I Want to See Everything!!

In an attempt to post more frequent entries, I’ve decided to let everyone in on my plans for the next 2 months (that’s right, I already have less than 2 months in London!). Okay, so I don’t have an exact plan per se, but after I realized how little time I have left in this amazing city, I realized how much I still have left to see and decided to research some exciting places. Here’s a few I’ve found:

Shakespeare’s Globe: Duh. I’m an English major, and I love Shakespeare, AND I’m in the home of Shakespeare. Why would I not tour the Globe and possibly see a play? More importantly, why haven’t I already?! This one is pretty self-explanatory, but for those who don’t know, the guided tours basically explain the London in which Shakespeare lived and the theater for which he wrote. They also talk briefly about the theater’s reconstruction and how it evolved over the years. They also offer exhibitions on different things like printing and costumes.

Museums!!!: Almost all of the museums here in London have free admission, so I plan to see as many as I can. As you know, I’ve already seen the Childhood Museum, British Museum, and National Gallery. Next on my list is first the Bank of England Museum. After the money exhibit at the British Museum, I’m now really interested in seeing a whole museum devoted to currency and its history in England. Next are the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A for short) and the Imperial War Museum, which supposedly has a really interesting exhibit on the Holocaust. There’s also the Saatchi Gallery, right by Sloane Square (the headquarters for the Duke of York), which is a pretty interesting looking contemporary art museum. Much to my surprise, I’m also interesting in seeking out the Hunterian Museum, one of the many medical museums of London. I don’t even know why I’m so interested in it; I guess I’m just curious to see how medicine has improved/changed over the years.

London Sea Life Aquarium: Call me a nerd if you will, but aquariums fascinate me! This is apparently one of Europe’s largest collections of marine life, and according to their website, “the jewel on the crown of the 28 SEA LIFE attractions in the UK and Europe.” Wow! Of course, it’s pretty pricey (£16, £14.40 if I book online) so I’ll probably leave this to the end of my trip.

Speakers’ Corner: Located in Hyde Park, this is a place where public speaking is allowed, often controversial topics and debates. There are other speakers’ corners in London, but this is the most famous. These speeches and debates are obviously monitored to a certain degree. I found out about it when I was looking up the Marble Arch (located right by Hyde Park) and it seemed really interesting – not to take part in, but just to walk by and see what it’s about, on my way to see the Marble Arch.

Tour of BBC TV Centre/Broadcasting House: Pretty self-explanatory, but tickets are only £7 for students!

Trips out of London: Wales, and Canterbury are the top two on my list, but I haven’t done too much research yet. My friend Tara just took a day trip to Cardiff and said it was amazing.

Alright kiddies, that’s all I’ve got for now. Let’s hope I get to do most (if not all) of this! I’m running out of time!

Arts, Antiques, and Allison

So I realize how long it’s been since I last ACTUALLY updated (not counting, of course, my Paris pictures from earlier). This past weekend my friend from home, Allison, came to visit from Rome where she’s studying abroad. But more on that later. This is going to be another LONG post!

Before I delve into all the fun stuff – AKA the more interesting and, dare I say, more important part of this experience – I’ll briefly share that I got my first paper back on Wednesday. I got a 3! Now, before you wonder why I’m so excited about this, let me remind/tell everyone about the grading system in London. It’s on a scale of 1 to 20, where 1-4 are equivalent to high mark (an A), so a 3 is basically an A! I’ll admit, of the 3 papers I had to write last month, this one was the easiest to me; it was basically picking one of the passages from Midnight’s Children she gave us and doing a close reading and thinking up your own thesis. That’s basically what I’ve been doing since junior year of high school. Easy peezy. I felt bad because a few people around me apparently didn’t do so well, but I was still (understandably) proud that I managed to snag an A on my first paper in London. 🙂

Okay, anyway. Last week – Wednesday to be exact – was my birthday! My 21st birthday, even!! What an amazing way to celebrate; after having a handful of pretty uneventful or un-enjoyable birthdays since middle school, it was great to be in London for this major birthday, although I kind of wished I was around my family and friends. I didn’t do much on my actual birthday because many of my friends have class on Thursday even though I don’t.  Orange phone service has this deal for Wednesdays where they give 2 for 1 movie tickets and coupons for Pizza Express. Because we all still have our Orange simcards from when we first got here – we all switched to better plans since then – we decided to take advantage of this. So that night I went to Pizza Express with Tara, Melissa, Aminta, Laura, and Joey and then went with Tara, Melissa and Laura to see Leap Year. The food was AMAZING! The staff was really nice, too. We got an order of garlic bread and dough balls which were both delicious, and I can’t remember what I got for the main dish but I remember it being amazing. Even without the Orange deal, the prices aren’t too bad for a restaurant that looks pretty fancy at first glance. Definitely going back there another time. The movie, on the other hand, wasn’t too impressive. None of us really liked it except for the really beautiful Irish scenery. We all got a little excited about going there on our separate Ireland trips. Oh! I forgot to mention that they also got me a Hannah Montana cake (which was pretty good but went stale pretty quickly) and a “blow up husband” which was not what I originally thought it was, thank God. He’s now inflated and sitting in the corner creepily.

On Thursday, since I didn’t have class, I finally got myself over to the British Museum and the National Gallery. Laura came with, because she never got to see the Rosetta Stone the last time she was at the British Museum, and had never been to the National Gallery either. Tara also wanted to come to the National Gallery, so we were going to meet her when we were done at the British Museum.

British Museum and a lovely day

Inside the British Museum

I hafta say, I think preferred the British Museum over the otherwise-popular National Gallery. I’ve always heard such amazing things about NG and how monstrous it is, but I think BM had more interesting things to offer. For example, Rosetta Stone was there along with a clock room – I happen to think clocks are fascinating – and an exhibit on world currencies over the years. There was even a hands-on station where we could touch and look closely at ancient currency from Africa and Rome (I think). Sweet!

Rosetta Stone!

Yep, this is a clock

World currencies through history

In contrast, National Gallery (not to be confused with the National Portrait Gallery, which Tara did) was mostly paintings and portraits, which made me laugh since there’s an entirely other building devoted to….more portraits? Anyway, they didn’t let us take any pictures but the building itself is probably what stood out to me more than the art. High ceilings, elaborate ceiling artwork and a lot of gilding.

National Gallery from the outside

View from Trafalgar Square after the National Gallery

My real birthday celebration took place on Friday when we all got together to go to a club in Central London, On Anon. It was a beautiful club, although I’m not usually a big club goer. But it was a cool way to celebrate, although it was like Amazing Race to get there before 10 for free admission. We just made it! Josh also offered to cook enchiladas before we left for Central. Soooo good!

(Some of) The group at On Anon

Although I had every intention of sleeping in that day, my friends texted me the next morning about going to Portobello Road, a huge outdoor antique market in Notting Hill. I heard good things about it, and my friends hadn’t left by the time I got up, so I decided to go. It was really cool, although I wasn’t about to splurge on antique knick-knacks or vintage clothing. I did, however, get some paella which was TODIEFOR.

Portobello Road

The paella!!

Anyway, after walking up and down Portobello Road, Aminta and I had somewhere else to be – A DAVE MATTHEWS BAND CONCERT AT O2 ARENA! That’s right, I said it! That was my birthday gift to myself, I guess. It was one of the most expensive things I’ve bought in London (aside from airfare) but it was totally worth it! I’ve been wanting to see them live for years and what better place to do it than in London – and the O2 arena no less! It was such an amazing venue! I mean,the arena itself was basically as big as Madison Square Garden which I’m obviously used to, but it’s located in this huge mall-type place that was really colorful and futuristic looking. It was the kind of place you could hang out in without actually seeing a concert. I also bought a T-shirt which I just realized I’m wearing right now, lol!

Cool looking wall by The O2

Movie theater in The O2 by the arena

Inside The O2

Anyway, before we could enjoy the show and all that, we had to pick up the tickets which of course had to be a whole adventure in itself. Aminta didn’t realize she needed the confirmation number, and she didn’t remember which credit card she paid for the tickets with, so she had all of them with her. True, she probably should’ve thought of these things, but I was still shocked at how difficult this had become. Finally, we realized that the problem was that they were looking under the TicketMaster list, and couldn’t find her name, so she probably ordered through a different company. I didn’t think they had different lists – and didn’t understand why they did –  which was why this was so baffling to me. Then the woman told her to check her e-mail, but she didn’t have her Blackberry with her so the woman directed us to the O2 store to use their computers. But they didn’t have public computers, but thankfully a really nice employee let us use the store computer and print out the e-mail. After 10 minutes of thinking she accidentally deleted the e-mail, Aminta found it and printed it and brought it back to the line. UGH! Altogether, this process took about 15 minutes, but it was finally taken care of. We had gotten there pretty early so we had plenty of time to get a coffee and relax until the doors opened. Then the show! I loved it! We were planning on moving our seats if it wasn’t sold out, but it got pretty full and we liked our seats anyway, so there was no need. I was a little disappointed that he didn’t play a lot of his older/more popular songs, but he played a handful of my favorites, so again, I didn’t care! I was in the same room as Davey I didn’t care at all!!!

Best picture of the night!

I didn’t do too much last week, but on Monday Tara, Melissa, Aminta and I went to “Every Other Monday” comedy show in Angel Islington. I heard about it in an e-mail newsletter I got from the International Office at Middlesex. I know I LOVE British humor (hello, The Office and Whose Line is it Anyway?) but I wasn’t sure of what to expect. It was basically a free comedy night where regulars come to try out their new material. They’re all on for about 8-10 minutes and if the audience laughs, they’re mostly likely going to keep the joke; if the audience sort of laughs – or there’s a mixed reaction – they think about tweaking that part; if the audience doesn’t laugh at all they obviously toss the joke. A lot of them were really hilarious – I preferred the second half – but the first two were INCREDIBLY nervous; the woman was literally shaking all over. I realized that for a comedian to be funny, they have to be more confident or else the humor is kind of lost. This poor girl didn’t have any transitions between jokes it was like a grab bag of random one liners. Anyway, I realized I could never be a stand up comedian, but I had a great time being an audience member! We sat in the first row, so of course we were a target for many of the comedians, especially once they found out we’re Americans. And the MC looked JUST like my brother, only he had a British accent which was jarring as hell, but pretty amusing still.

Then on Thursday my friend Allison came to visit! Before she got here, I bought an air mattress (which I just returned today now that she left – yeah, I cheat the system like that!) but it didn’t have an air pump, which of course made for an interesting experience of blowing it up manually. Anyway, Thursday I went to Stansted to meet her at the airport. Her flight was a little late landing, so I didn’t meet up with her until about 8, and we didn’t get back to Oakwood until about 9:30. We got dinner at the fish and chips shop next to the tube station and then just hung out at my room. I loved having a guest here because I got to do all the touristy things I did at the beginning, again 2 months later. 🙂 Friday she went to the British Museum while I was in class, and later that night we took the Jack Ripper walking tour. Spooky! Basically a tour guide takes you around to the different places where the actual murders took place; most of the locations have since been renovated, but you can still see the same doorways or windows, etc. We were literally at the scenes of the crimes! And it wasn’t the greatest looking neighborhood so that made it even spookier! I didn’t really know much about the JtR story prior to Friday night, but now I know the full story. Basically, for those who don’t know, his victims were all homeless and drunken prostitutes whom he literally ripped (hence the name) apart to very gruesome extent. In the process of brutally slaughtering these women, he removed their wombs. I think the eeriest part of the whole tour was when Jenny (our tour guide) explained how Jack was never caught, never identified, and how he probably got away with it – which I never thought about (how does a man not get noticed walking down the streets of London covered in blood? how does he even know how to properly slaughter a person?) Her theory is that he was probably a professional slaughterer: back in the day, before there were freezers, the animals were hunted, slaughtered, packaged, and sent to the butcher shops by 6 am. Therefore, a man walking around in an apron covered in blood at 3am was probably common. And the only way he would know how to properly slaughter his victims (slice the throat, then down the chest, etc.) would be if he studied it in books and practiced; thus, he was probably a slaughterer. We also got to read an actual letter presumably written by Jack in which he coins himself “Jack the Ripper.” Altogether scary! On Saturday, we did pretty much ALL the tourist spots – Westminster Abbey, Big Ben/Parliament, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s, Tower Bridge, Millennium Bridge:

Obligatory phone booth photo

Westminster Abbey

Me and Big Ben

Houses of Parliament and the River Thames

Me and the statue at Buckingham Palace

Our amazing lunch at The Albert!

Another picture of the Tower Bridge to add to my collection

Millennium Bridge at sunset

St. Paul’s Cathedral at sunset

Sunday, we went down to Trafalgar Square for the St. Paddy’s day parade/festival. It was pretty cool, since I’ve never been to the one in NY (which I know is WAY more elaborate and insane than this one was) but it was nice to finally go to one and be surrounded by all that orange and green! There were tables with Irish food and Irish music/performances and everything. I almost felt Irish myself! Afterward, we went to another pub for some English food (we had gone to one on Saturday and FELL IN LOVE with it and its amazing food!) but it wasn’t the same as The Albert; still good though.

Later that night, Allison wanted to go to a real London bar. I realized that there aren’t many places in between laid-back pubs and high-energy clubs. But luckily our friends were on their way down to B@1, a bar in Soho. Perfect! Even though we got there just as it was closing (everything closes pretty early here in London), she was still happy she got that experience, even just for a little. It was a really cute little place that played good music, so I’m glad I found it. After that, we came back here and she slept for a few hours before we had to trek back to Stansted in the middle of the night/early this morning. Her flight was at 8 so she had to get there by 6ish, which means we left here about 4:30am. That means night buses for us, UGH. One thing I don’t like about London is the night buses. Sometimes a little creepy, but always looooooong rides. I went with her up to Tottenham Hale train station, but not to the airport. It was perfect, really, because I was able to get the first tube back to Oakwood from there. I treated myself to a very fresh croissant from Tesco and put myself to BED until 2. Oy, I probably screwed up my sleep schedule for tonight, but whatever.

So that’s what’s been happening here! I also learned yesterday that Daylight Savings Time is different for different countries. Call me dumb, but I didn’t know that! It’s strange because now, for the next two weeks, there’s only going to be a 4 hour time difference between London and New York, as opposed to 5. Weird! Also, yesterday was Mother’s Day here in the UK, so Mum if you’re reading this, Happy Belated (but not?) Mother’s Day! It’s also been getting a LOT nicer weather-wise; it was actually pretty sunny today! Recently, it’s been sporadically sunny while still being pretty windy; how deceiving! I can’t wait until it’s actually spring and our big, green campus is filled with dandelions and pretty-ness! 🙂 Sorry this was so long, I’ll try to post a little more frequently so I don’t have to write a novel every time. But I guess that just means I’ve been having a busy and exciting time here! I still can’t believe it’s already half-over though (or half-left, depending on how you look at it). Wonder what I’ll do next….

Paris Pictures!

I know, I know. I totally forgot to upload my pictures from Paris! Apologies, apologies (although I’m sure anyone who is friends with me on Facebook is not at all disappointed – all my pictures from the last two weeks are up there. But for those reading this who did not get to see on Facebook, here are some highlights from Paris:

Me, Melissa, and Laura outside Notre Dame

A view from inside Notre Dame

And another!

Me and the Pantheon

My creepiest photo from inside the Catacombs

Me outside the Louvre – amazing museum!!!

I got to see the Mona Lisa in person – I loved it!

One of my favorite parts of the Louvre – Napoleon’s apartments

A walk in a park in Paris – just past the Louvre


Bonjour! Je voudrais…

Hello! Apologies on slacking with my posts, I’ve just been incredibly busy! When we last left off, I was leaving for Paris. My flight took off last Thursday (18 February) at around 7pm. However, that day (and the night before) was way more stressful than just hopping on a plane:

That week was my reading week, which basically meant that there were no classes so that we could catch up on reading/work for our classes. But of course for me, that means travel time! Also, the following week my first papers were due in all of my classes. Obviously, I wasn’t about to write my papers in Paris, so that week up until Thursday was spent writing papers. And since I am the world’s biggest procrastinator (despite the fact that these papers were done 4 days before they were due), I spent the night before finishing up my last paper, and spent the morning of the 18th printing two copies of each of my three papers, handing them all in, and doing some last minute packing. It was definitely a game of beat the clock for me.

For Paris, it was me, Tara, Melissa, Laura, Aminta, Josh and James, but Tara, Melissa, and Laura got a flight on the 17th, and me, Aminta, Josh, and James were going Thursday night. The four of us grabbed food (McDonalds UGH) before heading off on the tube to the airport. It’s quite a process getting to Luton: take the tube to King’s Cross, get a train from King’s Cross to Luton, and then a shuttle from there to the airport. Okay, it seemed a lot more complicated when it was happening, but altogether I feel like it took about an hour and a half and we were all stressed about time, even though we gave ourselves more than enough time.

Fact: Security at Luton (and Charles de Gaulle on our return flight) is MUCH less intense than at JFK, or anywhere in the US for that matter. Sure, we still had to take our shoes off, but I don’t feel like that much attention was paid to what’s in our bags. For example, my friend was able to bring her razor and a big thing of shampoo on the plane with her. Also, in America our little 8 oz bottles have to be in their own individual bags, but here they can all be put together. Funny story: As if the day wasn’t stressful enough, in my hasty attempt to get myself out the door that afternoon, I threw my shampoos at the bottom of my bag and therefore had to stop on the line and dig through my bag for them, completely messing up all of my stuff. AND I had to buy ziploc baggies for £1 (total rip-off) at security.

The flight felt like it took about 5 seconds. We literally took off and then landed! Once we landed, it was the moment of truth. We had to figure out how to get to our hostel, which was apparently simple to get to. We just needed to buy a ticket. And none of us spoke/read French, which naturally made the journey even more difficult. We found a ticket place, and by our silence, the woman gathered we spoke English. She was really nice about it though, gave us all maps and told us where to go. We had to take the metro from the airport and then transfer to another line, and then it’s just one stop. Well, when we got on that metro, we realized (thankfully only one stop in) that we were going the wrong way! We got off, went two stops in the RIGHT direction, and then had to find the actual place. Let me tell you, we were staying in the armpit of Paris – of course, at only €16 a night per person, what else should I expect? But trying to find our way in a dangerous-looking part of a foreign city at 11pm was not my favorite part of the trip. Apparently we took the wrong exit out of the metro station – the other exit would’ve been 2 minutes from the place – so we actually arrived at the hostel at midnight. According to the website, check in started at 12am, so our plan was to wait til midnight to check in (we ended up not having to wait), but the guy charged us for an extra night because he said check-in began at 9am. LAME! But again, it was only an extra €16, and we were all too tired to be mad about it. We found our friends in the 13-bed room. Not the nicest room – one bathroom for potentially 13 people (there were only 7 of us most of the time), and no windows, and the bedroom door didn’t lock. I figured that’s what we were getting, and we were really only using the hostel for a place to sleep anyway, so we all dealt with the gross conditions.

(If I go into incredible detail about the whole trip I’ll be writing for the next 3 days, so I’ll shorten this part)

Friday: We went to Notre Dame first thing in the morning. WHAT A BEAUTIFUL BUILDING! And inside had so many beautiful stained glass windows. The only thing I didn’t like was that they were charging people to light candles; it made it more of a tourist spot/a way to make money than an actual church. But I wasn’t there to pray, I was there to just explore it. We wanted to go to the top, but the line was outrageous and I’m pretty sure it was going to be expensive. After Notre Dame, we headed over to the Pantheon. At the time, we didn’t realize that we could probably have gotten in for free (as students or EU “citizens” under 26), and since Tara has a British passport, she was the only one who went inside; I wasn’t really sure what the Pantheon had inside, so I wasn’t going to spend money on it. The rest of us explored the local area for a bit. Even got to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance! 🙂 After that came the Catacombs. I had heard of catacombs before, but I didn’t realize we were going to be walking past actual skulls and bones of actual dead people from Paris! Creepy! It took about an hour to walk through the whole thing, and when we got out we were in a different part of the city (they’re underground most of Paris). By the late afternoon we were exhausted, so we went back and napped, and then got ready to go out and explore at night. Not as much of a nightlife as I expected; maybe we weren’t looking in the right places.

Saturday: Another early morning, but it was time to explore the Louvre!! Mona Lisa here I come! Most of us were able to get in for free, which was awesome. Unfortunately, since it was a Saturday, Mona Lisa was hard to see. I was able to take a few pictures, but they had a rope that was pretty far from the painting. I heard that on days that aren’t busy they let you go up to it and really stare at it (and test to see if her eyes really do follow you everywhere!). Oh well. But seriously, the Louvre is ENORMOUS! We were there for about 3-4 hours and I only saw about 3/4 of it. Other than the Mona Lisa, I got to see the Code of Hammurabi and Napoleon III’s apartment (how come my apartment doesn’t look like that?!) and a load of famous sculptures like the Winged Victory, Aphrodite, and Psyche and Cupid. Even though we only did one thing really, it was a long day. After the Louvre, we met up and started walking towards the Arc de Triomphe where there was a Paul’s (delicious pastries!). I had a quiche and a macaroon (unlike the macaroons in America).

Sunday: We got a little bit of a later start than usual, but we headed over to Versailles. It took forever to get in: we tried getting in for free but since we don’t have visas except for Tara and Melissa, we had to get on another line, but when we got to the front of that line, we asked the guy about our student IDs and how we’re in the UK for 6 months and can’t we get in for free so he sent us back to the other place, but this time the line was out the door, and when we got to the front of THAT line, Aminta was the only one without her Middlesex ID, so she was going to have to pay. The woman was kind of rude to her, and she got upset, so I went to stay with her instead. I didn’t mind not seeing Versailles; I’d rather not have Aminta – the youngest of all of us – stand outside for an hour or two by herself. In the meantime, we went to find a gift for Josh who was turning 21 the next day. We had our own little adventure – I walked into a glass door and got a free Kinder bar (2 separate occasions). We ended up getting him a bottle of champagne and some Nutella (he loves Nutella; it’s not as weird as it sounds). That night, we headed over to the Eiffel Tower; Josh wanted to celebrate his birthday at midnight at the Eiffel Tower. It’s so beautiful at night. Since it was so late, we were pretty much the only people there – save a handful of guards – and it was so peaceful. While Josh popped his champagne bottle at midnight, the rest of us just sat on a bench right underneath the tower and just looked up in silence for about 20 minutes. It was so serene – favorite moment of the trip by far. It even lights up all pretty at night! 🙂

Monday: Happy Birthday Josh! Because of our late night – we didn’t get back til like 3 because we had to take a cab, which was much cheaper than I thought – we slept in til about 1 that day. We went to Sacré-Cœur and walked all the way to the top to see the sunset. Apparently, it’s known for being full of pick-pockets so we held onto our stuff for dear life, lol. Despite that, from up there, you can pretty much see all of Paris. It was an absolutely breathtaking view. Seriously. After the sunset, we went back because I had left a few things at the room and I felt uncomfortable not having them with me (one being my camera!) and then went back out to go to dinner for Josh’s birthday. Before dinner, we made a pit stop to see Moulin Rouge! We didn’t go in – it’s probably really expensive anyway – but from the outside it looked a lot different than I had imagined. Anyway, for dinner we went to this really cute area in St Michel. It was basically a really long street with dozens of little shops and restaurants that had pretty good deals on 3 course meals. The one we went to was 3 courses for €8! And the food was sooo delicious! I had the onion soup to start, fish with this really amazing sauce for the main course, and Neapolitan ice cream for dessert. Then we stumbled upon this little jazz club with live music. Josh wanted his first legal (in the US) drink, which was actually €12. Ouch. But we had a really great evening, and by Monday night we were ready to go home the next day.

Tuesday: I woke up very exhausted. We had to check out of the hostel at 9am, which meant that we had to carry around our bags all day until we left for the airport at 4pm. A) It was incredibly painful to walk around with a 10 lb bag on my back all day, and B) I was afraid we were going to stand out as tourists and get pick-pocketed or something. Tara and Laura wanted to go back to the Eiffel Tower to go to the top. Josh, Aminta, James, and I hadn’t seen the Arc de Triomph yet (we didn’t really go to it on Saturday, only saw it in the distance), and Melissa was exhausted so she came along with us too. After we saw the Arc – which took about 5 minutes – we went to relax somewhere. Stumbled upon a McDonalds (our third for the whole trip, UGH!) and went upstairs to just chill out; we were all exhausted and ready to get back to London. We spent a few hours there which I wasn’t too happy about, but at least we got to relax. I got a baguette from a shop next door, and got a hot chocolate from McCafe (mm mm mm). Eventually, we heard from Tara and Laura and met up with them at the Arcade (not an actual arcade, but a shopping center) and looked around in a few stores. Then we went wandering around Paris for a few hours. Accidentally stumbled upon the site of Princess Diana’s murder which was really sad. But on the overpass above where the accident took place, people wrote really sweet messages on the ledge. We also ran into a famous bridge (not sure of the name); the one thing I know about it is that it was featured in the last episode of Sex and the City. Regardless, it was a beautiful bridge, covered in gold with really pretty streetlamps. It was great seeing the last few sights of Paris before heading to the airport. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get any souvenirs before we left, but at that point we were all just ready to go to the airport. We had to wait a while to find out which gate we were going to, but we eventually made it (I was prepared with my liquids in a bag and with easy access to them) and had a safe and quick flight home. It was a little stressful trying to beat the clock again – we had to make the last tube AND we had to get back to Oakwood station in time for the last shuttle bus to campus. But we did it! It was nice getting back to my own room in a big, more-comfortable bed.

And thus concludes Liz’s epic adventure to Paris! Unfortunately, I hafta get back to reading so I don’t have time for pictures. But either tomorrow or Tuesday I’ll come back with pictures. Promise! (Those who are friends with me on Facebook can check out my Paris albums there in the meantime.)


Goodbye, London


So yesterday was my twentieth birthday. What a better way to celebrate it than in the theatre capital of the world? It was a quiet day, we had tea at the Orangery at Kensington Palace. Tea is quite the affair in London. A proper English tea consists of sandwiches – ours included salmon, ham, and cucumber, all with butter on them – scones with jam and clotted cream – a very soft and extremely rich butter – and, of course, tea – we drank a fine English breakfast tea. We then strolled around Kensington Gardens, a rolling expanse of verdant fields, London’s equivalent to Central Park. It was a warm afternoon, and the park was filled with people reveling in the sunshine. It was great to end the London trip on my twentieth birthday. I had the time of my life over the past few weeks, had more than one realization about my own life, and I definitely plan on coming back soon. Til then, cheers, London!

Last Class


Today, we had a class with Sharonna Sassoon, the actress who played the Royal Skivvy in the panto “Aladdin.” She is the SUNY New Paltz alum I mentioned in my previous post. Her encouraging words motivated me to become a pantomime actor in the future. She spoke about how fun and educational the style of theatre is, and her words made me fall in love with it. I have always loved comedy, theatre, and frivolity, and the way it comes together perfectly in pantomime seems to be the avenue to go down. I am having another moment of epiphany, my second of this trip, ad I want everyone to see this. I am determined to somehow introduce this marvelous style of theatre to the American culture, especially in New Paltz. Look out, New Paltz, here comes Panto!

My First Pantomime


I saw my first English pantomime show today. For those of you who, like me, had no idea what that is, it is a form of English theatre that caters towards younger audiences. It encourages audience response, and breaks every convention of theatre as we know it. The story is that of Aladdin, the poor street urchin that finds a lamp containing a wish-granting genie. The show was nothing short of hilarious. It contained a lot of child-age humor, but had serious adult overtones. To top it all off, a SUNY New Paltz graduate was in the show. Here, in the outer fringe of London theatre, is an actress holding a B.A. in Theatre Arts from SUNY New Paltz. What a small world!

National Gallery


Yesterday was quite an eventful day. We started off with class, discussing the ballet “Swan Lake.” Alex, Tony, Molly, Shari and I then proceeded to the National Gallery, to view some of the priceless collections for Andrea’s assignment. She asked us to find a piece of artwork that greatly impacts us and bring in a memento (postcard, poster, picture, etc) of the artwork to discuss in class. I found myself immediately running to the Van Gogh wing, knowing that I would be impressed by his work. Seeing his “Wheat Field with Cypresses” and “Sunflowers” was impressive, but I was not impacted by them nearly as much as I thought I would be. After the Van Gogh wing, I traipsed through to see the Seurat section of the gallery. I was immediately taken aback by his painting “Bathers at Asnieres”. What a breathtaking image. It depicted the poor class in France bathing along the Seine, looking out to the island of La Grande Jatte, where the rich would spend their weekends. Seurat’s use of pointillism creates an enormously lush atmosphere. Instead of looking at the painting, it’s almost as if you’re looking into the painting. You see beyond the borders of the image and into the world of the individuals. Seurat paints not only sight, but touch, smell, and sound. While I sat there, admiring the work, an art historian began leading a discussion about the painting, drawing people around him. He mentioned a quote that perfectly explains not only art, but also theatre: “The purpose of art is not to imitate nature, but to express it.” It’s not about what we see, but what our brains have the ability to perceive.

Hampton Court Palace


Hampton Court Palace was the summer home of King Henry VIII. Everything about the architecture and decor was incredible, down to the tapestries in the Great Hall.
Overall, the most impressive aspect of the palace was its historical re-enactors. There were five actors, playing Kateryn Parr, Kateryn’s sister, Sir Thomas Seymour, Clark Brooks, and the magisterial King Henry VIII. Their ability to improvise all of their knowledge of the 16th century into an interesting theatrical performance was flawless. One day, I hope to have an opportunity to perform in that aspect of theatre. History and performance are two of my favorite things, and the opportunity to synthesize them into a cohesive union is one I would jump at.



Last night we saw 1984 at the Battersea Arts Center. The play was directly based on the Orwell novel about dystopian life in a totalitarian society. However, it is performed as if it is the members of the “Party” retelling the horrible story of Winston Smith. The play was performed very minimalistically, with the set consisting of six movable black wall sections and a few tables and chairs. Minimalistic theatre is, in my opinion, the best. It provokes the imagination and the brain to think and create, rather than relying on spectacle to illustrate every aspect of the play. Theatre that is most memorable is that which provokes the mind to think. In my mind, theatre is not just to entertain, but to provoke thought.