Palace

Ethan IS King Henry VIII

The gardens were beautiful (and the pretty day didn't hurt either!). We were mesmerized by swimming swans and enjoyed a leafy tunnel.

After I took the picture, Mal said, "Oh, did you want me to pose?"

Perry, Alison, Mal, Christina, Kelsey, and Emma in the gardens

Charlotte in a vine cubbyhole in the gardens

Fact: Charlotte and Kelsey like swans (and were the only ones brave enough to get close!)

At the edge of the estate, there was a maze. Although Sarah, the tour guide, said it normally takes people twenty minutes to complete, we thought it would definitely take us longer! Despite a few dead ends, a little frustration, and lots of laughs, we all made it through... with plenty of time to spare! After the maze, we stopped at a local pub for lunch.

Perry and Ethan, my trusty leaders in the maze

Emily and Muriel at lunch near Hampton Court Palace

Ethan's weapon of choice against bees: his shoe

The train ride back was quite eventful for a small group of us: Mike had noticed a woman fall near the busy road and stopped to help her. She was not feeling well and was left unable to get back to her house. We tried calling for a taxi on various phones but were unsuccessful. A biker stopped to help, and got a hold of a car service to help the woman... the service came shortly after and the woman was on her way back to her house.

At this point, we were 4 minutes away from missing the train (which would make us wait another half hour for the next one). Determined to make it in time, we took off sprinting for the train. Of course, due to our sheer speed, we made it!

Alison, Perry, and Christina were weary travelers

This afternoon, Charlotte, Emily, and I decided to upgrade from our college lives and student budgets and splurge on a fine English tradition: afternoon tea. Emily found a very fancy looking hotel and booked reservations. We were quite pleased with ourselves and enjoyed a nice leisurely meal to the delightful tunes of a piano and in the company of elegant patrons.

Myself, Emily, and Charlotte outside our spot for afternoon tea, Brown's Hotel

Our ultra-posh glasses of champagne!

The tower of treats: sandwiches, scones, and sweets

The experience included a glass of champagne, each person's choice of tea, assorted sandwiches (Charlotte and I were fans of the salmon), scones complete with cream and jam, and sweets (Emily enjoyed the chocolate macaroon). We had a very nice Italian waiter who professed his love of California to us and kept our tower filled with food items. It was such a relaxing afternoon, and we left happy, full, and very sophisticated :)
The tea aftermath... a very successful affair!