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,

Saturday, September 10, 2011

You sound like you're from London... Week one!

I have to admit I wasn't planning on actually having a blog while I'm here, but things have been so fast paced that I'm worried I won't remember everything that I've done if I don't write it down. So, here it goes, my first week in London.

After saying my goodbyes to most family and friends, it came time to head to the airport. My mom and Zac in one car, Taylor and I in the other. Everything was going fine until, in true "Jordyn's traveling bad luck" style, my bag was seven pounds over the weight limit, and the airline was going to charge $200 to leave it that way. After brief panic, and my mom beginning to pull a nordstrom bag out of the trashcan, a nice woman offered to give me a nice bag that she was planning on throwing away. I stuffed seven pounds of stuff into that bag, and problem solved! We hung out in the commuter terminal until it was time for our final goodbyes. They were much harder than I expected them to be, but I tried to put on my brave face and pushed myself through security. There I waited for a few minutes until it was time to board my tiny commuter plane to LA. Being as emotional and physically tired as I was I slept through all 25 minutes of that flight. After we landed I made my way to the next terminal where I boarded a very large plane that would take me to London. After realizing I was now too anxious to actually get any sleep, I bought the extra package of movies and TV shows on my computer screen and indulged in Midnight in Paris, Bridesmaids, and a few episodes of Friends. Ten hours later I had landed in London!

I made it through customs rather quickly, found my bag, and made my way through the airport to find my airport taxi driver. I was waiting for about a half an hour before I finally spotted a man carrying a sign with my name on it. He was pretty quiet, and we didn't talk much which was fine by me because I was more interested in staring out the window. I remember thinking to myself over and over, "everything here is backwards".

Only about 20 minutes later, we arrived at my home stay's house! I was nervous and ready to meet my new host family and roommate. But of course something else had to go wrong. When I rang the doorbell, no answer. When I knocked on the door, no answer. This would happen to me. Thankfully my taxi driver did not abandon me in the rain and he let me make a few calls on his cell phone. No one was answering their phones so we drove around the block once more to make sure we were in the right place. When we went back to the house the second time, there was a car in the driveway. I graciously thanked my driver and made my way inside. My host mum and dad, Jenny and Steve, are nicer than I could have ever asked for. I enjoyed a cup of tea and helped Jenny make some homemade bread before my roommate Tara got home. She is wonderful too. We have a lot in common and I knew right away that we would get along. I spent the rest of the night relaxing at the house and trying to stay up as late as I could before I passed out in my new room:

Monday, September 5th was our first day of orientation at school. Tara and I had to wake up early to get to school because the Centre is about an hour away by tube. We made it there without getting lost and with time to spare. Orientation was pretty boring to be honest but it was nice to start getting to know everyone on the program. We were toured around the area a bit and then were sent back home. Tara and I spent another night at home. Jet lag had caused me to be tired all day long, go to bed early, and wake up early. So I wasn't quite ready to do a whole lot of exploring. Coming home to Jenny's cooking is nice anyway. I really lucked out with such a great host mum who can cook!

Tuesday was another day of orientation. We had to be there early to listen to all the teachers give presentations about their classes. We didn't have to decide exactly what classes we wanted to take until week 2, so it was beneficial to listen to each one. Afterwards AHA ordered us Domino's pizza for lunch. I thought this was hilarious considering we had only been away from home for a couple of days.. I'm not homesick yet! I don't need American food yet! After lunch we took a bus (my first double decker in London!) and walked down to the Thames where we boarded a river cruise to the Tower of London.

Julia and I on our first bus ride through London.

On the way I saw Big Ben, the London Eye, Parliament, and Shakespeare's Globe all from the boat. I had quite the nerdy theatre student moment as we floated by the Globe... The Tower was interesting. Saw the Crown Jewels and even did my first sketch of the White Tower. The thing I remember the most is that Anne Boleyn was executed on the grounds. Tuesday night we headed to a bar called the Junction. Very cool place for students on tuesdays.

Me and Ben.

Wednesday was our first official day of classes. I "crashed" the London: Biography of a City class because they were going to the Museum of London. The museum was interesting. Saw a huge recreation of the Rose Theatre so I spent most of my time looking at that. After going I decided to join that class too. Now I'll be taking four classes instead of three. After the museum a few of us had to get back to the Centre for our The Play's the Thing theatre class. We will be seeing so many awesome plays in so many historic theatres this semester. I can hardly wait. Wednesday night was spent again at home with more home made meals and talks around the table.

Thursday was my long day of classes. I had Shakespeare in the morning, then London: Biography of a City, and then our required class, Britain Today. All were great. Britain Today is going to be my hardest class, but we are going to be seeing a lot of cool things so there are things to look forward to. For part of the class on Thursday we went to the British Museum which is in a beautiful building pretty close to the Centre. We were only in the museum for half an hour before we were kicked out before closing time. I did get to see some amazing things, my favorite being jewelry collected from the Roman times. Thursday night was spent again at the Junction with a lot of friends from the program.

Friday was spent exploring Covent Gardens with Tara. We did some shopping, ate good food, and found a wonderful little frozen yogurt shop. I fulfilled a nerdy theatre history dream when I saw the Royal Theatre Drury Lane and got to step inside the lobby. We even got lost trying to find a tube station, but we are both getting much more confident with navigating around the city. I already feel better about riding the tube every day. I even managed to get home on the bus by myself after dinner! On that note, if you're ever in Harrow, you have to visit a Mediterranean and Italian restaurant thats right up the street from the Harrow on the Hill tube station. They had the best bruschetta and pizza I think I've ever had in my life.

Silly tourist telephone booth picture. H&M bags in hand.

My first time to Theatre Royal Drury Lane!

Tara on the tube. No one really talks on the tube but everyone reads. We've adapted the habit pretty easily.

And that brings us to Saturday. I've been at home all day believe it or not (completely by choice!). I have a lot of reading for school so I spent today cleaning and reading Shakespeare in my beautiful, quaint home. There will be a family dinner tonight and tomorrow Tara and I will jet off to the Mayor's Thames River Festival.

Here are a few new words/phrases I've picked up on in the past week:
"hen-do"= bachelorette party
"stag-do"= bachelor party
"car park" = parking garage
"lift"= elevator
"brill"= an abbreviation for brilliant

Until next week,