Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Love All, Serve All

This semester has gone by so fast! It's been a while since I've updated this, but don't worry: a lack of blogs doesn't mean a lack of adventures! This was the first Thanksgiving that many of my friends and I have ever spent away from home, so to do something special, we treated ourselves to American food at the Hard Rock Cafe after our classes (strange to have class on Thanksgiving). The sign below was next to the door. A good rule for an establishment, I feel.

Every year, Norway gives England a tree as a symbol of its gratitude for their help in WWII. Craig, Kristen, and I thought it would be fun to attend the Lighting-Up Ceremony in Trafalgar Square, where the Lord Mayor of London and the Mayor of Oslo were going to speak. Accompanied by carols, it was a fun experience, especially since it's been taking place every year for the last 60 years.

The last week of the semester before finals was full of studying and last-minute paper writing (not all of the students are English majors..*ahem*). My final paper for my History of London class was on the Christmas Truce of 1914, so I utilized the reading room in the Imperial War Museum. After making an appointment, I was given access to their archives and was able to read about the unofficial truce from first-hand accounts written in diaries and letters. It was pretty incredible to read about this event as if it had just happened. As one of the soldiers wrote, "I shall never forget it, it was one of the highlights of my life." After researching my topic, I wandered through the rest of the WWI exhibit and was struck by the propaganda posters being played on a slideshow. A couple of these are shown below. Guilt was a common technique employed in designing these posters, as can be seen by the little girl saying "Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?"

After finishing our finals (I had three finals and two final essays. In total, I wrote 10 essays for that final week), we wandered around London some more. Below, Craig, Katie and Kaitlin are excited to be finished with exams. We looked in Hemley's, which is a toy store. When we were walking through it, we found a hidden staircase to the side of the building that was decorated with a Chronicles of Narnia theme.

That night, Kristen and I went to Wagamama for dinner. The restaurant is located just outside Leicester Square, where the movie premieres take place. That night, Australia was premiering, so after we finished our curry chicken, we walked over. Just as we got there, Nicole Kidman arrived, so we took pictures. Hugh Jackman was also hovering around, and just as we were about to leave, Sir Elton John made his appearance.

The last few days in London were spent in a flurry of last-minute souvenir shopping and packing, preparing to move onto or go back to great things.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

And her heart, it is in Ireland, deep within the Emerald Isle

This past weekend, several friends and I made it to Ireland; it only took a bus from our res hall to Victoria Train Station, a train to Gatwick Airport, a plane to Belfast, a taxi from the airport to the city center, and a bus from Belfast to Dublin. Despite the long travel hours, it was a great weekend. Our ultimate aim was to get to Dublin, but since the cheapest flight flew into Belfast, we thought we should explore the city a little. Before leaving, we found a taxi service in Belfast that gives tours, so we requested one. Ireland has a tumultuous history with Great Britain, and Northern Ireland still belongs to the United Kingdom. Our tour guide took us around the Catholic portion of the city and told us about "The Troubles." Peace between the Catholics and Protestants has been a somewhat recent development, within the last decade or so. There is still a wall between the two portions of the city, and the gates close every night at 6:00 pm. As seen in the pictures below, political murals cover the walls. Sadly, the first reflects Ireland's, and most of Europe's, opinion about President Bush. It shows President Bush sucking the oil (and money) out of the Middle East, with the straw supported by Great Britain.

A few weeks ago, my Censorship class watched a new movie called "Hunger." It was about some members of the IRA who were imprisoned and went on a hunger strike to get Maggie Thatcher to recognize them as political prisoners. Bobby Sands, whose mural is shown below, was the leader and was even elected to parliament in Westminster before he died from the hunger strike. I didn't know anything about Ireland's history before coming to England, and it was really interesting to see the movie and then the actual city where it took place.

Below is the green wall that separates the Catholics from the Protestants.

Below is another mural. The gun points at the viewer, regardless of where they stand.

After the tour around Belfast and Irish stew at a pub dating back to the 1850s, we took a 3 hour-long bus ride to Dublin and spent the evening walking around and enjoying the Christmas decorations. The tree below changed colors.

Saturday was filled with visiting places in the city, including Trinity College, where the Book of Kells is kept.

After viewing the beautifully illustrated, 7th-century collection of the four Gospels, we spent the early afternoon walking around Dublin. My fellow travelers (from L to R) were Kinsey, Kaitlin, Kristen, Kyle, Ryan, and Craig (Katelyn met up with one of her friends and spent the afternoon with her).

To finish off the afternoon, we took a tour of the Guinness Factory. It covered everything from the ingredients to advertising schemes, and it included a pint at the bar at the top of the building.

Water, one of the four main ingredients (barley, hops, and yeast are the other three), was demonstrated with a waterfall in the middle of the factory.

Below, Craig and I are in the tasting room, getting a sample of the brew.

Sunday, we trekked to the Writer's Museum, before heading back to Belfast. Since we got there early, we hung out and explored around the neighborhood a little.

Overall, we had a great trip, and we returned to London with the realization that we will be home in only three weeks!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When it's just You and Me and the English Channel...

Last Friday, the British Youth Culture class made a trip to Brighton. Although I'm not in the class, I signed up for the trip and the promise of the best fish and chips in England. The town is still a popular spot for teens and young adults, with night clubs along the beach, comedy clubs, and shopping. We took a couple of walking tours around the town and spent our lunch break eating on the pier and enjoying the beach.

Katie, Kaitlin, and I wanted to actually set foot in the Channel, so we trekked down to the water. The beach is made of pebbles and rocks, making walking barefoot a painful experience. It actually felt better when the cold water came up to us. Kaitlin screamed when the water hit her, but Katie and I both laughed.

Below is a display in one of the windows in the shopping district. The poppies are in honor of Remembrance Day.

The Pavilion Theatre hosted, in 1974, the Eurovision Song Contest, which ABBA won for Waterloo. The Eurovision Song Contest is held every year with the goal of promoting European unity and pride in their artists, but ABBA is the only group to ever achieve any fame from it. Pink Floyd also debuted Dark Side of the Moon at the Pavilion Theatre.

Saturday night, several of us watched Notting Hill in preparation of Sunday, when we visited the setting of the movie. On the way to Portobello Road, we passed the house where George Orwell lived.

Below is the "blue door," where Hugh Grant's character lived in the movie. The location of the bookstore that his character owned is the second picture.

After taking the tour of Notting Hill, I remembered that I haven't posted any pictures from Chelsea and the places that we spend the most time in London. The residence hall is the tall building in the picture below.

Chelsea is a very posh, up-market part of London. The picture below is just a random sample of cars that we see driving around: Porsche, Merecedes, BMW.

The Thames is just a couple of blocks up the street.

Chelsea Old Town Hall. The first day we were here, some IES administraters gave us a walking tour of Chelsea. Of this building, our guide said, "This building is used a lot to film weddings. Like those corny British movies were people get married then walk down the steps. You know, the Hugh Grant ones."

And speaking of Hugh Grant...his house is literally just around the corner from the Res Hall.

Hyde Park is just a short bus ride away. Below is the Peter Pan statue.

The IES Center, where we attend classes, is several Tube stops away in the Bloomsbury area of London. It is only two blocks from the British Museum.

Below is the building where Orwell set his Ministry of Truth in 1984. Today, it houses several libraries, including the Senate House Library, where we have memberships.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Here Comes the Sun

One Sunday, several weeks ago, the girls and I made a trip out to St. John's Wood to visit the most famous zebra crossing in London. After several attempts and multiple combinations of walkers, we all managed to have our picture taken. It's actually a pretty busy intersection, and there were several other groups trying to get their photo taken, too. In one attempt, we were halfway across the street when we heard the driver from a stopped car yell, "It's suppose to be blokes, not girls!"

Disclaimer: I'm aware of the inaccuracies in this photo, and I apologize to fellow Beatles fans for it.

Outside Abbey Road Studios, where the Beatles recorded most of their songs from 1962 to 1970, including the Abbey Road album. The wall is covered with graffiti, mostly lyrics from the Beatles songs.

Outside the Tube station there is a Beatles Coffee Shop. We thought the decorations provided another good photo opportunity.