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Bye Bye Miss American Pie

July 4, 2011

After our two day-trips to Oxford and Windsor and our first week in London (!!), Em, Claire, and I were EXHAUSTED- both mentally and physically. I had a nervous breakdown on the train back from Windsor when at one point, I was the epitome of “girl” and “hormones” as I was hysterically crying and laughing at the same time. But after a good–long– night’s sleep, we felt refreshed and ready to take on our Sunday. Claire and Em went to the library to write their essays for their classes, while I stayed behind and worked on my online school work for the Composition II class I’m also taking this summer at Johnson County Community College. When we felt we couldn’t focus on academics anymore, we decided to go to the British Museum and then get dinner. I ran all by myself across the Thames and through London, getting slightly lost along the way (I missed the turn onto Drury Lane. No- the Muffin Man does NOT live there. And yes, everyone really should click on the link to the Muffin Man), and successfully met up with C and E!! However, running in London really only consists of quickly dodging around people, cars, and busses. I might have to reconsider doing it again. Still, I was so proud of myself and felt wonderfully rejuvenated after my “run”. The British Museum was interesting and beautiful, but we were too antsy and hungry to stay for very long. The best part of the museum anyways, was just looking up through the glass dome and seeing the pigeons walking around. We found their peculiar way of moving around the roof very amusing for some reason, proving again my point that we find the most pleasure in watching the fauna of London. When that couldn’t hold

I have an unhealthy obsession with Chipotle

our attention for any longer, we walked to the only Chipotle in London! Might I say I was more than a little excited about this. My vegetarian burrito bowl was EXACTLY what I needed. Not only were their ingredients fresher than back home, they even let you choose between white and brown rice! I love their obsession with health. When we were done, we wandered towards SOHO and Chinatown. These were….interesting and not at all what I had imagined. Let’s just say they’re very open about sexuality in SOHO… Feeling less than comfortable, we quickly walked back home and stayed in for the rest of the night and tried to forget some of the things we saw by going to sleep early.

Today after class, Claire returned to the library. She is such a hard-working little bookworm. Emily and I, on the other hand, decided to be bad students and left her for King’s Cross Station: the rail station where Harry, Ron, and Hermione go to board the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 3/4. We took a ridiculous amount of pictures and then got lost for 2 hours before finally finding our way back home.

Just going to Hogwarts, No big deal...

Today is also the FOURTH OF JULY! Somehow, I feel slightly traitorous being in this country today. Or at the very least disappointed that there won’t be fireworks and barbecues. Instead, we went out for a dinner of hamburgers and french fries. Then we did the most American college girl thing we could think of and went to the liquor store, loaded up on alcohol (fruity, girly drinks of course) and snacks, and drank and played card games in the dorm. I made a youtube montage of firework shows and a playlist of American-y songs (American Pie, God Bless the USA, Fireworks, Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, and God Bless America) and we watched our own little digital

Our "faux-th" of July

fireworks show in my kitchen. We turned the lights off and pretended we were back home for half an hour. Although we all enjoyed the show, it enevitably made us all home sick. I never thought I’d say this, but I actually miss America. Europe’s been amazing, but I miss toilets that actually flush, cars that will wait for you to cross the road and not try to hit you, and of course my Layla Bear Chen….and my parents and my sister. Of course. Because they are my actual human family and Layla’s “just a dog”…

Ducks Don’t Have Eyes…. But Swans Do!

July 2, 2011

Yesterday, Claire, Em, Bailey A, Lauren S, Emily J, and I went on a day trip to Oxford!! We took a bus–worst decision EVER. I was car sick the ENTIRE way and on the brink of vom[it]ing, but at long last we arrived in this quaint little college town. First we had to settle my stomach so we went to “Cafe Loco”and had a delicious brunch of waffles, paninis, and croissants.

we are geese sheperds

After we had our fill, we wandered towards Christ Church College— the college where Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderlan and also houses the Great Hall that appears in the first few Harry Potter movies. However, since the hall didn’t open for visitors until later in the afternoon, we decided to mosy around the grounds. We saw a little, brown shack that we deemed fit as Hagrid’s hut and a strange, knotty tree that we declared the original Whomping Willow.  We also found a few ox (very fitting considering we were in Oxford), the CUTEST little squirrel (the first I’ve seen in England), and an enormous flock of geese/ducks (which we chased). I even got bit by one of the Mallards. No, it didn’t hurt. Yes, we all screamed anyways. Finally, we journeyed back towards the college and explored the cathedral and the hall. We felt like we were in Hogwarts! When we were finished exploring, we made our way towards the shopping area and I bought an Oxford sweatshirt. Since we couldn’t decide what to do after that, we asked if we could take an earlier bus back to London. A nasty exchange ensued between Claire and the Evil Bus Man, but in the end we were forced to stay until the time on our ticket so we waited a while at a cafe and then lounged in a bookstore. Three hours later, we were on the bus back to Lambeth. On the brink of collapse, we straggled into bed.

Not enough time later, Claire, Em, and I dragged our sore, sleepy butts out of bed to continue our England Adventures and took the train to Windsor to visit the Queen’s home and see the changing of the guards. When we got there and realized everything costs money (that we don’t have), all we saw was the outside of the castle and the small parade of the guards going into the castle to “change”. Dissatisfied with this experience

our future residence

and starving, we ate lunch at Thai Terrace and then decided to go down to the Thames and feed the swans. Best. Decision. Ever. Looking back at the past two days, I’m pretty sure we had the most fun messing around with animals–which costs us no money. Then we went on a 40 minute boat ride down the river, which lulled us to a hazy, sleepy state. We got a quick energy boost in the form of cupcakes, chocolate croissants, and lattes. When we felt rejuvenated enough to walk, we went back to the train station and took the earliest train back to Lambeth. Now we’re enjoying a well deserved rest from vacation until tomorrow when the adventures begin again!

I See London, I See Frands

June 30, 2011

Yesterday after class, Claire, Em, and I decided to explore London’s South Bank. Our goal was to hit 4 spots off our list of places to

No death eaters for this muggle.

go/things to do. This spontaneous adventure ended up as a 5 hour long walk. We walked down Lambeth Road past the London Eye and enjoyed the river walk along the Thames. We saw street performers (including an African acrobat group, human statues, and caricature artists), wandered through side streets full of little shops and restaurants, and enjoyed the view across the river.  We strolled along until we came to the Tate Modern and crossed the Thames on the Millennium Bridge— yes, that’s the bridge that the death eaters destroy at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. However, unluckily for this HP fan, there were no death eaters in sight. In fact, the weather was absolutely PERFECT and free of any sign of the Dark Lord. Crossing the bridge, we came upon St. Paul’s Cathedral and happened upon an infamous red telephone booth. Rapid picture taking ensued and when we were finally satisfied with our shots, we kept journeying along the North Bank in order to get to The London Tower Bridge. On our way there, we found a street piano that anyone could play on on a pier. That’s definitely not a sight you’d see in Manhattan, KS. We finally got to the bridge

i have no words.

and quickly crossed it as by this time our feet felt as though they were about to blister off. Unable to keep walking, we decided to take our first bus ride! Excited yet slightly nervous, we boarded the bus (not a double decker, but still cool!) and found ourselves back at our residence hall. After a quick homemade dinner of mustard and ham on wheat bread for Claire and Em and pasta and vegetables for myself, I went on my FIRST LONDON RUN (!!) with Baiely A. I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast continously for over 3 miles before, but since it was already dark and we were running down deserted, unfamiliar streets, adrenaline kicked in. Unfortunately, we got lost and had to ask a patron at a nearby pub how to get home. An old, Irish, and most likely drunk woman gave us directions and yelled encouragements like “Just keep going!” as we ran away. As we rounded the corner and saw our dorms, we breathed a sigh of relief, but I’m now determined never to be lost at night in London again.

Our New British Boyfriend

Today, I went on a field trip with my Shakespeare class– yes, i’m actually learning here!!– and we went to the Globe Theatre to watch a production of Marlowe’s Dr. Faustuss. It was the most awkward, random play i’ve ever seen. There were half naked people, a super strange musical number with dancing, scary red demon dolls, and even a horrendously violent scene involving the grotesque removal of someone’s tongue. Afterwards, I went to dinner with the study abroad girls at this restaurant called “Giraffe” which serves world cuisine. My meal consisted of a fabulous salad with roasted potato, beets, edamame, sprouts, spinach, carrots, broccoli, and chick peas in a light, orange dressing. After din din, we all walked across the Thames River on the Westminster Bridge to meet up with our study abroad advisors, Karen and Rachel. They took us to a musical called “Dreamboats and Petticoats“. It is now probably my FAVORITE musical. hands down. We even ended up joining in dancing with the cast in their ending number. The audience went wild!! And to those familiar with K-State, Claire, Em, and I did the Wabash Cannonball. After the show, we mosied around to the back stage door in order to meet the lead– and super cute– actor who we just referred to as “Bobby”, his character’s name. We ended up getting a picture with him! He’s my new British Boy Crush. When we were content with our pictures with him, we walked back to The Horse, the pub we went to on our first night in Lambeth, and ordered two pitchers of Pimm’s. It was a great end to a great day!

Heartbreak in London

June 28, 2011

I experienced the break up of the century today. But before I make you all depressed by my heartache, let me begin with some happier stories (I wrote these last night when I was in a good mood. You will notice the change of tone soon.)

Pre- heartbreak:

Fish and Chips and Girlz

The best part of a meal? The conversation! We’ve been enjoying our fellow study abroad-ers’ company so much! Shout out to Lauren Z, Lauren S, Emily J, Megan T, and crazy Bailey A! We had the best dinner and many of their first taste of London Fish and Chips last night at a pub called The Crown. The night was unforgettable; the food was delcious, but the conversation, priceless. Our dinner ranged from Bailey’s fishing story involving a stunned, exposed fish told from the fish’s pov to Lauren S cutting spilled sugar like it was cocaine. Our fish and chips adventure ended by asking the disgruntled waitress to take our picture outside in front of the sign. Her annoyance is evident in the pictures she took.

And tonight for dinner, we had Pizza Express, London’s most popular pizza chain. It was DELICIOUS. While we have crappy Pizza Hut in America, they have a wonderfully classy and elegant establishment that serves more than average food for a very decent price. We started the meal with their “famous dough balls”

NOM

served with this amazing garlic butter. When they tried to take away the butter with our empty dish, we asked to keep it so we could dip our crust in it later. They gave us a knowing, bemused smile; we are crazy American’s obsessed with butter after all.  When our pizza came– and in Claire’s

Mouth-gasm

case, her pesto chicken pasta– we were extremely satisfied. Pizza Hut ain’t got nothin’ on Pizza Express. Finally, we ordered gelato and Bailey’s lattes for dessert. One word: NOM.

Post Hearbreak:

And now to the gut-wrenching, tears-inducing, cringe-worthy story of the shattering of what little heart I had to begin with. As many of you know, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II is coming out on July 15. I have had a countdown going for this EPIC event since the last movie came out. Part of why I chose to come to London was to be able to go to the midnight premiere in the home of HP. But it was not to be. Damn the European method of telling time– 12:00 here DOES NOT mean midnight.

Pre Break Up: We were so happy together then....

Alas, this dumb Amurrican forgot where she was and bought all the tickets (9 total for all of us study abroad-ers!!) for the noon showing on the 15th. All I can say about the successive moments after I realized my horrendous mistake is that it felt like the worst break up of my life. After all, I was being dumped by not just 1 guy but dozens: Harry, Ron, Neville, Draco, Fred, George, and many, many more–yes, that even includes Voldemort and a couple girls: Hermione, Ginny, Luna…. Not only did I feel like I was about to throw up, I definitely shed a few tears for my loss. Never will I be able to say that I went to the last midnight premiere of Harry Potter. Never will I feel that sense of accomplishment. Never will I be able to happily look back at my time in London and feel completely content with my experience. Even as I write this post, I can feel a hollowness in my heart and an emptiness in my soul. I believe this is what a Dementor’s kiss must feel like. My only question now is: where is my Patronus?!?! (which btw comes in the form of a german shepherd…named Layla Bear).

Back to School, Back to School, to Prove to Dad I’m Not a Fool

June 27, 2011

First Day of Kindergarten!

Today was our first day of school! It was exciting, but also a little scary. After a not so perfect start (I woke up fifteen minutes before everyone was meeting), we successfully managed to take the tube all by ourselves to the meeting place in the city for orientation. It was a SUPER hot day (sun+ smog+ swarms of people= death) so we were happy to finally arrive at the University of Westminster‘s library where we would meet our student advisors for a brief session about our new school. We got our student IDs and then went to lunch that they provided in their campus cafe called “The Deep End” (it’s located in their old swimming pool).  We ate platters of sandwiches of ambiguous and slightly questionable origin, kabobs, and fruit. There was also a pretty delicious looking male student advisor named Mike. After lunch, he led us to our classes past Ogle Street. Pretty appropriate considering… ;D  After class we went SHOPPING (!!) with two of the girls from our program, Lauren and Emily. We shopped ’til we literally dropped at TopShop (their version of Forever 21) and Argos (their version of Target/IKEA). Now we’re off to our first round of FISH AND CHIPS! or in my case, chips and chips.

Ice Water: An American Thing?

June 26, 2011

Big ass pizza!!

We girlz beg this question after our unassuming first solo meal in London. We went to a nice little Italian “ristorante” called Lulivo near our hotel and began our eating-out-in-london etiquette lessons. First, water–much less ice water– is not a given. Nor are refills. If you ask for such blasphemous requests, you will be quickly scoffed at. In the words of our waiter: “States people always drink water”. And here I was thinking that the rest of the world enjoys a thirst quenching, ice-cold glass of water. Second, EVERYTHING– yes, even pizza, is eaten with a knife and fork. This increases the difficulty level and success of getting the food from the plate to your mouth to about IMPOSSIBLE. Third, you can sit in a restaurant until your butt is sore, but the bill will never arrive unless you ask for it. We probably sat in this restaurant, half passed out from our lack of sleep and half passed out from our finally full bellies, for over 30 minutes. Not until a passing waitress caught our uneasy, questioning glances did she ask if we needed something.

"Wait...we're getting a pitcher of PIMPS?!" "No Claire, PIMMS. Not PIMPS."

The next night for dinner, we girlz and three of our study abroad friends decided to explore the neighborhood around our accommodations. We found this adorable little bistro called the Grand Union with an amazing rooftop patio. We ordered a pitcher of Pimm’s cocktails and ate ourselves silly with “chips”, burgers, pizza, and salad. It was DELICIOUS.

And finally, today, for a “traditional British Sunday brunch”, our study abroad advisor took us all out to a local pub/restaurant called “The Three Stags“. We all enjoyed a traditional “roast” and amazing desserts.

Picture this degree of yumminess in male form and you'll have the waiter.

PLUS, there was a wonderfully delicious looking waiter, all dark and tan and rugged with piercing blue eyes. Forget appetizers. I’d like an order of him.

From the Little Apple to Big Ben

June 26, 2011

Our Airport Reunion: Joyce is excited, but Claire and Emily are sad about their luggage

‘ello!  We’re officially reporting from LONDON! Here’s a breakdown of what’s happened in the past 72-ish hours.

Joyce: I left O-town for L-town after I went on a walk with my parents and Layla for the last time, said a tearful farewell to my dog-ter, and ate my last bowl of (American) Chipotle. Then I spent the next few hours on a hellish voyage to England. I think I’m allergic to planes. Planes= sneezing fits and zits. But it was all worth it when I finally looked out my window and saw ENGLAND(!!): home of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and JK Rowling. Maybe under this hard, blunt exterior, I’m actually a romantic at heart. I started tearing up when I realized I was in the land of the world’s best romances: Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, and Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. ❤ On arrival, I had a super exciting reunion with Claire and Emily (but not really thanks to my super janky luggage trolley which I ran into about 6 walls…) After MUCH confusion concerning lost baggage, mixed up terminals, and a late bus, we finally met all of our fellow study abroad-ers who are super cute and super sweet. We’ve already seen so much including Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, and even took a ride on the London Eye! Now that we’re all settled into our “halls of residence” and loving our new life in London!!

Our first pub experience!

Emily: I guess you could say our trip across the pond was a little less than ideal. 

 The evening before I flew out Claire and I made a completely necessary trip to Chipotle for our Last Supper.  My last night in America was spent in Manhattan with my roommates and it was glorious.  The next day was slightly different.  Between Claire and me we had a broken zipper, a dysfunctional suitcase handle and a temporarily lost phone from the time we walked out the door and to the car.

 Our flight to Chicago was fine.  Once we landed, however, finding Terminal 5 was pretty confusing.  We had to check into Virgin Atlantic in the International Terminal and go through all that security nonsense again.  Although the flight to London was 8 hours, it really didn’t feel like it.  Maybe it was the fact that as soon as we walked onto the plane it felt like a party?  The seats were red, they were playing popular music over the speakers and everyone just seemed happy to go to London.  Despite what everyone says about airplane food, it was delicious and they even gave us coffee, toothbrushes and socks.

 There is a lot of boring stuff after that I’m sure you don’t really care about.  Virgin Atlantic lost Claire’s and my luggage.  Awesome right?  Of all the times we could lose our luggage it would be in Europe. So, the only reasonable solution would be to drink away our sorrows.  Which is what we did (but not really) at the Sherlock Holmes Pub near our hotel.  Two days later we finally have our clothes back.  Of course they delivered it to the hotel instead of our dorms, which made for an exciting tube and taxi (our first of both) adventure with Claire and Joyce. I’m excited to be clean tomorrow.

Our new London boyfrand? I think yes!

 I’ve done A LOT of tourist things the past few days, but as much as I enjoyed those, I’m excited to do things on my own and not with a group.  I want to see things on my own time and be able to enjoy things and pretend that I’m a local.

Claire: Ditto. (Claire has no original thoughts whatsoever. Sorry guys. -Joyce)