Cloud 9 3/4

This title is funny for numerous reasons. One being that Friday morning started off with a trip el solo to King’s Cross at seven am. Two because I’m currently in an air plane writing this post.

Last week my friends went to the famous Platform 9 3/4 after the Harry Potter tour but I couldn’t go because I had prior dinner plans. There was no way I was coming home without my photo op so I got up at 6:30 to beat the lines and sure enough I was one of the first people there when they opened. Totally worth it and I was back by 9. That’s before most of my classmates even got out of bed.

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Once I returned it was time to do the final edit on my project before hitting the submit button. After that stress relief the group headed across the street for our last ritual esquires together. Not going I lie, I will miss that place more than a lot of things in London. How quickly we were able to have a spot and be welcomed by the staff.

After receiving pure life from our lattes we headed off to lunch. Our professor and UD treated us to lunch at a PRET cafe. Afterwards we walked in search of gelato. To my immense distress there was none to be found.

Earlier in the week my professor mentioned that he had surprises for us, one being lunch on Thursday and the other being booking at the Sky Garden. The Garden is a bar/restaurant located on top of the “Walkie Talkie” building, 525ft in the air. Such an amazing view and time.

Near the Sky Garden is St Dunstan’s in the East, a church yard garden. Also very beautiful, like a pocket of peace tucked in a busy city.

We finished our outing with a trip to Hyde Park, back to our little tea place on the water. img_4907-1

Once back in Acton we cashed in our Oyster cards for eight pounds and hit up the Castle one last time. For a few hours we sat and laughed at everything over the three weeks and relaxed. And that was my last day in London. I don’t think it could have gone any better. img_4919

Tube-ular Wednesday

It’s time you all learned a bit more about the tube. I recently praised it in my last post after riding various other modes of transportation. I rebuke the strong affection I had for the efficient transport called the ‘Ungerground.’ I now feel as though I have experienced the tube rails to the fullest and regret my eagerness to do so before.

Around 3pm I went with my friend to London Bridge tube stop and worked on my project in a cafe while she interviewed someone across the street. On the way there our tube line had a few delays due to a customer issue that happened earlier that day.  Never the less we made it to our stop on the Central Line and switched over to the Jubilee Southward Line in no time at all.

The way back was no walk in the park.

Tubes are hot. And dusty and not meant for enjoyment. The tubes get very busy around five through seven and can become very crammed. After the workers do their “mind the gap” spiel and tell the people to pack in, you’re hurdled down the track, onto the next stop. Unless of course when you leave the station you don’t move on but get trapped inbeteeen stops. This is what happened to Olivia and I on our trip back. Unfortunately there was an incident with someone on the train before us and we had to first wait for them to call an ambulance and leave the station. So there we sat, hot, tired, packed in next to strangers so tight you couldn’t sneeze without bumping into someone. Then the unthinkable happens. A man a few feet from us passes out. After pulling the alarm on the tube and getting the man some water he is well enough to stand again. Or so we thought. He passes out once more before staying down and being carried out when we (finally) reach the station. Terrible to see but it happened all the tome. It’s just so hot down there and when you stand for such a long time in the stuffy heat nothing good can come of it. 

After that Olivia and I were pretty keen on staying in that night. So we went back to our rooms and drank our tea. Like the makeshift Londoner’s we are.

Bowie and battered fish

Thursday came along with the stress of a final project and the crashing reality that I leave for home in two days.

That morning we met for class one last time at 9:30 and took our final quiz before breaking off to see Grenfell Tower. We felt that as journalist students it was important for us to visit the site of this tragedy and fully submerge ourselves in not only the posh neighborhoods but the ones in pain as well. We were also encouraged to visit the site img_4694by a worker at the times who said that Grenfell was a sight forth seeing, the stark contrast in the skyline. As we walked towards the tower we passed through some of the wealthiest neighborhoods, teslas everywhere. Then we crossed the street and just around the corner from all those gated parks and private entrances was Grenfell. My heart and prayers go out to all those involved, you see that tower and think, how could this have happened?

 

 

After Grenfell we wandered over to Portobello Market and grabbed our last pub meal. As we left the pub and walked on to Notting Hill we recalled how we took the same walk just three weeks ago. It seemed our trip had come a full circle almost. We didn’t linger long though, we were going to make the most of our last Thursday. So off we went to the dorms to change and not more than an hour later we were off again. The first week in London we booked a free Rock and Roll walking tour through London. What an amazing tour. Here’s an example of the kind of stuff we were seeing.

-Scotch and St. James Pub which is still there and functioning as it was then. A very secluded and A list pub. To get in you had to be either recognizable on the spot or famous enough to be on the list. This was also Hendrix’s first gig in the UK. (Just across the street was where Sir Paul’s art gallery was located. This is where a young artist by the name of Yoko Ono had an exhibition and met a young man named John Lennon. He was climbing up her art work and as she asked him to get down or pay her money the two hit it off with a quick joke.)

Image result for scotch and st james pub 60s               img_4703

 

All the walking did build up an appetite though. So we headed over to Holland Park to meet the rest of our class for the last group dinner. I finally caved and ordered fish and chips even though fried fish is not my favorite. I was correct in thinking I wouldn’t like it. The chips were fantastic though.

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After our last supper we headed back to the dorms to crank out our papers, and crank it out I did. I was in bed by midnight with over 1200 words under my belt. This made for a good night’s sleep and I knew I’d be able to enjoy my last day in London even more now.

Hyde Park’s weird cousin.

Tuesday was definitely one for the books. Instead of meeting for class in the study room like usual,  we met at our tube stop (North Acton) and headed over to Oxford Circus to meet a NPR reporter. NPR just so happens to be located inside BBC headquarters. So we got to walk around the BBC news room and see where they film their broadcasts. Very neat and definitely impressive. Sadly, this is not where they film shows or movies and I didn’t casually bump into Benedict Cumerbatch. However, I did get to see the NPR office and hear a lot about reporting all over Europe and how different it is compared to the US. We’re very lucky as journalist in the US because we have the first amendment, in the UK if someone disagrees with what you publish about them they can take all sorts of actions against you.  So bizarre.img_4647

After spending a good while there, I returned to North Action to conduct an interview of my own for my final project. Unfortunately, it was a phone interview and I had to turn my data on (sorry mum) but it went spectacular!! After I finish writing my piece I’ll publish it here so you all can see what the heck I’ve been doing over here.

Tuesday evening we traveled a bit further to visit a store I’ve been wanting to see since day one. I can’t name it because I bought a souvenir there and don’t want to spoil it but, just know that it was very cool. After that we thought we’d simply walk over to Battersea park. (AKA the area where they shot the cover for Pink Floyd’s Animals album.

 

We quickly discovered that we were a bit further than we thought. 2 pounds later we were riding on an overground train and traveling back across the river. (Thank God for Jack who was a top notch navigator in this moment and shout to the City-mapper App for never steering us wrong) The overground was a whole new experience. On top of that we had to then take the bus. Luckily our Oyster cards (like a metro card) work on buses and we’ve rode one before with out professor.Up until this point though we img_4656have walked 20,000 steps (not even kidding, check the fitbit) rather than take the bus ni fear of messing up. We as a group do not mess with those double deckers, no sir we stick to our beloved tube. FINALLY we made it to this park and at this point I really had to use the bathroom. London doesn’t believe in porta potties and they’re little sidewalk bathrooms cost up to 50p (that’s like ehhh 80ish cents?) and as a stubborn American who has never paid to use the bathroom I refuse to. I was so desperate at this point I would have paid 5 pounds.  So we wandered around this park which we quickly decided was the weird cousin to Hyde Park that no one talks about. Ever heard of Battersea park?  No you probably haven’t because it’s like walking through a ghost town. Everything was closed (including the public toilets) and the structures were faded and the deeper we went the cloudier it got. Birds were screeching, I felt like I had just stumbled into the abandoned Jurassic Park. Just as I turned a corner a huge T-Rex would jump out and snatch me up like the tourist loving carnivore he is.

Okay maybe I’m being a bit dramatic but it was like a ghost town. They had a zoo, also closed, but there was a bathroom ALL THE WAY ON THE OTHER SIDE of it. How convenient. Also the bathroom was barely functioning. But beggars cant be choosers. So we made our way out of sad, sad, Battersea Park and caught a bus back towards home. We then prematurely got off the sub par mode on transit and gladly sat on the familiar hot and mildly dusty tube the rest of the way home.

 

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Just another manic Monday

Monday was warm and pleasant for the most part. We all met up after class to wander around the city. After meeting at Oxford Circus and getting lost in H&M we headed off in search for food. As usual.

I should probably mention that we all had zero idea what we wanted to eat and even less of an idea of where we wanted to go. The night before we met a girl named Danielle through our friend Luke. Long story short they went to high school together in NJ and now she lives down the street from the college we’re staying in. Anyway, she works at an American style restaurant and said if we came by when she was working she’d give us 25% off.

Eventually we stumbled upon the restaurant ‘Stax’. Stax was set in a beautiful and vibrant market called Carnaby. It wasn’t long before something went wrong as usual. Today’s feature trauma features one of our main protagonists, Ryan Thorton.

When we arrived at the restaurant Ryan decided he was going to venture out to in search of a bathroom.. rather than just ask our waitress (Danielle) if there was a bathroom in the restaurant itself.  Five minutes later we saw Ryan pass under the returant balcony (already he had made it to a whole other floor) with a confused look on his face. Ten minutes later the food arrived and Ryan stopped texting us. Another ten minutes by and Leigh Ann said “So should we be worried now or….” At this point our waitress asked if we wanted her to look for him on her break. When out of the blue, who turned around the corner?!? Ryan!! He lives!!

I’ve invited Ryan  here to share a few words about his side of the experience: “I felt like with each rumble of my stomach I was more and more despaired. I was three minutes away when I turned my data on and the next time I looked, I was eleven minutes away. Words like despair don’t even begin to cover it.”

After this hilarious, traumatizing for some, experience we headed back to to Woodward Hall to drink some tea and beat the rain.img_4624

Later that evening we finished our Monday off with a trip to the theatres to see BigSick. 10/10 RomCom.img_4631

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Last Weekend in London

Friday

After class we decided to tackle something on our bucket list. Abbey Road. Overall a success, just VERY crowded. Well worth it. Afterwards we headed over to Primrose hill. By far the steepest hill of my life, maybe not literally but you have to understand that 1- I avoid exercise 99% of the time 2- We had all been walking alllll day already and Van slip-ons are not qualified walking shoes. I’m talking walking the length of a nine-hour trilogy. And finally 3- I was getting really hungry. So maybe it wasn’t the steepest hill but either way the view was well worth the torture of climbing it. And there were dogs everywhere so, bonus. Then we headed off to a small pub to see a surprise show for a British band called Superfood. The show was free and packed and I knew zero songs but I now enjoy them thoroughly and had such a blast. It helped that the excursion involved cool street art and pizza.

Saturday

Last free day in London. What are you to do? Go to Oxford of course! After getting turned around and setting off an hour late we made it to the city of people who are much smarter than me. Definitely one of the highlights of my trip and something I have beeb=n looking forward to for six months. We navigated on a system I like to call “Six college kids who wont turn on their data for fear of charges.” Also known as, screenshots of maps, one real map, and a paper towel I snagged from a Hilton we didn’t even stay at. The paper towel consisted of all 13 things we wanted to see, the times they closed, and the order in which we should see them considering both distance and time efficiency. I am a very thorough planner. The rain was no match for a group of determined students lead by a napkin. Not that it’s relevent but the napkin still lives and survived the washer. In Oxford we saw the Bodleian Library of Oxford University, Oxford Castle, the Narnia lamppost, and the most important being The Eagle and the Child Pub. AKA where TOLKIEN and the inklings (including CS LEWIS) used to hang out and write. Naturally I was a dork and excited the whole time and bought a postcard.  Such an amazing day.  Hands down one of my favorite experiences. (For the full tour via Karrie click the link to see our list of sites to see in eight hours.)

https://www.google.com/maps/placelists/list/1uIntL2rN1Gy_hCef7qpNpRhUdug

 

Sunday

A morning of rest and then of course running out and about. I did find time to sit still for a moment and absorb some time in the word. Much needed and appreciated perspective of reconciliation and humility in 2 Corinthians 5:11-22.

After lunch in the dorm, off I went to eat Gelato and hang out with some company I’ve grown very fond of. Side note: while I often do complain about the food here being not salty enough (America needs to cut back on the salt so I can enjoy other cultures more) and missing the taste of freedom in all my food, I will say that London has stolen my heart for their frozen dairy delights. So amazinnnnggg, but alas I digress. After that I went to the other peice of my London heart, the castle. The local pub down the street with the friendliest staff and best Sunday Roast. This is of course biased because it’s three min from my bedroom, the only place that ever has sunday roast at 6pm, and they gave us free drinks after laughing our inability to comprehend cricket. I still have no idea what the heck the point of it is and I hope to see a match before I come home. Also I think they like us because we’re used to tipping and tip well compared to everyone else. But we pretend its our American charm, even though most countries despise American tourists.  So after another delightful sunday roast with the best company I headed back to my dorm to complete an assignment and write to all of you.img_4602

Mmm just thinking about a Sunday Roast and the fact that I may not have another dish quite like it is enough to make me very sad and almost hungry. *Start’s singing ‘So this is love mmhmm’*

And with this lovely image to feast your eyes on I bid you all a very fond farewell.

A day in the Queen’s footsteps 

On Thursday after class we broke off and made our dorm style cuisine. On the menu for Thursday’s lunch with hardly any ingredients was Mac and Cheese. Or as my friends (they may say victims) who tried it said “a lot of melted cheese with some pasta”. My cooking is in its self, an art form. This is apparently debatable because someone then said “yea you’re like one of those modern artists that’s kinda hard to understand”. But hey if you don’t like it don’t eat it, personally I enjoyed it.  But anyway that’s not the point of yesterday, I digress. 

Thursday was awesome because we went to visit Parliament. It sounds like a yawn and a half but I actually enjoyed it a lot. I know it wasn’t the purpose of the tour but it looked so much like Hogwarts and was so old that there were ‘corridors’. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures for the majority of the visit but as we took our tour we followed the walk the Queen would have made on her journey to the Throne. Each year the Queen ceremoniously walkes through the hall and rooms of parliament and to her Gold leafed throne to begin that year of laws and Lords. You can actually watch the ceremony on YouTube if you’d like to get an idea of what I’m talking about.  

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=deDt17Vrlrc

This was the main journey for that day, so amazing I wish I had been able to take more pictures. But there were armed guards everywhere sooo I wasn’t going to be the one to snap a pic for the gram. No thank you. 

Afterwards we all headed back and tackled another home made dorm meal. My title as the Paula Deen of Dorm food remains. My secrets are random ingredients, butter, and some seasonings that I’m not sure what the purpose is. Quality. 

Well in the wise words of Porky the Pig

Th-th-th-that’s all folks!