I’ve officially been in London a month (with a couple weekend trips) and have to say my affections for the city are only growing. It occurred to me that London is not a “vacation city.” What I mean is, London cannot be understood by simply spending a week touring around and seeing the “sites.” I suppose that could be said of any big city, but after a month I am beginning to comprehend a fraction of how incredible a place London really is, and why some people spend their life fascinated by it (*cough* MOM *cough*). But I love London in a different way than I love Seattle. I love Seattle because on a sunny day the mountains, water, and city are unbelievably beautiful. And because everyone walks around in fleece and North Face Jackets! I don’t love London for the noisy streets, or the dirty river, (as my English professor said today, “London is ugly but fascinating!”) or the hour-long tube ride that makes me late for class when there are delays. But I love it because when I arrived early to meet Claire Marshall (another Banchory friend!) at Trafalgar Square I just walked into the National Gallery… for free… and wandered around looking at amazing, famous paintings for an hour. I love London because I was then approached by a Spanish art student in the gallery and talked about some paintings with him. I love London because when walking into the tube station with my classmates a man on the street stopped us and asked if we were American and then said “Oh, I LOVE Americans, I’m so glad you still come to our country, GOD BLESS you guys!” (Just for the record he was very normal looking, business suit and all). And I love London because I can sit in a coffee shop feeling at home with my book or I can walk out of an unfamiliar tube stop feeling completely lost and overwhelmed by the millions of crooked streets branching off from the station. What I’m getting at is the incredible diversity in people and activities, the history that is EVERYWHERE, the entertainment . . . and so the list could continue. It’s impressive, and I think you can only fully appreciate it if you spend some time actually living in it. Some people might think I’m just awed by the “big city life,” but there’s more to it than that, because to simply call London a “big city” would be a horrible injustice.
So life here is always interesting, and, if I wanted, I could probably experience something new every moment. But I’ve decided to branch out into other parts of Europe as well, and last weekend I traveled to Prague. It was a short trip, but we packed it in and saw as much as we could. I went with three other girls from my program, one of whom, Rachel, has a friend studying in Prague. So Rachel’s friend, Pat, was our tour guide for the whole weekend. It was great! He met us at our hostel on Friday night and saw us off on Sunday morning! Of course he didn’t know all the history of all the places we went, but he got us around so we didn’t have to struggle with a map (which I especially appreciated since I have been named the “map master,” or “mapquest,” of our group here in London and when we’re visiting other cities). We first walked around the city at night which was beautiful! Every turn we made there were more beautifully lit buildings from centuries long ago! Of course, I had to have the Bohemian experience and we all tried Gulash, Hot Wine (Prague’s drink, tasted like cider at Christmas with a little more kick) and Pilsner (Czech beer). Since we had the advantage of paying with a currency that is actually weaker than the U.S. dollar we treated ourselves to a nice dinner out since we never do that in London! (It was a little annoying when Pat’s friends told us how expensive things were when they had to use the Euro! After being in London a month the Euro sounds great to all of us!) On Saturday we tried to see everything we could, Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, top of the Clock Tower, watched the old Apostle Clock, Prague Castle, a Saturday market and, of course, can’t forget the five story club (each floor with different music) which they advertised as Central Europe’s largest club. Ha! Prague was pretty, and I’m glad to have seen it, but I don’t think I could stay there a whole semester. And after meeting up with Pat and another GU friend, who came to spend the weekend with us from Barcelona, I appreciate my study abroad program a lot. We all shared our different experiences with housing, transportation, classes and, of course, there are pros and cons to the different set up programs have, but overall I’m really happy with mine. Sitting in Prague talking about London with others who are also abroad made London feel like home and made me appreciate how my time here is going so far. We made if back to London on Sky Europe, which I don’t recommend. After take off everyone looked sick and some people went running to the bathroom to be sick. Not pleasant . . . but we finally landed and overall it was successful trip!
When I returned home I discovered that I have unintentionally bought chocolate every place I’ve been. In Switzerland I got dark chocolate flavored with lemon and pepper (I know it sounds gross, but trust me, it was so good!), fudge in Edinburgh (that was Stephen’s idea!), my host dad Ken brought me home chocolates that British Airways gives to their first class customers, and while in Prague I couldn’t resist the “Latte Macchiato” chocolate I saw. So far the lemon/pepper and latte macchiato are the best. But now that I’ve started it, I might as well continue and find some chocolate every place I go! Perhaps I should admit I’m a chocoholic now and then just do research as to where the best chocolate is, no? I’ll update everyone as to my findings.
Back in school this week I experienced what I called “An English Major’s Dream.” We’re reading “Great Expectations” in my British Novel class, so we walked around and saw all the places Pip goes when he comes to London. It was great!! Read the book and then actually see all the settings, so cool! We saw most of the legal parts of London since of course Pip’s guardian is a lawyer, and though I was paying attention to the relationship to “G.E.”, I also noted that this is totally the area where Mr. Darcy works in Bridget Jones!! (Sorry for the continual Colin Firth references, but I really can’t help it!) I half expected Colin to walk out of one of the courtyards in his long black coat looking very lawyerish… but he wasn’t there. Only real British lawyers walking around, darn. Anyway, I absolutely love my Novel professor; she’s so cool, and basically I just want to be friends with her. She lives down in Brighton and has invited us all out to her house to spend a day there in May when the arts festival starts there! She is also buying me a pint when we all go to the pub as a class because I guessed closest to the correct average age of a Londoner during the time of G.E. (I guessed 26, by the way). Who doesn’t love a professor that will buy you a pint and invite you to her house? Unbelievable! She also has some great one liners… like today when she gave us her hotmail email address but told us to put our name in the subject line because otherwise she might think it was, “another offer to extend my penis,” which she said “would be getting quite long by now if I took all the offers I was emailed!” Maybe it was just the way she said it, but it was too funny in class!
So, tonight I’m off to my sixth show since being in London (not bad for it being the fifth week here!). I’m going to see Gilbert and Sulivan’s “The Mikado” again. A different production than the first one I saw. Everyone in the program is going, so it should be entertaining! On Thursday Lucas, my very good from friend GU who is studying in Florence this year, is headed to London. I can’t wait to see him and show him all around, it should be a fun weekend of running all over London!
Apparently word has gotten around about my blog (I think I have mostly my parents to blame for that :-). Now I feel as though I have a readership that I must write for. It’s quite fun actually, so thanks to all who have expressed their enjoyment of it! My favorite story about someone reading it is that Liz Brown’s mom (Hi, Laura!) wasn’t sure whether Liz had made it into London yet, but checked my blog and read that we had dinner together, so she knew Liz was safely touring around London. Ha! Gotta love the ways of communication these days! I think that covers it for now!! I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but I’ll throw it in later! Also, more pictures up on flickr. Much love to all!!