Sunday, October 30, 2011

Weeks 5-8

Well it didn't take me very long to get behind did it? I'm sorry readers. I became terribly busy and haven't quite bounced back yet. Until today! I think I'll just have to do highlights from each week. That's all you really care about anyway, right? :)

Week 5!

This week was a very exciting one. I feel like a broken record saying that, but this week was one I was really looking forward to. It started off right when a group of girls from AHA and I decided to go see Priscilla: Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre. I managed to find 10 pound tickets online so we were all excited to be seeing a musical for a price so low. Our seats were absolute crap but it was a wonderful, feel-good kind of musical. We all left the theatre with "I Will Survive" and other catchy tunes stuck in our heads.

Next Week 5 highlight was a guest speaker named Matthew Pidgeon in my Theatre class. Matthew is an actor who we saw twice in the Globe, and has worked all over England and Scotland. It was incredible to be able to pick his brain for a couple hours and find out what it's like to live the life of a professional actor.

My favorite part of the week was, by far, going on a two day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's hometown. I'm proud to say that Tara and I did not miss our train, in fact no one did, and we were on our way at about half past 10. Stratford was a beautiful little town. It reminded me a lot of Ashland, Oregon where they hold the Oregon Shakespeare Festival every year. It seemed to me that the people of Stratford are very proud of their heritage, and it was lovely to be in a town full of Shakespeare nerds like myself. We hit pretty much all the main sites including Shakespeare's grave in the Holy Trinity Church, Shakespeare's birthplace and family home, Thomas Nash's house (who was married to Shakespeare's daughter), Hall's Croft (where Shakespeare's other daughter lived with her husband), and Anne Hathaway's Cottage. I even got to see a production of Macbeth performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was a very strange production, but our seats were incredible and I loved being able to see the RSC. We also stayed in an AMAZING bed and breakfast called The Hollies which I would recommend to anyone planning on going to Stratford.

Outside Shakespeare's Home!

Taken on a walk along the River Avon. I wouldn't recommend getting in the Ophelia boat.. I loved all the Shakespeare references in town.

A stop for cider after RSC's Macbeth at the Black Swan

Caitlin, Katrina, Julia, and I outside of Anne Hathaway's Cottage

On our way home a few of us hopped off the train in Warwick. I didn't really know anything about Warwick except that it had a castle, but we ended up having a great couple of hours there. We climbed another tower at Saint Mary's, Warwick and saw views of the entire city. The stairway up was by far the most confined and scariest one yet, but the views were worth it. On our way back down the staircase, some jokesters at the front of the line decided to play a practical joke on everyone.. They pretended like they couldn't get the door at the bottom to open, and I legitimately thought we were trapped inside. I was at the back of the line too so I couldn't see what was going on. Needless to say, I was not happy. But after about 3 minutes of panic they revealed it was a joke. Ha... ha.....

From the top of Saint Mary's Warwick

Tara, Caitlin, Michelle, Julia, Nicole and I after climbing 167 steps to the top.

A view of Saint Mary's from the ground.

Week 6!

Now this is where things really got busy. Unfortunately this was the week that actually felt like school, not just a 3 month London vacation. I had five essays due in week six alone, as well as two midterms to study for. Everything hit me all at once and there wasn't much time to relax, or sleep for that matter. However, I did have a week long trip to Spain to look forward to at the end of the week, so I couldn't complain too much. On Monday I saw a performance of Othello that was absolutely terrible. The concept was very intriguing; this production was a role-reversal Othello, set in the Caribbean. However, they did the whole play with just three characters: Othello, Iago, and Desdemona, and it just didn't work. Those who have read Othello can see how that wouldn't work simply because the story in it's entirety cannot be told with three characters. I didn't feel like they did it justice, but I guess that's the nature of the theatre sometimes.

On Tuesday we went to the Victoria and Albert museum to see a theatre exhibit and that was definitely a highlight. I got to see a lot of amazing costumes, including a rhinoceros costume used in a production of Ionesco's Rhinoceros, models of sets, posters, and other theatre memorabilia. I spent a lot of time in there, and I really want to make it back to the V&A before I head back home.

Wednesday is the most memorable of this week because we went to a pre-performance talk of an opera we were seeing that night, The Marriage of Figaro, directed by Fiona Shaw (Aunt Petunia in the Harry Potter films!). She had a lot of interesting things to say about her production, and all of us Harry Potter nerds were just excited to be in her presence. After the talk I grabbed some dinner before the show, and when I went back to the lobby to wait for the doors to open, I ran into Ms. Shaw. I was absolutely star struck, and the only thing I could manage to say was "Hello!" She looked at me a little funny, and then said "Hello" back. I was so embarrassed. I have no autograph or picture to prove that this actually happened, but at least I have a good story.

Week 7!

On Friday, Caitlin, Julia, Britany, and I jetted off to Barcelona for our eight day holiday in Spain. It was a wonderful reward after a very long week. We did A LOT in Barcelona. People have been asking me what I saw in Barcelona and all I can reply with is "everything" because we really did walk all over the entire city. Most memorable were the Gaudi sites, La Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, and Casa Batllo. We also walked up to the Olympic Stadium used for the 1992 Summer Olympics, and I can now say I've been inside an Olympic Stadium! After three days in Barcelona, I was ready to move on to Valencia.

Our first full day in Barcelona. Caitlin and I in Parc de la Ciutadella.

The ceiling of La Sagrada Familia

Outside La Sagrada Familia. It's not supposed to be finished until sometime between 2020-2040. The girls and I decided we are going to make a trip back once it's completed.

Hiking up Parc Guell for views of all of Barcelona

Picture break in Parc de Montjuic on our way up to Estadi Olimpic

Valencia had a very different feel than Barcelona. It felt much more "Spanish" to me, and what I picture an idyllic Spanish town to look like. The language barrier was much more obvious in Valencia, but we made do. It was certainly a challenge, but most people in Valencia were very nice about it. I have two favorite parts about Valencia: the first being the churros and chocolate we found our first night there, the second being La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. We had been reading about churros and chocolate in our Spain guide book, but couldn't seem to find them anywhere. And in Valencia, by some divine intervention, we walked by a chocolate shop right as a server was bringing churros and chocolate to a table. It was meant to be. They bring out churros, that are not covered in cinnamon and sugar like they are back home, and a huge mug of drinking chocolate. They were unbelievably delicious. La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias is huge Arts and Sciences complex in Valencia, and Julia, Caitlin, and I decided to go to Oceanografico, the Spanish version of a Sea World. It was the best part of the trip. We explored the park and all it's aquariums all morning until it was time to head to the train station to catch our train to Madrid.

Yum. My mouth is watering just looking at this.

La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias

Inside the bird exhibit in Oceanografico

Enjoying a nice big glass of horchata after Oceanografico. I found out horchata originated in Valencia and I was so excited to have some real authentic horchata.

Madrid was definitely my favorite city out of the three. The people there really made the experience the best of all of the cities. We also got to meet up with Tara and her sister! It was great to see some familiar faces. We stayed at an amazing hostel, the Way Hostel, and I don't think our time in Madrid would have been the same if we hadn't stayed there. The manager, Bau, was incredibly helpful and made our stay so enjoyable. We went on a free walking tour the first day and became acquainted with Madrid pretty quickly. My most memorable Madrid moment was seeing Pablo Picasso's Guernica in Museo Reina Sofia. It felt extremely surreal to be standing in front of such a influential painting. Our last day in Madrid was spent at Museo Nacional del Prado, the second largest museum in the world. I saw some paintings that I've studied in the past, like Goya's Saturn devouring his Child, and Velazquez's Las Meninas. It was another very surreal day for me. I don't feel like I really tackled the museum because it was so big, but I was happy with what I was able to see.

Puerta del Sol, Madrid. Before our walking tour.

Plaza Mayor, where one flat will cost you one million euros!

Palacio Real de Madrid (Madrid's Royal Palace)

Museo Reina Sofia

Museo del Prado

Week 8!

That brings us to this week! I was really looking forward to this week because we went to see Ralph Fienne's as Prospero in The Tempest. I was blown away by his performance, as well as the rest of the cast. AHA even shelled out for some great seats; we were about six rows back! I couldn't believe it. I was mesmerized the entire show, and I was giddy with excitement to be seeing Voldemort that close up! It's one performance I won't soon forget.

I was also looking forward to our day trip to Bath that happened on Friday. Bath was a great little town. Felt very old, and very small, but it was wonderful escape from London. You don't need much more than a day trip for Bath. We had an early morning train, and came back in the afternoon. We went inside Bath Abbey, walked through the Fashion Museum, and explored the Roman Baths. All three were great, but the Fashion Museum was probably my favorite. We had audio guides and I found myself listening to every single thing I could. I took a History of Costuming class at OSU last year and it was great to see some of the things we had talked about up close. The Roman Baths were also incredible. It was kind of crazy to think that we were walking along stone that the Romans actually walked on. Overall it was a great day trip.

Early morning fog, early morning train to Bath

Awesome reflection of Tara in my window

Stained Glass in Bath Abbey

Beautiful river in Bath

The Roman Baths

3000 year old Stone under our feet

And that's about the extent of my weekend! I'm a bit slammed with homework right now, so I stayed home yesterday and I probably will again today. No more slacking on this blog, I promise!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Week 4!

One month down, two to go!

This past month has been incredible, and I can't believe I'm a third of the way done with my program.

This week was filled with even more theatre and site seeing. And it was HOT. Around 80 degrees almost every day.

Monday morning rolled around and I headed into town for Shakespeare class and our weekly meeting. We are reading Macbeth since we will be seeing a performance of it this week in Stratford. We've been delving pretty deep into the script and I'm happy to be studying it again. After the meeting I headed home until it was time to leave for St. Giles Cripplegate church to see a performance of The Tempest. To put it simply, the production was not good. But there was a woman sitting next to us that said Shakespeare may have been in St. Giles Cripplegate at one point because both his nephews were baptized there, so that was once nice thought about the night.

Tuesday was another early morning at the center. After class I had around 5 hours to spare, so I decided to head toward the houses of Parliament so I could attempt my first sketch of Big Ben. The tube stop was a zoo, so I decided to start walking away from the area. Luckily, I found a nice park where I could sit and relax for a while that still had a view of the top of Big Ben. After sketching there for a while, I decided to head over to the South Bank to see what else I could find to inspire me. I ended up with another great view of Big Ben, so I sketched it again from across the river. I'm pretty happy with the way both turned out, but I definitely plan on trying again and again. After that I headed toward the National Theatre where class was being held and where we would be seeing Arnold Wesker's The Kitchen that night. Class consisted of learning about the history of the National Theatre and a backstage tour. We got to see two of the three theatres within the complex and go backstage. My favorite moment: being able to touch one of the horse puppets that was made for War Horse. Everyone ran off to eat a quick dinner, I had my first traditional English pie, and then came back for the show. The production of The Kitchen was incredible, and one of my favorite things I've seen here so far. It is a play that is visually stunning and I would highly recommend it to anyone that has the opportunity to see it.

Caitlin and I outside The National Theatre

Wednesday was an interesting day. I had a walking tour of East London with my Biography of a City class. We were in "Jack the Ripper" territory, and walked through some swanky looking areas. By the end of the tour however, my hands started to swell up and I didn't feel very good. It was a very hot day and I think it had to do with dehydration. But I had more class so I headed back to the center to find someone had been hit by a bus right by school, and the streets were blocked off. So, after walking all the way around a few blocks to get back to school, I finally got inside, chugged some water, and took a nap before my next class. I started to feel better but headed straight home after class to rest some more.

Thursday was long and full of class, as usual. Thursday night was great though, Tara and I met up with Caitlin, Britany, and two others from the program, Ary and Will, and we sat in a park near by stargazing and talking about life. It was a very fun (and inexpensive!!) way to spend the night.

After sleeping in on Friday morning, Tara and I got up and decided to go to Spitalfield Market, an outdoor market/shopping area in East London. We met up with Britany and made our journey into town. We ate at a wonderful restaurant called Giraffe and spent the afternoon shopping. Tara bought some awesome sunglasses that are a recreation of a pair from the 70's. I think she is the only person I know that can pull them off.

Saturday morning we woke up early to head to Notting Hill to go to the Portobello Market. We met up with Julia around 9 and made it to Notting Hill around 10. There were parts about the Market I liked and parts I didn't like.

Things I liked:
- The loads of knick knacks, old books, and old cameras for sale
- Delicious and fresh street food (I ate a nutella and strawberry crepe in the morning and had a pie for lunch)
- Awesome live music by the Ryan O'Reilly Band which we listened to ate lunch time
- Finding the Travel Bookshop where Hugh Grant worked in the film Notting Hill

Things I didn't like:
- The hoards of people, mainly tourists (I've been here a month so I don't have to consider myself one of those anymore, right?)
- The fact that those tourists walked SO SLOW. I really must be getting accustomed to fast paced life here because I've never been more annoyed at slow walkers in my life

The Ryan O'Reilly Band

Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts sightings unfortunately were not made here.

A very cute area of Notting Hill.

And now it is Sunday, where I have locked myself away in my room to work on the five essays I have due in the next two weeks before break. I've completed one and started two, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

As far as my home stay goes it is still going great. Jenny has been fattening me up with huge dinners and delicious desserts almost every night, and I've become addicted to drinking tea. I see their daughter Lizzie and son James, with grandson baby Alex, quite often. And it's always fun when there are a bunch of people over.

Coming up this week: I'm seeing Priscilla: Queen of the Desert tomorrow night at the Palace Theatre and going to Stratford-upon-Avon for an overnight trip with the whole group on Thursday. I can't wait!

Until next time,

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Week 3!

How have I been here for three weeks already? I don't think I'm ever going to get used to time passing by this quickly.

Week three started off great. On Monday morning, instead of having class inside the classroom, my Shakespeare class met at Shakespeare's Globe for a workshop. Of course I was in theatre student heaven as we got a tour of the Globe , analyzed verse and prose, and even did some acting warm up exercises, all led by an actor who has worked in the Globe several times. It felt good to be in the presence of another actor and do some exercises that I know all too well from previous acting classes. After all the theatre I've been watching, I'm anxious to get back on the stage some time in the future.

After a brief meeting back at the center, a couple of the girls and I decided to have tea and cupcakes. Caitlin and Britany had been raving about a place in Covent Garden called Primrose Bakery, so we went there. After looking over all of my options, I chose the Earl Grey cupcake. I am seriously not kidding when I say that that was the best cupcake I've ever eaten in my entire life. Not only was it beautiful looking, but it tasted so good. I matched that with a wonderful pot of Earl Grey tea and was in tea party heaven. We sat and chatted about our families and our lives for over two hours, and it couldn't have been more perfect.

We followed up Primrose with a walk around Covent Garden, ate some Paella made outside on the street, and headed over to Shakespeare's Globe one last time to see The Mysteries. It was a very interesting production to say the least. I found my emotions and my senses being constantly bombarded in this recreation of the York Cycle Plays, small skits that told the stories of the Bible. I still don't think I've really digested everything that was thrown at me in those three hours. But that is the kind of theatre that I love to be a part of, the kind that really makes you think.

Tuesday was a more relaxing day with class in the morning and the afternoon, and homework in between. I decided to come home in my free time to get some more productive things done and rest because on Wednesday we would be going to Scotland!

Now I know I've mentioned my traveling "curse" at least once before in this blog, and the more I travel, the more I believe it really is true. Because, of course, going to Scotland would not be as easy as it should have been. As part of our Britain Today class, we were heading to Edinburgh, Scotland for three days to explore Scottish Nationality in relation to British politics and society. We were to meet at the train station at 9:15 where we would board our train as a group and start the journey North. Well, Tara and I were not at the station by 9:15, and we weren't there when our train took off at 9:30. Instead, due to tube delays on our line, we were there by 9:33, and there was nothing we could do as all of our classmates took off to Scotland without us. After no sympathy from the man at the ticket counter, Tara and I ended up having to pay 113.60 pounds each (around $170) to meet up with our class. Despite the minor hysterics and phone call home around 1:30am west coast time, I was glad I shelled out the money to still go on the trip. We ended up getting there only half an hour after the rest of our group, and we joined them at the Central Youth Hostel. After dropping off our bags, we walked to Edinburgh Castle. The views from the Castle were incredible. We were given time to walk around, explore all the different buildings, and discover all the history that the Castle held.

View from Edinburgh Castle

Stained glass window inside Saint Margaret's Chapel at Edinburgh Castle

We left the Castle and headed back to the hostel for dinner where I tried haggis! It really wasn't bad. I told myself I had to do it and I'm glad I can now say I've tried it. Despite how tired I was from the emotional and stressful day I had, I decided to go out to a pub with a few people from the group. It ended up being a great night because I got to know some more people that I hadn't had much of a chance to talk to.

On Thursday we woke up early and had breakfast at the hostel before walking to Scottish Parliament to watch a live debate. It was actually pretty interesting to listen to because people would argue and interrupt each other regularly. I still don't ever want to go into politics. After Parliament we walked over to the National Museum of Scotland. The museum was set up in a confusing way, but the content was interesting. We spent a few hours there and decided to get some lunch. A couple girls from the group told me about a cafe, called the Elephant House, near the museum that was where JK Rowling began writing Harry Potter, so obviously I wanted to go there. Eight of us girls ended up going and we kept hoping JK would walk through the door. She didn't, but it was a fun experience none the less.

Julia, Tara, Britany, and I at The Elephant House

Afterwards we spent a lot of time walking in and out of shops on the Royal Mile. We even had afternoon tea at an adorable place called Clarinda's Tea Room where we washed down carrot cake and shortbread with Scottish Breakfast tea.

After a wonderful dinner at the Theatre Royal Bar next to our hostel, we spent another night out on the town. It was a smaller group this time, Julia, Tara, Britany, Caitlin and I, the group who will be traveling to Spain in a few weeks. It was amazing to get to know them even better and made me all the more excited to travel to another country with them.

Another early breakfast on Friday morning and we set off for some sightseeing as a class. Our professor Martin walked us up Calton Hill to see some of the monuments that have been in Edinburgh for years. The views from the top of the hill were breathtaking.

Interestingly enough, a lot of the monuments in Edinburgh are very Grecian, so there was an awesome Acropolis-looking monument, as well as another monument that you could climb over 100 stairs to the top for more views.

The whole group! Somehow we got everyone to get on top of the monument... it wasn't as easy as it looks!

The view from the top of the Nelson Monument

After some more free time, it was time to head back to the train station to head home. I made sure to get there with plenty of time. Friday night was spent at home. My host sister Lizzie and her boyfriend were over along with my host brother James, his wife, and their son Alex. My host mum Jenny made the most delicious dessert: Bread and Butter Dark Chocolate Pudding. I'm trying to see if I can get her to make it again soon. I'm already craving to have it again.

Saturday was spent at home as well until around 5pm when Tara and I headed downtown to see Arthur Miller's Broken Glass at the Vaudeville Theatre. The production was incredible. It felt so good to go and see professional theatre for pure enjoyment. There are no assignments or classes connected to seeing Broken Glass, I just wanted to see it. I hope to see many more plays in London this way.

And again that brings us to Sunday. I haven't done much today except for socialize with the family and get started on some essays. I think I'll enjoy a cup of tea before bed tonight.

Until next week,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week 2!

Hello all!

I've officially been in London for two weeks and I feel like time has flown by very quickly. It's probably because of all the fun things I did this week!

Tara and I, and our other house mate Akiko, did, in fact, jet off the the Thames River Festival last Sunday and it was incredible. There were so many people there and so many fun things to see. We spent the whole day walking along the South Bank, eating incredible street food, watching live performances, and shopping.

The crowds at the festival

My first crepe since being back in Europe! I was very excited.. Filled with mushrooms, spinach, and cheese.

Walking across Tower Bridge!

Once we made it across the bridge, we got into our position to watch the Night Parade. The parade was great and lasted about two hours. It was filled with so many different floats of so many different cultures. It was a great way to get a taste of just how diverse London actually is. After the parade, we found a small Spanish bar where we enjoyed tea and sangria before watching the fireworks. Fireworks were shot off from different barges floating on the river, and it was the best fireworks display I have ever seen.

My roommate Tara and I watching the display

Monday was quite uneventful as I was very tired from all the walking the day before. I had class at 9:30 and a brief meeting at 11. After that I headed straight home and relaxed the night away.

Tuesday was a wonderful and one of my favorite days since I've been in London. I had class in the morning and then a very large break before class again at 3:30, so I decided to spend my free time in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. Not only were the parks absolutely gorgeous, but it was incredible to just wander around with no where particular to go. I ended up sitting on a bench and sketching the Serpentine Bridge in Hyde Park for over an hour, just enjoying my surroundings. It was a nice change from the fast-paced lifestyle on the tubes every morning and on our excursions with class.

Duckies in Kensington Gardens

Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens

Dipping my toes in the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park (don't worry, they encouraged splashing around in it!)

The Serpentine Bridge

Wednesday was a very long day, but another great one. My day started with a walking tour with my London: Biography of a City class. After walking around some very historical buildings and districts, we arrived at The Monument, erected in memory of the Great Fire of London. We had the option of making our way up the 311 stairs to the top, and I couldn't say no. Making your way up 311 stairs on a spiral stair case is not easy, but the panoramic views of London once you made it to the top were worth it.

After some more class, it was finally time to head to Shakespeare's Globe to see Much Ado About Nothing. I have been looking forward to getting inside the Globe since I arrived in London, and it was a surreal experience. Not to mention the play was absolutely brilliant. It reminded me why Much Ado is my favorite Shakespearean comedy, and why I love the theatre.

Standing outside with my ticket! In line for the standing yard. In Shakespeare's day, the yard was where the peons and poorer people stood. Today, it's the best way to experience the Globe.

With some help from Tara I ended up pushing my way to the front row. This was my view of the stage. It really doesn't get any better than that.

On Thursday there was more class and it was back to the Globe at night to see Christopher Marlowe's Dr. Faustus. We had seats this time but I made the decision to stand in the yard again. Once inside, I made it to the second row behind two shorter girls so I was happy. The stage looked completely different, and we watched another amazing performance from a very talented group of actors.

View from the second row.

Friday was another relaxation day. I was exhausted after all the standing from the previous two nights, so I decided to stay in Harrow. Tara and I managed to get out for lunch and do some grocery shopping before heading back to the house where we had dinner with Steve and Jenny and watched Notting Hill in our room. The next morning we were up bright and early to head off to Brighton for the day!

Tara and I caught our 8:00AM bus with our friends Britany and Caitlin and in two hours time we were dropped off near the Brighton Pier. Although cold and very windy, I loved Brighton and I'm so glad we went. We spent the day walking around antique shops and outlet malls, eating fabulous food (including fish and chips), and walking along the pebbled beach. It was an amazing escape from fast paced London, and we already plan to go back sometime in the future.

The Brighton Pier!

Tara, Britany, and I

Us girls on the beach.

Brighton Marina

And so that brings us to Sunday! I've been doing homework and writing postcards and letters all day. I don't mind spending today at home seeing as there are large closures on many of the tube lines and it's raining outside. I do plan on watching the Chargers play the Patriots tonight if this website that was recommended to me will actually work so I'm looking forward to that!

Before I go, another new word I learned this week:
Ice Lollies= popsicles!

Until next week,