This term is winding down. I’m done with classes, and I only have to finish one more essay by Friday. I mean, I have to start that essay too, but I also have to finish it.
The last few weeks have been pretty boring, to be honest. Lots of fun, lots of stress, lots of planning, lots of procrastination, and a little bit of work every once in a while. Since my last update, I’ve been back to the Kernel brewery a few times (seriously, it’s amazing), had the best doughnut of my life (St. John’s Bakery, a round job filled with cream so light it must have been fluffed by the wings of angels, flecked with vanilla bean), and went to a barbecue joint with Andrew (not bad for England, but these people really need to learn how to eat things with flavor…). Just this week, I think that spring hit the UK- it’s been above 50 degrees, and the sun is shining for almost ten minutes at a time before being swallowed by clouds again!
I’ve also finalized my traveling plans, so I’ll fill y’alls in on those:
On Sunday, I’m hopping on a plane at dark-thirty in the morning, heading to Malaga. It’s a city in the very south of Spain that is very near some of the best climbing in the world: Syd and I are going with the UCL Mountaineering club (ironic, because everyone knows that the UK doesn’t have mountains!) to climb at the legendary El Chorro gorge. We’ll be staying in a hostel and then being trucked out to go climbing each day, then eating tapas and hanging out with everyone each night. Don’t worry, mom, we’re bringing sunscreen.
That goes until the first of April; syd and I are flying to Barcelona for the day, then taking a bus to Girona, where we have a flight to Pisa the next day. In Italy, we’re heading to a little medieval walled village called Barga, where we’re meeting up with a bunch of Pomonaites (Pomaniacs?) to rent an apartment for a week. Barga is near some pretty nice-looking mountains, and is in the heart of Tuscany, so… I think that touring vinyards, meat curing, cheese making, olive-producing, generally food and drink and fun and amazingness places is going to happen. I guess that sentence didn’t make much sense, but… well, I’m excited about this. Also, evidently I’m in charge of making food for everyone, which should be fun! For me! Bwahahahaha!
We’re leaving Barga on Easter Sunday (provided my parole officer doesn’t find out I left the country before then) and Andrew and I are heading to Milan. We’re going to try to meet up with the family of the foreign exchange student that my family is currently hosting, maybe see some painting that DaVinci did, or something, then fly out to Morocco on the 10th.
We fly into Marrakech, and we’ll have a couple days to explore around there, probably head out to the coast, or in to the mountains. Then, on the 13th, we have a camel/4X4 tour from Marrakech to Fez. Originally, there was another two guys signed up for the trip, but they backed out, so… looks like we have a private tour of Morocco now! Expect some pictures where I look like Indiana Jones when I get back.
After the tour, we’re heading up to Tangier, stowing away on a ferry across the straight (well, we may just pay for it legally), and going to Malaga/Granada for a few days. Finally, on the 19th, I fly back to London for a much needed shower before making myself look presentable, going to Heathrow, and flying to San Diego to present an abstract at a biology conference. Five days after I land, I take off again, heading back to London to start cramming for my exams in mid-May.
So, starting on the 25th, I have one month, five countries, two twelve-hour flights, and sixteen thousand miles of travel.
Plans hatched on a Friday afternoon led to Trevor and I wandering Borough and Bermondset, south of the river.
We went to The Kernel brewery to visit one of the friends I made in Edinburgh—turns out he went back to New Zealand already. Sad. But, the brewery is located on a small alley that was filled with hipsters, cheese vendors, the best coffee I’ve had in London, and an awesome antiques/vintage mall.
We also went to the Borough market, Tate Modern, and Tower Bridge, before ending up at a restaurant Trevor heard about called Meat Liquor. And oh, it was good. I hadn’t had a good burger since California, so this was a treat. And to have deep-fried pickles too was magical…
There’s a reason that Charlotte’s Web didn’t take place in Spain. It would have been three paragraphs long; in the first, we would meet the characters, in the second, Charlotte would write “delicioso” or “jamón” over the pigpen, and in the third Wilbur would be tapas.
So last Thursday I took a trip to the Iberian peninsula. A 5AM cab ride, followed by a bus ride, followed by a RyanAir flight found me in Madrid after nearly four full hours of sleep!
I had planned the trip out with Courtney a few weeks before, so that I could surprise Cati (I decided that of all of my friends studying in Europe right now, she’d have the funniest reaction) so when I got to Madrid, I knew that Court had classes and meetings until nearly 9 at night, so I got to do some wandering around. I went to El Prado to look at some art, went to a cafeteria for coffee and a sandwich (porkcount:1), a place called El Museo de Jamón (The Ham Museum, porkcount:2), and most importantly went to a large park and fell asleep in the sun. Seriously, though, it was gorgeous; nearly 80 degrees and perfectly sunny. I hadn’t seen the sun in a few months, so getting a sunburn was amazing.
I met up with Court around 830, then we went to find Cati to go out to sushi. Taking the metro, we were so excited to catch up that we didn’t realize how loud we were talking in English, so we had to stop a guy from taking Court’s wallet; turns out that homeboy “accidently” grabbed it, then tried to tell us that “it’s the life!” I neither opened a can of whoop-ass, nor ran away screaming like a 12-year-old girl, so I feel that it was a successful crisis aversion.
After that, we met up with Cati, who reacted almost exactly as I would have guessed (see video below) and went to sushi, then for churros (dipped in a bowl of chocolate sauce), then I went back to Court’s for the night.
From then on, everything was very Spanish. We woke up around 11, left the house at 12:30 (to get stuff to make omelettes from the market across the street) and fresh orange juice. I realized just how well Court was integrating into the culture when she asked if we should put bacon, jamón, ham, or all three in the omelettes without realizing anything until I pointed out that those are all three types of pork… (porkcount:6)
After breakfast, we met up with Cati and went to the large Casa de Campo park to wander around in the sun— we ended up hiring a rowboat and paddling around for a while (mostly going in circles, those things suck. We should have gotten the one with an outboard motor), then walking back to the Palace (it’s okay, I didn’t know that Spain had one either) and getting gelatto. We eventually wandered back to Court’s place, where I fell asleep for a while, before we started making dinner.
As it turns out, the Spanish use the word levadura to mean “leavening” for both yeast and baking powder, so our pizza crust turned out more like tortillas. Or biscuits. But it was really really good nonetheless with jamón and chorizo on it (porkcount:8, +1 for snacking on more sausage Court had laying around:9). We finished dinner around 11:30 (chalking that one up to “Spain”), then decided that we weren’t too bloated to go out—we tried to get into a salsa club, but ended up going to a jazz bar for the end of a set, before heading back to bed.
On saturday we got up early (10:30) and made chocolate-nutella pancakes (my first meal that didn’t include ham, as far as I could tell), then wandered around the city. We found a place with a balcony so we could sit in the sun, drink tinto de verano, and eat tapas (porkcount:10) in view of the cathedral… not too shabby. We also went to a place on the tapas-hopping street (porkcount:6, and paella as well!), and to an awesome market there.
Cati and Court had to get some work done at that point, so I wandered around for a while on my own, and ended up going to a little wine bar for some more tapas (porkcount:11). After reuniting with Cati, we met Court and company (a smattering of Middlebury & Pomona kids—really nice to see familiar faces) at El Tigre, a famous tapas bar. We each got a drink, and they brought out easily 300 pounds of tapas. (Porkcount:???) We ate so much, talked, drank, laughed, ate some more, and finally went back around midnight, as we were all beat from walking around all day.
So I got a couple of hours of sleep, woke up at 4, said goodbye, and wandered to the bus stop through throngs of reverlers still out partying it up (yes, at 4 in the morning—evidently they have to keep going until the metro opens up at 6…), and made my way to the airport. Two passport stamps later, I was back in my room. A very successful weekend, I would say.
I think that the biggest thing that I realized is that Spain is just like any other country, except with about a four-hour delay. You wake up between noon and two, eat dinner at ten thirty, and heading back at six in the morning is just fine…
Well, that’s more than enough anthropology for tonight, I’m gonna go make dinner now… I think I’m gonna have some vegetables…
Braveheart. Haggis. Fried Mars Bars. Couchsurfing. Irn Bru?
So there Andrew and I were, sitting on a train hurtling down the Scottish coast, toasting the sunset and watching waves crash against the rugged shore amidst pastures and the ruins of seaside cottages.
[Ha! Starting in medias res, I see what you’re doing, you sneaky narrator!, you’re saying…]
It all started with the train tickets to Edinburgh we bought back in January. We arrived at Waverly station after dark, and immediately got lost (Andrew got distracted by a shiny light, so we ended up going the wrong way…), before getting… found again? Anyways, we made our way to Glenis’ flat, the CouchHost we stayed with for a few days.
[Ah, but what’s a CouchHost, you say? Calm down, dear reader, and you shall see.]
Andrew and I, being young and foolish, decided that couchsurfing would be the best way to travel. This is where you (over the interwebs) ask strangers for a place to stay for a few days. The couchsurfing community is very close, filled with interesting people who really like, well, meeting people. I suppose that’s what drives someone to surf—I know that’s what motivated us. And as it turns out, it’s not a foolish thing to do at all, it’s one of the best experiences I’ve had.
So we got to Glenis’ and met her and her flatmate Victoria. They are wonderful people, very fun, entertaining, and full of information about the city. That night, we all went out to a New-Orleansesque blues bar called the Voodoo Rooms for music, drinks, and conversation, all of which were superb.
The next morning, Andrew and I woke up early to catch a train to Pitlochry, a small town in the Scottish highlands. We chose this place because of its history, isolation, yadda yadda, it’s the home to two distilleries. We toured the Blair Athol distillery first (pretty cool, but very corporate—98% of its production is bought by Bells and blended into boring, mass-market whisky), then wandered up into the highlands on the way to the smallest distillery in Scotland, Edradour (its annual output is the same as a large distillery’s weekly…). This one had a much smaller feel, we got to walk along the barrels as they matured, taste some leaking whisky, and smell the giant vats of fermenting grain; this was all lead by an old Scotsman who talked with a hell of an accent and consistently made fun of us Americans—a great guide.
During the tour, we realized that because we hiked 2.5 miles just to get to this distillery… we’d have to hike back… so we instead made friends with some of the other guys on the tour, and hitched a ride back with them. As it turns out, they were all brewers as well, one worked for The Kernel in London, one for Black Isle Organic in the north of Scotland, and one worked for BrewDog… really really cool guys. Once we got back to Edinburgh, we met up with them at the BrewDog pub and talked beer for a while, before heading back for the night.
The next day, we did all the touristy stuff; wandered the royal mile (overrated), laughed at the Scottish accents (what we could understand…), and ate—Oink had roast pork (they barbecue a pig, stick it in the window, and sell it until it’s gone, then go home for the day) and Milk was like being back in Portland, with great pork (I’m seeing a pattern) and a really good coffee. After this we got lost trying to find Jonathan’s flat, our next Host. He lives with a couple other guys who go to Uni in Edinburgh right at the edge of a beautiful park—that turns out, doubles as a golf course. Interesting for sunbathing. After finding the flat, we hung out with the guys for a while, had dinner, then went to a pub where there was actually a band playing traditional Scottish tunes (and an impressive whisky selection…), which was really fun.
On Saturday we woke up, had English Breakfast (it’s kinda just a breakfast, but with baked beans) at a café, then hiked Arthur’s Seat, the mountain (hill) to the south of town. It seemed like a beautiful day as we hiked up, but as soon as we hit the west side, we were hit by a ridiculous wind. We staggered to the top, leaning sideways and trying not to become human kites, took some epic-looking pictures, then headed down. Just in time, too, ‘cause as soon as we hit level ground the sun went away and it started to snow. And while I’m no stranger to snow, this snow came sideways and actually hurt. Welcome to Scotland, suckafish!
Anyways, we dried off at a café called Spoon (Hmm, more monosyllabic eateries) and wandered around the National Gallery. I had to stop Andrew from declaring siege on the Castle after that—I would have gladly tried to scale the walls with him, but I’m not sure the cannons were purely decorative, and I think I saw some boiling oil. Our plans thwarted, we went back to Jonathans for dinner, then headed out to a tour of Edinburgh’s Underground.
I’ll be honest, I was completely humoring Andrew when we went on the tour; it’s marketed as a ghost tour, and I thought it was going to be lame and cheesy. Well, it was cheesy, but it was also pretty informative about local history, from the way that sanitation basically didn’t exist to the way that poor people lived in what used to be underpasses of the bridge, until buildings were built on either side, creating lightless vaults… Our guide took us down into several of these and told us about how when the city would burn down (which happened quite often. Evidently they hadn’t invented the fire engine back then. Or fire extinguishers.) everyone would flood into these vaults to escape the flames, figuring that the stone couldn’t burn down. Unfortunately, it got so hot in there that everyone died anyway. Gross.
So long story short, they took us through several of these vaults, telling awful stories, and it was actually really really cool. I hate to say it, but I really enjoyed it…
After having our pants scared off, we went back to BrewDog for a nightcap; on the way back to Jonathan’s we happened upon The Jazz Bar (which is a disco club—I’m kidding, it really is aptly named), where we watched the end of a really good set by a local combo. Then, Andrew got a hankering for KFC (I know, right? Who does that?), so we met Glenis (who was in the area) for some late-night American fast food… Mmm…
Sunday morning saw us go to the Original Mosque Kitchen (story time: we were recommended to “the one by the mosque”. We saw a Mosque Kitchen on the main road, and figured we were in the right area, until we saw a little sign on a back alley for the origian Mosque Kitchen—as it turns out, the Mosque is hidden back a bit, and some enterprising middle eastern chef capitalized on the exact same name in a much better location) for some really good curry and… something that I can’t begin to pronounce, but was delicious. I think it had chicken in it. It was also ridiculously cheap… score!
After this, we wandered through the National Museum, seeing things like Dolly the Sheep (the first cloned animal—no verdict on whether she had a soul, as she was behind glass. Also, stuffed.), a bunch of Scottish swords, and one of the old copper stills from the Glenfiddich distillery. This one was easily one of my favorite museums; better than any I’ve been to in England so far. (Scotland:1, England:0). The rooftop terrace also had some really good views of the city, even though it was about 5 Kelvin up there…
So then we got our stuff from Jonathan’s, bid them farewell, and got on the train back to England. A train that went along the Scottish coast at sunset. Which leads us to my opening paragraph! Huzzah for a circular narrative!
All in all, I really enjoyed the trip; not only is Scotland super cool (I mean… haggis and Irn Bru—which, by the way, is an addictively unnatural soda that is fluorescent orange, super carbonated, stains everything, and tastes of bubblegum. And everyone loves it.) but the people are much friendlier up there, and have a lot of national pride, and it was really nice to be able to travel with Andrew. And as a bonus, Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to yet.
Wow, that was a hell of a post. Sorry for the wall of text, but I honestly don’t know how to break it up with pictures…
Anyways, coming from the Lame Excuses Department, I’ve got a memo here about heaps and heaps of homework, essays, lab reports, and other un-fun things that are currently ruining Nick’s life—and it’s true, I’ve been swamped the last week (and will be for the next week) with all the things I need to turn in. And it’s less that I haven’t had time to update this, it’s mostly that I haven’t had anything of interest to report.
So today, I decided to change that. I went out to Putney Bridge with some of my Tufts friends today to watch Fulham play Stoke City. For those who don’t obsessively follow the Premier League (MLS), they’re football (soccer) clubs (teams). Evidently, Fulham is the oldest team in the league (their stadium looks it…), but the placement is prime (literally on the banks of the Thames) and the hooligans were hooligan-y (well, they were actually surprisingly tame, we all agreed). It was actually really fun to sit and listen to the crowd chant, thousands of voices all blending together in a cacophony of Carlsberg and testosterone to support the home team and decry the refs. When there was a small break in the noise after a bad tackle (from behind; who does that?), we even heard the voice of a 5-year old cry out “give ‘im a yellow!” British kids crack me up.
It’s also interesting to note that our seats were right in front of the main Fulham supporters, goalside and about five rows back. We were almost level with the pitch, which made for a really really cool view.
Anyways, I’m going to leave y’alls with the pictures I took, and get back to writing. And by that, I mean watching Indiana Jones. I probably won’t update until next Sunday, as I’m going to be furiously writing for the next few days, then on Wednesday I’m hopping on a train to Edinburgh (pronounced Eddin-bruh, I’m told. Which is odd, because given what Hooked on Phonics taught me… but so I digress) with Andrew, and we’re gonna go take on Scotland. By that I mean we’re going into the highlands for a day, hiking around until we’re nothing more than a pair of icicles, then thawing at a distillery with an unpronouncable name. We’re also going to see the city, castle, jazz clubs, etc. Should be fun, or whatever.
So for now I’ll leave you with the eloquent words of the gentlemen behind us:
"YEAHHHHHHGHHHHHH, BLEAGHHHHH, REF, YER A WANKA’ YEAGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!"
…it tried to drown me. Granted, I was never in extreme danger, as it’s exceedingly stupid (it is, after all, a radiator).
So, yesterday, someone was finally sent out to look at my radiator, which was nonfunctional until yesterday. Of course, this happened while I was in the shower, they came in, fixed it, left, and locked the door, leaving me with nothing but a towel and a head full of frustrations. Luckily my flatmate volunteered to run to the office and get them to open my door; I was fully prepared to stride over in nothing but a towel, and demand that someone open up my door for me, but… it’s probably for the best that I didn’t do that. Long story short, made it back into my room, which was finally warm! Oh frabjous day!
Fast forward to last night, we notice some water dripping from the ceiling of the kitchen. My room is directly above the kitchen.
I found that my radiator was leaking at a decent clip, and part of my floor had already been soaked. Awesome. I sent an email off to the housing director, hoping to hear back that they would put me up in a hotel and do my schoolwork for me and take me on tours of the best food in London and finally fix my room (but not too quickly; I’d want to enjoy my tours). No response.
So today, once I realized that it’s abnormal to first, have to drain one’s room, and second, to open a window to do so, I called the “emergency contact” director on call. They were nonchalant when I told them that there was a puddle the size of Texas in my room, which I’m chalking up to them not knowing what Texas is. Once they realized that I wasn’t kidding about the puddle forming on the floor below mine they sent a heat engineer up. He was a nice guy and he figured out how to stop the leak pretty quickly, but couldn’t really do anything until Monday (everything shuts down here on weekends. It’s really weird).
So that’s how my radiator tried to drown me while I slept. Luckily I don’t think that it’s been able to contact my oven yet, so it’s currently the only part of the house trying to do me in.
Now I just have to buy a kayak so I can paddle out of my room and down the waterfall that my stairs have become so I can get to class each day.
I’m gonna keep this short-ish, ‘cause I really should be doing work right now…
Anyways, last night, Andrew & Maria (fellow Sagehens who are studying abroad at some community college over here) came into town— we went to the Science Museum Lates program, where they open the museum up to adults until 10 at night, serve drinks, have special programs, and have DJs playing music. Hence, I learned about lenses and optics while being told about Jay-Z’s lack of female troubles.
We also got to take a cockroach tour of the museum. That means we wore cockroach outfits and scuttled around the museum, while our guides taught us all about the human race, and how they’re far inferior to us cockroaches… Besides being absolutely ridiculous and funny, it brought up a very different view of humanity. Kinda interesting, or whatever.
We also got cookies by the Science Museum. Oh, and we wandered into a blues music joint that turned out to be just a little bit of the South transplanted into Camden in a very non-kitschy way. Highlights=the band playing “son of a preacherman” and scoring a corner booth.
Then today, I took them around London; we hit the big places; Saville Row, SoHo, Trafalger Square (Andrew got lost in the National Gallery…), Big Ben/Houses of Parliament, Southbank, and the Borough Market. We wandered around the market in a hungry daze, trying to decide on what to eat… First lunch was sirloin and pickle sandwich, second lunch was raclette (semi-hard cheese broiled, scraped off the wheel, and put on potatoes. Wow. Just… wow.), and then there was turkish delight, mulled cider, licorice, parma ham, cheeses, olive oils, and… well, anything that you can think of, really. Awesome place.
So now that I’ve taken a nap (hey, we walked a lot today) I’m about to start studying for my practical (lab) tomorrow. Fun fun fun!
So, in the course of my London archaeology… course… today, we went back to the Museum of London, this time to walk around in the rain and look at some ruins. Some parts of the old Roman wall were a bit hidden by later walls built on top of it, some parts were more accessible. And then, some parts had a parking garage built around them. Literally.
We were wandering around, following and critiquing the self-guided tour that the Museum put out, when our prof leads us into a parking garage beneath one of the major streets in the area. At first, we figure he’s pulling a Snoop Dogg and gettin’ us out of “tha drizzle,” but then he has us look at what appears to be a locked door leading to a janitorial closet… he then opens it up (with a key that looked like it was stolen from Blackbeard himself) to reveal the remains of a gate/guardhouse built into the wall. Built in the early second century AD. In a parking garage, basically.
We then walked to another section of the wall that still stands (also in the same garage, with a bentley and a ducati parked next to it), then to the Guild Hall museum to look at the remains of the ampetheatre. this was where Londinium’s gladiator matches took place; not as majestic as the Colosseum, but still… pretty sweet.
After a quick tour of the Guild Hall, Syd and I wandered over to St. Paul’s (the nice small church in the middle of the city) for Evensong, an Anglican prayer/choral service, as was suggested to us. Well, as it turns out, seeing the cathedral is cool and all (spoiler: it’s pretty big), but seeing it while there is singing is incredible. The reverb decay was the longest I’ve ever heard; though you couldn’t make out anything the choir sang, it was gorgeous. Also, we were seated basically in the center of the rotunda, which stretched easily a mile in the air above us. Woah. Didn’t think I’d like seeing it that much- it’s touristy, but I suppose there’s a reason everyone goes there.
I snapped some covert shots with my trusty Nikon (photography is a no-no… please don’t tell…) to show y’alls what it was like (spoiler: it was awesome).
Well, I’m off to do some homework or something; Andrew and Maria are coming into town tomorrow (we’re going to the Science Museum lates program—adults only at the Science Museum, what!) so I’m not going to get anything done for the next while… Also, apparently class are actually starting to ramp up; I’ve got my first practical on Friday. Gross. If I had wanted to do work, I would be going to college.
'Twas a grey Friday when our hero set out to ford the River Cam, to visit comrades of battles past, and to pay tribute to that great mage Ninkasi. After many a setback (including, but not limited to forgotten sleeping bags [on Syd's part], forgotten pictures [who thought they wouldn't be able to have a simple polaroid at King's Cross], and naive misinformation about the location of departure) the crew of two finally set foot upon a train to that mythical land of education, funny gowns, and old money. Upon arrival, we realized that this was nothing like the city from whence we came: Cambridge is… a college town. Albeit a college town where seeing people in robes on the cobbled streets is the norm, where you have to watch your feet, lest you trip over a college, where night Porters know you by name, and where a school president’s title is the “Master of Jesus.” No, really, the head of Jesus College is the Master of Jesus. How’d that look on a business card?
After arrival, we reminisced and caught up with friends, sampled local watering holes, and ordered kebabs at midnight. Success.
Once the sun rose again, we rose as well (though slightly later); my host Andrew took me for a tour around the village to see the market, cathedral, and dockyards. Though the waters were calm, we chose to merely watch brave seamen make their way around in such soggy weather. After lunching upon local sandwich delights, we found ourselves at the Cambridge University Free House, wherein a winter festival was taking place; far be it for us to halt any such merrymaking, so we decided to partake. Not only were we able to sample the fruits of local merchants’ hard labor, we made comrades there as well; a Canadian ex-pat and an English gentleman made great conversation with us on the topic of fermentation, and a Virginian and a local police officer were good-natured and the most friendly people we’d since met.
After a break for afternoon tea (yes, I realize how that sounded; it felt incredibly British) we returned to the Free House, then raided a local Sainsbury’s (perhaps raided isn’t the correct word; there was no pillage involved) for dinnermaking supplies.
After supping, we met up with a legion of Sagehens, also studying at Jesus College, for company at the Emma College Public House, after which we used that magical series of tubes to converse with compatriots back in Claremont, then quested for the mythical “chips with ketchup, mayo, and chili sauce” that many a Cambridgite is wont for, come midnight.
Morning was spent wishing for more time to sleep, spent planning more voyages for later dates, and spent hustling to the train station to return. The journey back allowed sleep for some (Syd) and some gorgeously rural scenery for others (me)-
…since I posted last. This one’s gonna be quick, i’m about to head to a castle to do some climbing with Sydney… Anyways, the sun is no longer shining, it’s a bit warmer, and it generally looks more like London— On Wednesday night, a few of us headed to the Royal Festival Hall (fancy, eh?) to see whether or not Profkiev was a man of the people. Though that question remained unconclusive, it was still a fine performance, and we got to feel all upper-class, wandering around the festival hall pretending we had monocles (mental note: invest in a real monocle). Afterwards, we wandered back through Covent Garden (not entirely lost) to Campus. Success!
I also made it up to Camden last Saturday (for the market), where Dierdre, Syd, and I wandered around (mostly lost) until we found food stalls. Mmm… food stalls. I had me some jerk chicken (Mama makes the best jerk chicken, I’m told) and carrot cake…
Oh, and then on Tuesday, I went to a vocal Jazz rehearsal—fun people, fun singing- I’ma keep going to that, and maybe even meet some of the natives… Actual UCL students! Live music and conversation with a couple medical students at the Phineaus (sp?) rounded out the night nicely.
In keeping with my lack of chronological order, on Monday I went to a violin/piano dealy-o at St. Martin-in-the-Fields’ at Trafalger square, before going to my History of Art class at the National Gallery. I stood for two hours, furiously scribbling notes about Caravaggio and some other dead guys who did some things, I think. It was great! Then on Tuesday, I had my London history class— we walked through a Brave New World-esque development to get to the Museum of London, looked at some stuff that the Romans left, touched a few pots they made, and saw a part of the original 13th century wall. Pretty sweet class, if you ask me.
I think I may venture to Cambridge this weekend to see Andrew, and gawk at how posh everyone is there.
…not only do I have to take a dogsled to class, but I’ve been sneezing icicles. Not so much fun. What makes it even better is that— as I’ve suspected for weeks—my radiator is on the fritz. I had my doubts with it from the start (I mean, it’s a radiator. I didn’t know that anyone used these things anymore. What is this, Merry Poppins?), which were only backed up by its firm refusal to keep my room anything but zero kelvin or the temperature of the surface of the sun.
I think that my cursing it finally put it in its place- not because it started working, but because it’s firmly refused to respond to any commands I give it (both verbal and mechanical). I’m taking this to mean that I finally broke its spirit, and now that it realizes who’s the boss here, will start responding to my commands. Of course, this would have left my room in state of permafrost; however, the radiator in the bathroom (just across the hall) also refuses to follow commands, and has been apparently making up for my nonfunctional radiator by trying to give me heatstroke while I use the facilities…
This means that I have a temperature gradient in my room, ranging from the temperature of magma towards my door to meat locker temperatures near my window. I’ve had to find the perfect spot to be in my room, wherein I neither get frostbite, nor third degree burns.
On the plus side, my room is now a culinary experiment; I keep milk and eggs on the desk, meat on the windowsill, then simply move them over towards my door to cook meals.
So today was Thursday. That meant no classes for Nick! Instead, I met up with Erica Gillingham (a fellow Nor-Cal’er who now lives in London) for a little tour of the city; Tube to Embankment= quick and easy- I met Erica there, we walked across the river (on a bridge), and then went along the south bank, which is a really cool area. Stops included the Tate Modern (housed in an old power station), the Borough Market (a large semi-open air market; vendors with cheese, preserves, meat, you name it, they have it), and the Millennium bridge. We then went from London Bridge stop to Westminster as the rain started, but as soon as we left the tube, it was perfectly sunny again. Led to an awesome view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (which, as it turns out, are still standing. Evidently V for Vendetta was not, as I was led to believe, a documentary…), and then Westminster Abbey as well.
Wow. That’s some cool stuff. The architecture, the old-ness, the fact that there are gates and arches reserved specifically for the queen…
We then walked down to St. James park (past a monument to Lincoln. Erica said that in the area there’s also a monument to Reagan, because… well, that’s actually a good question. Our best guess was that they felt bad that he got Alzheimer’s. I’ll follow up on this with a picture of me and the Gipper when I get a chance to hunt for it) and up the Mall to Trafalger square.
That was a really interesting place; as Erica pointed out to me, you can point to each major part of England from there- in one direction is the royalty, towards Buckingham, in one direction is Parliament, and in one direction is the Strand and Covent Garden, a major shopping area. Kinda cool.
Anyways, we both had to get back after that, so we said goodbye and now I’m back in my room, dutifully filling in y’alls as to what I’ve been up to!
Also, as a side note, I’ve been going to class this week also… it’s actually really cool. In our Neuro classes, the organizer brings in a different lecturer each week, someone to talk on their area of expertise, which is really really cool. It’s all very interesting. And on Monday, I have my first real art class, where we’ll meet at the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. Oh, and I think we’re exploring the Borough of Camden this weekend…
…to my parents, I’m still alive, and to my parole officer, I haven’t left the country.
Classes started today. Well, I had two classes. Developmental Neuro from 11-noon, and 17th and 18th century art from 2-4. We don’t have a set room for Art History, next week we meet at the National Gallery. So I’m gonna go catch a violin concert at St. Martin’s beforehand, then probably wander off to evening vespers at Westminster afterwards. See what all this “Anglican” stuff is about…
Oh, and as it turns out, I don’t have class on Thursdays. Some would say I lack class on Thursdays. Some would say I lack class. Someone who can’t hear would think I lick glass. Andrew would say I rack crass.
Syd and I decided that we already knew the UCL campus far too well by Friday, and wanted to wander farther than 3 blocks off of it; After dinner Friday night (made by yours truly) we took a bus up to Camden, and saw some live music at Koko, an old theater-turned music venue (complete with carved greco/roman gods holding up the columns, box seating, and a disco ball the size of a VW…). Realistically, we ended up dancing swing until the opening band came on stage, hit the front row, then left before the real band hit the stage, for fear of hearing damage. (Shopping list: earplugs)
On saturday, we decided to get even more lost, so we went out to South Kensington (the “posh” part of town) to see some museums. We were going to see the Museum of Nat. History first, but the queue for that was so long that… anyways, we turned around (I stopped and chuckled at the people awkwardly ice-skating on a rink outside the museum) and went to the Science Museum. Clutch move, as it turns out— not only did they have an exhibit on space exploration, they had the Apollo 10 return pod (10 was the one that orbited the moon, a “dry run” for the Apollo 11 landing) and Watson & Crick’s structure of DNA. Syd and I definitely geeked out. I’d also like to mention that I had to resist trying to get a “U-S-A” chant going in the Space Exploration room, as most everything was American (or Nazi German, ut that’s besides the point, thank you very much).
After the Science museum, Syd and I went through the Victoria and Albert museum (a massive collection of art from all over the world) but we were a bit beat at that point, so we decided to find somewhere to eat. Per recommendation, we went to Ben’s Cookies, bought some cookies, ate the cookies, and decided that they were awesome. (Shopping list: earplugs, Ben’s cookies). We wandered around South Kensington for a while after that, marveling at how many Ferarris, Lamborghinis, and Porsches there were- (Shopping list: earplugs, Ben’s cookies, lockpicks).
Fast forward through a few hours of wandering around, trying not to get run over (the cars still drive the wrong way), and trying to find out where we were, we made it back to the Knightsbridge tube station (right next to a Burberry store…) and tube’d up to Baker Street. We definitely got a few shots outside 221b (which is now a Sherlock curio shop. Interestingly enough, 220 and 222 Baker are several doors down the street. Tourist trap much?) before heading to find food (for the first time since 10 in the morning…).
We stumbled into an Indian restaurant where we got poor service on some phenomenal food. Luckily the two Englishmen eating next to us were very friendly; one was a Sikh who made fun of us for being American and not being able to get real ethnic food. All in all, a very pleasant meal. We then took the bus back to campus, and watched the new Sherlock (it’s fun to see the outside of Sherlock’s apartment, as they use north Gower street, about 3 blocks from my room…)
In my less-than-a-week here, I’ve already begun to notice a few cultural differences that I’m sure will become more pronounced:
1) People dress nicely. Everyone has an overcoat that fits perfectly and looks amazing, everyone wears scarves (I even saw a guy, obviously working, in paint-splattered coveralls, sporting a perfect scarf), and everyone wears nice shoes. Sure, there are exceptions, but compared to the US, the level of dress is much nicer.
2) In the science museum, all the parents were busily explaining things to their kids; how a steam engine works, the difference between a Saturn-V rocket and a Space Shuttle, how genetics works. This may just be the type of person that brings their kids to a Science museum, but it was really nice to see.
Huh, I thought I had more sweeping cultural statements to make. I guess not. Letdown.
Well, I suppose that’s it. I’m off to make breakfast, then figure out where my classes actually take place, or whatever… ugh… classes.
I’m now sitting in my room, comfortably listening to internet music and updating my blog. This is the experience I signed up for.
Anyways, I fixed my internet situation this morning. As it turns out, in my jet-lagged state, I… emailed my username to myself, not realizing that I… didn’t have email access at my room… awkward. But it’s all rectified now. After fixing my mistake (at Starbucks this morning—coffee woke me up/saved my life too) I met up with Syd to do some domestic shopping. We went to the (nearest?) Barclay’s (a bank we can withdraw cash without a fee), and then stopped at a small market for breakfast- apples and the best croissants I’ve had. All for about a pound each.
As we wandered back towards Tottenham Court Road, we ran into a big-looking building with a bunch of columns, so we decided to go in. Turns out, we wandered into the British Museum— we spent about an hour with a docent, who let us handle some objects, and taught us about everything from how the Han dynasty kept their britches up to the atomic composition of jade. We got to touch a small nephrite jade fish that dates to 1500 BC… kinda cool, when you think about it.
We then headed to TCR to get phones, sim cards, and some basic living stuff- shampoo and whatnot. We met Paola (UCL’s Pomona liason and a general awesome person), who gave us a tour of UCL, showed us where we would be, and gave us some advice on classes.
Dinner was at the Court again, some decent fish & chips, with almost the entire Pomona-UCL crew, followed by a little bit of shopping. I’m still amazed by how English shops use underground areas so well—it looked like even the subway had a downstairs/basement seating area.
We watched a bit of the Manchester U vs. Newcastle game, then I eventually wandered back to my dorm. And now I’m typing! A successful day, I’d say.
I can already see differences between the British and Americans—most is related to social outgoingness and a lack therof, but there’s the small hilarious things; the “look left” and “look right” signs that tell you which way traffic is approaching as you cross a street; the way that eggs aren’t refrigerated; the way that noone seems to be able to pronounce the letter R…
But I’m enjoying it, for sure. And I’m sure it’ll be even better once I see more of London!
…i’m sitting in starbucks, using the wifi (my dorm won’t let me on….) and loading up with caffeine.
More to follow, but everything is super British here, from the public transportation (double decker red busses) to the sidewalks (they remind you which way to look) to the people (they’ve all got these weird accents).
I’ve gotta go meet my friend Syd (who’s in the starbucks down the road…) so we can go to dinner.
I’m keeping this blog so y’alls have some visuals to follow along with my semester studying neuroscience at University College London (UCL) in England. I’ll post some pictures and describe what’s happening periodically- nothing too exciting, don’t worry.
I’d also like to say that stateofjefferson wasn’t my first pick for a tumblr name, but some yoo-hoo stole the “sanstrousers” domain that I was gonna use as a joke. Hmph. That blog is probably stupid, anyways.