Prepare yourself, folks, I think this is going to be a long one.
This week has been absolutely... incredible. Let me just begin by saying: I love London.
I left off last Saturday evening, right before I met my new group, so I haven't gotten the chance to gush about how much I love them yet. I am having the time of my life with these people. We've grown so close in just one short week, so I'm really looking forward to forming long-lasting relationships with these new friends. We went to a pub down the street on our very first night, and we were already cracking jokes about each other and clowning around like we'd been friends for life. I LOVE it. (I'm just in a lovey-dovey sort of mood. Can ya tell yet?)
K. Got that out of my system. Thanks.
Sooooo.. Let's do ALL the things that YOU wanna do. Like read about what I've seen and junk. Right? Ok. I can do that.
On Sunday, we met our professors in the AM to walk 30 minutes to the Big Bus Tours. Our site coordinator handed out tickets, and we all hopped on a double decker bus that took us all over London, so we could get the chance to orient ourselves, not to mention take plenty of touristy pictures (our fave). On the tour I saw Big Ben, Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, the Globe Theater, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral, the London Eye, the Thames River, the memorial to the Great London Fire of 1666, and met some Americans from Chicago. All in a day's work. We didn't really go into anything that day, just took pictures as the bus creeped by on the left side of the road. I'm still not accustomed to the whole driving on the wrong side of the road thing. That evening, we took the tube down to Hyde Park where Paul McCartney was giving a concert. It's at least 50 pounds to go in the gates and see the concert, but you can still hear everything and even see the top of the stage if you sit outside the temporary walls and sprawl out on the grass. I think the highlight of my day was laying in the grass in the middle of London with all my new friends listending to Paul serenade us with "Blackbird."
Monday classes started, which was just a joy, but then after class a few of us walked to the British Museum, which is kind of close to where we live, yet much farther than our professors described... We didn't get a whole lot of time in there because it was closing an hour and a half after we arrived, but I did get to see a few key things like the Rosetta Stone and a redheaded mummy and the Jade Axe. (To be honest, I have no idea what the Jade Axe's significance is, but I thought it was going to be this super cool piece of history, and I made everyone walk around searching for it for at least 20 minutes and it was completely anticlimactic. That was the last thing I got to choose for all of us to see.) Afterward, we went to the local grocery to grad some food to keep us satisfied for the next few days. (Now, remember that I have been in many countries by now, and I have not been spoken to in English by a stranger in over a month.) I think I must have gone through culture shock because when I reached the counter with my purchases, I didn't speak to the lady (assuming she wouldn't understand me anyway) and I just stood back and let her scan my groceries. Then, she turned to me and said, in English, "that will be 22.50." And I just stared at her with a blank look on my face. For at least ten seconds. All of the sudden, I remember that we speak the same language as she repeats herself with a funny look on her face. I scrambled to give her my money while trying to explain I had been tired and zoning out, bagged my groceries, and high-tailed it outta there before I could make more of a fool of myself.
Tuesday we had class again, and I can't remember what we did that evening. I think we just went out to the pub and relaxed.
On Wednesday, after class, we gathered in our kitchen for another family dinner. At the beginning of the trip, we eached chucked twenty pounds into a pot, and decided that we would take turns buying food, cooking it, and cleaning up as one big happy family in order to save some cash and strengthen our bond. (Awwwwwww.) We had class from 12-6 that day, so we didn't really have time to go anywhere special. After dinner, some of us took a loooong walk down to Leister Square, which is where many clubs and theaters are located. It is a hopping place every night of the week.
Thursday we had a group field trip to Bletchley Park, which is where the British Army held their Bombe machines and deciphered German codes that helped the British win the Battle of Britain. We walked around all day and had a guided tour. It was awesome seeing all of the enigma machines from the war, and this elderly gentleman had an entire collection of Winston Churchill paraphanalia that we got to see. It was a very long day, but I learned a lot, so it made it interesing.
When we got back from Bletchley Park, three of the girls and I hopped on the tube and rode down to Leister Square, where the London red carpet premiere of the movie Eclipse was being held. Needless to say, the square was teeming with tweenage girls dying to catch a glimpse of their favorite mythological creature. Other than seeing a few minor celebs, it was fairly uneventful. My ears were ringing that night, however, from the hundreds of screaming, crazed Twi-hards that we stood by for two hours or so.
Friday we didn't have class, so a few of us headed out early in the morning to tour St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London. Both were fascinating; however, I will never understand Europe's obsession with creepy, tiny spiral staircases. St. Paul's has a really tall dome on top, and there are three levels, one inside, the others outside, where you can stop and look around and everything. Unfortunately, almost all 537 some steps are in spiral staircases. The first wasn't bad. It was really, really wide and the steps were shallow. But, as we left the first, indoor level in pursuit of the next, the staircases became more narrow and the steps were much bigger. By the time we began our ascent to the third level, we were on metal spirals that seemed to dangle in the middle of nowhere. Plus, they were the kind that don't have the little back board on each step, so I had to stare down the entire time, which meant watching as the solid groud beneath me grew farther and farther away. Heights aren't exactly my forte, so as I was climbing these terrible staircases, I was turning my knuckles white gripping the handrail with both hands. My friends thought it was funny. I did not. But, I made it all the way to the top, and I am so grateful that I did! The views were incredible. Plus, I feel like I don't need to go up in the London Eye now, so that saves me 20 GBP, and I am A-OK with that. The Tower of London was pretty cool, but I had been building it up in my mind so much that I was actually a little disappointed. It would have been cooler if I hadn't visited other castles earlier in my trip, I think. The highlight of the Tower was making one of the those London guards with the big, black, furry hats LAUGH! Well, smile, at least. But I know he was laughing on the inside. All 10 of us had just gotten situated in front of him so a stranger could take our picture, and he did his little stomping thing and marched away to do his rounds. We all started groaning and laughing because he was the sole reason we were sitting to get our picture taken. When the guard turned back around, we could see his nose and mouth and he was plainly smiling, but trying not to. He smiled the entire way back to us and stomped in place to signify his little march was over. Then we asked him if he was going to stay so we could get a pic, and he stomped in response and smiled again! I thought that was impossible to get them to respond to you. Well, folks, it's not! Ha ha we stil get a laugh out of that day. (You know, rereading that story, it doesn't sound so hilarious. Maybe you just had to be there) Later that night, we headed to Hyde Park to listen to P!nk give a concert where Paul McCartney had the weekend before. We were absolutely starving by the time we got there, so three other girls and I wandered along the streets searching for a fast food restaurant (or really anything edible at this point). After an hour of walking (actually it was more like trudging), we realized that we weren't in Kansas anymore. We weren't in a U.S. city where you can expect to find a McD's gracing every street corner. We are in LONDON. Hellooooo. They are skinny here. They don't eat fast food like we do. Feeling defeated (and still starving) we gave up the search for food and just walked back to the park to take our seats in the grass outside the concert walls. Then, about 15 minutes later, our friends walk up with drinks, chips, and sandwiches. Naturally, we were like "what the hell?" And they told us that if we would have walked a half a block further, literally, we would have ran straight into a BP station where they had snacks and the like. DUH. So that was a happy ending.. eventually.
Saturday I visited Westminster Abbey and saw where Geoffery Chaucer, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Sir Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin were buried. That was pretty sweet. That's not even including the Abbey itself, which is simply incredible on the inside. I figured I wouldn't be surprised considering the number of churches I've entered in the past few months, but I really enjoyed the two hours we spent on our audio-guided tour of the Abbey. After we'd had our fill of learning for the day, we scooted on the Tube down to the Hard Rock Cafe (Yup. I've eaten their overpriced, mediocre cuisine TWICE now on this trip, but I only did it cuz I wanted to eat with everyone else and that's where they wanted to go to dinner. Silly Americans.) to meet up with the rest of our group for dinner. The other girls had bought tickets to see Wicked that night (I decided to go see Chicago this week instead because I've seen Wicked twice already; I do highly recommend that you see it if you get the chance), so as they rushed off to ge to their seats before the curtain rose, Katy and I wandered slowly back to our apartments, stopping and gazing at paintings that artists had out for sale along Piccadilly Street. There were two that I loved so much that I decided to buy them. I can't wait to show you all when I get home. Best. Souvenir. Ever. After Wicked, Katy and I picked the rest of the group up at the theater and we headed down to Leister Square to hit up a three-story club called Sound. We had a really fun night just dancing and being out together.
On the day of rest, I did the most exhausting activity I can think of.
I shopped with the other girls in my group.
It was actually kind of fun. I didn't buy anything except a silly souvenir for Jill, and I think that was because I don't really appreciate the sizing system they use here in the UK. When you're picking through shirts trying to find a size 18 rack after rack, it begins to wear on your self-esteem. By the time the other girls had declared we could go due to thier empty wallets, I was dropping dead from the high levels of estrogen I encountered for such a prolonged period of time. To celebrate the 4th of July, we ate hot dogs, canned corn, and macaroni and cheese on a table adorned with a tattered towel that had a worn picture of the American flag on it. Gotta love it.
Not much has happened this week. Took a test, did some homework, saw the Princess Di memorial fountain, got lost in Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens.. you know. The usual.
I'm missing you all something terrible! I can't wait to be reunited with all of my friends and family back home. I'm blowing you all kisses from across the Atlantic. MUAH.