Saturday, June 18, 2005

All Good Things...

Well here I am. Sitting at the college. Writing in my blog for the last time on the east side of the Atlantic. Very serene. I think this must be the most gorgeous day of my entire stay... it is perfect out there... no clouds-- an extremely rare occurence in London! I just had to walk through the park today and it was picture perfect!

The apartment seemed so lonely when Matt and Andrew left singing opera, still drunk probably, at 7 AM. Even though I hardly got any sleep last night I still couldn't go back to sleep for a while... I just sat at the window with the beautiful view and reminisced about old... well not so old memories... remembering that where I was sitting once held the most magnificent beer wall ever created by man tragically unphotographed before the maids got to it.

Last night, I never guessed Matt and Andrew would get crazy the night before an early-morning flight but this is Matt and Andrew we are talking about. While I was on the phone they each bought a bottle of wine and headed up to Primrose Hill for the sunset. I could hear them clear down the street coming back 2 hours later singing opera... their latest thing. But they didn't come home to go to bed... they came home to buy two more bottles of wine and off they were again back to the hill. I missed this trip out as well because when it was time to go I had misplaced my wallet. When I shouted out the window at them. "Wait! I have to find my wallet!" I suppose in their drunkenness they heard "Go on ahead. I'm not coming!" and took off. At least I wasn't going to be ruining any more pants.

They returned at about 2 AM singing opera once again and keeping me up with their antics before finally crashing late into the night. They made me the official morning getter upper since I had the cell phone alarm clock and therefore ALL THE POWER! And believe me, without me these guys would have been completely screwed. When I woke up at 7 AM they weren't just sleeping like logs, I actually mistaked them for logs! Well... snoring logs anyways. I had to start singing opera just to get them to acknowledge me.

They continued to sing their made up opera through each other's showers and finally we had to say our goodbyes. We exchanged phone numbers. Matt says he is friends with the owners of most of the clubs in Salt Lake and we are going to get all the guys back together and do some partying back in SLC!

They say everyone has a certain talent in life. For some it isn't at all obvious what it is. For Matt it is obvious what it is. Matt's talent is partying and he is the best at it I've ever seen. :b I'll miss him as he is truly the life of any party.

So like I said it feels very wierd being in the apartment now. The quietness is absolutely deafening! It tells me that I am finally ready to come home.

This has simply been the most fantistic trip I've ever been a part of and it is something I shall never forget. And I am so glad I wrote this blog because it will help me remember it forever! Without it all those great memories would be devoured over time. Invaluable memories like the time Matt and I walked all the way across London for 4 hours after a night of clubbing and asked every single person on the way where to go. Or the time Matt and I tackled each other over and over all the way down Primrose Hill. Or the time Matt and I went to Abbey Road drunk and threw a sponge ball at passing cars. Or the second time Matt and I went to Abbey Road and threw a sponge balls at passing cars and learned to never throw sponge balls at passing cars again. Okay yeah and all the sights and stuff too. :b

When I look at the prices for these Study Abroad trips I never really thought it was worth all that money just to live and go to school in another place for a semester. But you really aren't paying just for accomodations or tuition or food. You're paying for a new viewpoint on life and the world and what it has to offer. And your paying for a wonderful bonding experience that only being thrown together in a foreign place can bring. Your paying for so much that the fee seems quite affordable in the end. And as a bonus, at the end of a trip like this, you get a bit homesick and remember how much you appreciate home and everyone back there.

I hope everyone has enjoyed reading the blog! The comments have really made me feel like I could be both away and home at the same time. I bet all the other people who didn't do blogs got a lot more homesick than I did! The Internet is a great thing Grandma and Grandpa!

I'll really miss London and all the wonderful people I've met and friends I've made and I'll really miss writing about it. This is the first time I've ever made a real journal of my travels anywhere (indeed I haven't had any trips so worth mentioning). But my mom did it for her great adventure over here and it was a very enjoyable read (if you haven't read it don't look in the bookstore-- it must be bought directly from the author) so she inspired me to do it as well. I hope there are many great adventures over here to write about in the future as well.

I'm going to spend my last afternoon shopping and hitting my favorite sights one last time. I must pay one more visit to the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and Parliament. I want to get to bed early tonight as I need to walk all the way to Paddington Station with my luggage in the morning to catch the Heathrow Express. I'm also going to have a long day in NYC tomorrow which I'm sure I'll want to write about here when I get home. I'll probably have about 5 or so hours to spend touring and I really want to hit Times Square, Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, Central Park, and perhaps Broadway if I have time. Hurray for 8 hour layovers! The funny thing is that I will be leaving late in the morning, flying for 6 hours to New York, spending 8 hours in New York, flying another 5 or so hours to SLC and STILL getting back at a reasonable hour of about 12:30 AM. Gotta love time zones! :b

Regents College and London I will miss you!

Friday, June 17, 2005

The end is near.

The National Portrait Gallery yesterday was great! Walking through it was like taking a history course and putting faces to all the names of the most famous figures in history was fascinating. Even 5 weeks in London just isn't enough for all there is to see.

Dinner last night was wonderful! As Grandpa would say the restaurant, called Cafe Raj, was "way out in the boondocks" but the food was truly authentic. All us guys started drinking beforehand and were pretty goofy when we got there. Our took up the entire top floor of this two-story resteraunt. I ordered the most expensive starter and course on the menu, this being free of charge, and wasn't at all disappointed with my Prawn Butterfly Duli and my Meat Thali. Very very good everything. My expensive course included a sampling of tons of different meats. We kept on sending beers over to the professors' table and telling the waiters to point to us as the generous buyers. After 3 beers, they began sending them back.

We all toasted to a great class and said our sad goodbyes to faces we might never see again. Goodbyes are always the worst part of any trip.

So Mark, Matt, Andrew, Fred, Carli, Beth, and I all headed back to the flat and I had to lay down for a while due to an upset tummy. I ate way too much food. The guys kept on taking their vodka shots and were one last time running around like animals. I'm gonna miss all their antics I think. As a final blowout, when Andrew headed down to the NYC girls' apartment below us, Mark and Matt grabbed a big bottle of vegetable oil and poured a bunch over the floor outside their door. On the way back up the elevator they spilled a bunch in there too and spent the ride sliding around like Michelle Kwan. As they got back to the apartment, Andrew came out of the room downstairs and nearly did a face plant. Not wanting to face broken backs and law suits we all went down to put towels over the affected areas.

But the night was not over yet. After a small meeting and discussion on the course the night should take, we all decided to walk to Primrose Hill for a wonderful night view of the London Cityscape. This is the place to be in London at night! It is breathtaking to see the entire London city, Big Ben, London Eye, St. Pauls, etc. all lit up with magnificent colors and all in one view. Mark hauled his guitar all the way up there and started playing us tunes as we sat on the soft grass staring across the city. I layed down still a bit sick staring at the stars (which you can see very well here). I noticed clouds move so incredibly fast here! I was ready to fall asleep when something slapped my leg. Matt was hitting me with a sandal. It was on! With a grunt I got up and tackled him down the hillside. We rolled a long ways. When everyone else got in on the action we had chaos! Rolling bodies everywhere! It was a brawl! After several minutes of ruining our pants, we were all exhausted and my cards had all flown out of my safety wallet up the hill. I gathered everything back up EXCEPT my Regents College Student card disappeared! I searched the hillside for a good 5 minutes but found nothing. However, I was extremely lucky about this. This is one of the only cards in my wallet I would have no need for after the trip. However this means I will no longer be able to get into the college library to upload my pics. Sorry everybody... :( But I've got to have something to show when I get home right?

We headed back to the flats very late and said our goodbyes to Fred who had to get up and leave for the airport in about 1 hour! Good ol' Fred... I related to him most of all.

Woke up late of course and, after finding out it was okay to stay in my apartment the night of checkout, I took off to the hotel in a panic to cancel the reservation and save some big bucks. I made it just in time 5 minutes before their 24 hour no cancellation policy took effect. Lucky break.

Instead, I can use that money to take a taxi into the Big Apple on Sunday during my long long 8 hour layover! This is a dream come true... London and NYC for the first time in the same trip! What's better than that? I can't wait.

Today and tomorrow will be a combination of relaxation and sightseeing. I want to make the best of the time I still have. I'm missing everyone and it won't be long until I get to see you all again!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Oy!!!

Picture update.

Let me just say that lady luck has not been with us these past couple days and for that reason they have been LAME! Well not too lame because nothing is too lame in London but slightly lame because I've gotten very little accomplished.

Tuesday when I headed back to the flats, Mark and Andrew were headed to the Freud Museum which is something I really wanted to see because let's face it... this guy was pretty incredible. So I ditched my own plans and headed out with them. First, let me say that the Freud House/Museum is NOT easy to find. In fact, I can't think of a museum more difficult, especially since this part of London isn't on our A-Z street maps. You exit the Finchley Road Station and a single sign points you in the general direction you should be headed. So off you go skipping along down the street but little do you know you aren't even on the same street and there will be no more signs pointing you there.

So finding this place was just a mess and we went way way past the turnoff. Eventually, we realized we were eventually going to end up at the opposite end of the map so we backtracked and asked around, finding it hadn't been that far from the Tube station all along, except that we were supposed to take a long sloped alley way up to the actual neighborhood. So up we go. This place sure doesn't have a lot of build-up to it as we were walking through a normal, cozy neighborhood with residents doing their own thing-- walking the dog, chatting up the neighbors, etc. Finally we reach the humble abode and what do we see posted on the sign hanging over the locked door? Freud Museum- Wed. - Sun. That's always a nice thing to find out before you've spent 1+ hours tracking around to find a place. What kind of museum is open Sunday but not Tuesday anyway? We snap a few outside shots and back to the flats we go, grumpy as hell.

Oh well, I say to myself. At least we're going to party tonight! For sure! The guys have been talking all day about going clubbing tonight! I get all dressed and ready to go and I watch some tv with the guys sipping on a beer waiting for the time to come. An hour passes. Another. It's 10:00. Matt is falling asleep and Mark is on the verge of it. Andrew went down to visit with his girlfriends from New York a while ago and never returned. Fred is sucking on anti-congestents and finally asks "Are we going out tonight cause I'm not feeling that great?" Both Matt and Mark just shrug and say "Nah... I'm tired." My heart sinks... night over. I head to the bedroom, get into my pajamas, brush my teeth, take out the contacts, and hop into bed. I'm there maybe 5 minutes when Andrew bursts in telling me us and the girls are all going out and I'd better come now if I want to go. I've never groaned louder. I beat my head against the pillow a couple times and accepted the day as a total loss. It's kind of tragic really.

So yesterday... the last day in the classroom. Last times for everything are always hard aren't they? Well except last time for having heart surgery or something I suppose. After a lengthy discussion of Oscar Wilde's "Salome," the last part of the class was open for comments about the trip. Some complained about the excursions or the meal plan or the apartments but me... I have no complaints. This has been an experience to really treasure forever.

Our excursion of the day shortly afterwards led us on both a Tube and busride to the studio of a contemporary photographic artist interested in exploring the boundaries between art and pornography. As a result she uses A LOT of nude pictures of her and others in her art along with mirrors. The guys in the group didn't have too much trouble staying awake for this one. :b

Last night was even more of a disappointment than Tuesday because the last class was over and a HUMONGOUS party was expected! It was gonna be intense! But because Mark had is girly friend over and Matt and Fred both had some kind of flue and Andrew was once again downstairs and, for certain reasons which I won't go into all the girls in our group are no longer particularly fond of partying with the guys, the night's highlight was watching Under Siege 2: Dark Territory. lame Lame LAME! This trip is becoming anti-climactic!

Today is the class' last excursion which is to the National Portrait Gallery and tonight is the class' final dinner together at an Indian Restaraunt called Cafe Raj. It's nice to have a free dinner to send us off. People are already starting to leave and I can feel the end close at hand. If the guys don't do SOMETHING tonight, I will go out on my own and check out sights under the moonlight. I hear great things about the Tower Bridge at night.

I realized I am the last guy leaving because Mark and Fred take off tomorrow morning and Matt and Andrew Saturday morning before dawn. That means I will be the last one to check out and everyone in our flat has broken at least something. Mark broke the glass making up part of the table. Matt broke a spatula. Fred broke a glass. Andrew ripped a bunch of towels apart in his drunken exploits. Yes even yours truly broke a shelf in the fridge. I just hope I don't get blamed for our trashed place... that is all.

My mom (who is obviously the best one in the world) was great enough to set me up in a hotel Saturday night. So at least I will go out in style before my flight Sunday. I've said all I have to say for now. I'll be sure to take some less boring pictures today! A big HALLOA to everyone and I'll be seeing you all again soon!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

War is Bloody Bloody!

Realization is setting in. I have one more day of class. That's it... all she wrote.

Today's class was quite a mental workout. We were to form groups of 5 to discuss the readings and prepare a presentation. I was with the guys. Guess how many of them did the readings? 1. Guess who that 1 was? Me! So basically I had to prepare an entire presentation by myself while they goofed off. That was real fun... but no I'm not bitter. Grrrrr!

Yesterday, Mark and Andrew and I headed to the National Army Museum after class. Whereas the Imperial War Museum covered World War 1 and forward, this one covered everything back to the 14oos! It was so fascinating! Medieval warfare is so dramatic! It is hard to believe there was a day when wars were settled by thousands of men decked out in incredibly burdonsome armor standing toe to toe with their swords, spears, etc. No tanks, no bombers, no missiles. Just trading blow for blow on the battlefield until one side or the other was the only one left standing. It was also so incredibly bloody.

It was awesome to read about how weapons that seem so primitive to the modern mad revolutionized fighting back in the day. The bow was one of these revolutionary advances. Archers had to be trained for years to be effective with this incredibly difficult weapon. But it paid off. I read about a very early medieval battle in a time which the bow was just beginning to be put to use in which only 6,000 foot soldiers and 5,000 archers were able to completely overwhelm an army of over 30,000 foot soldiers with minimal losses due to the invention of this most deadly instrument of warfare that finally made it possible to kill without closing a gap.

A bit later, the rifleman became the new archer and rifleman and pikemen would be paired together during war to create a unit nearly invincible to foot soldiers and horsemen. The pikeman would lean at the archer's feet and stick that tremendously long pike out towards any incoming assailents while the rifleman picked off anything that approached.

This museum displayed how warfare changed through the centuries with a lot of hands on demonstrations. For instance, I could pick up a cannonball and gasp at its density and how screwed a soldier would be should it smack him right in the chest. I also picked up a suit of chainmail armor to get a feel for how heavy it would be to wear this 70 lb piece of clothing. Men of the day must have gotten into great shape hiking around with this stuff on all day. I even tried on a medieval helmet! It was very awkward!

But no descriptions do justice to the gigantic real-life paintings depicting these bloody battles. Wars in this day and age were just utter chaos. I didn't realize just how long the struggle between Britain and France went on for. These two nations fought so many battles and wars against each other throughout the centuries that it is amazing neither ever conquered the other decisively.

It was very funny how this museum was naturally biased towards British pride. Despite the fact that the Revolutionary War was one of the most important in history, there is very little information about it to be found in this museum as it is a very big embarrasment to the Brits who were beaten against all odds by these puny American upstarts. And we always joke about how we always save France's ass in times of war but in this particular war, they saved ours. If Britain hadn't been in its own intense war against France and was able to focus on America, we wouldn't have had a chance to defeat them and gain independence. Like Hitler winning WW2, this is kind of a scary thought. We could all be a part of Britain right now, saying to each other "Mind the Gap" as we pass in and out of the subways.

There was a particular bloody battle in which Britain and France made an unlikely alliance to push the Russians away from the black sea in the early 1800s in which I was touched by the heroicism of the Brits when a large unit of light cavalry misunderstood an order from their commander that was telling them to attack a retreating group of Russian infantry at the rear of the battle. Instead they thought they were to attack the main forces at the front line and, without questioning these orders, they charged forward to their deaths in the name of loyalty. A tragic painting depicted the unit being slaughtered by the overwhelming force yet never waivering and I thought it was really cool to see such an insignificant detail being honored due to the unbelievable bravery being demonstrated.

Like at the Imperial War Museum, we ran out of time and were kicked out of the building before we were ready to leave. Last night, Matt and Fred came "home" from Dublin very late and once again I must share my room. Nevertheless I was happy to see them return so that the guys may be united once again for our precious last days. Matt's eye is recovering nicely but he still has a "scab of honor" marking his battle against the infamous attacker.

Tonight is Joey's last night and we are celebrating in our apartment. In the meantime, I have only a limited number of things left on my "essential sites to visit" list and I can knock a bunch off today by heading to the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, and Royal Albert Hall, which are all clustered around the same area. I also have a paper to write tonight so a busy night indeed and I should get started soon.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Clothing Optional In Hyde Park!

New Hyde Park pictures in the gallery! http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/lucky_luke1202/album?.dir=/a1f2&urlhint=actn,ren%3as,13%3af,0

My jaunt yesterday through Hyde Park was very pleasant even though it was kind of a "cucky" day. I began at the northwest corner near Notting Hill and walked to the southeast corner and it probably took about an hour. Yes... it is a humongous park! The plaza at the north entrance is very cool with its assortment of fountains. Eventually I came to the Serpantine, a lake filled with people boating and hordes of birds. The long grassy expanses make this a perfect place to have a picnic.

I was determined to see the fabled Peter Pan monument which someone from the group told me was hidden in a "secret place." It was indeed hidden by a legion of kids crawling all over it, but I never knew being right beside a large walkway surrounded by signs pointing the way could be considered a "secret place." Disappointed, I moved on and found that my overestimation of the Peter Pan monument was balanced out by my underestimation of the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. This cool fountain formed a huge circular river with a multitude of waterfalls and cool water effects created from varying speeds. Resisting the urge to bob my feet in the cool water with everyone else, I moved on and saw a nice lakeside restaraunt that people who aren't impoverished students can probably afford to eat at.

A little further on was the Holocaust Gardens. Like the Queens Gardens in Regents Park, a huge amount of flowers filled a small area intersperced with pleasant fountains and statues. It's kind of ironic that this place is in memory of the Holocaust yet is anything but a reminder of those horrors.

Moving further on to a broad walkway, I saw the greatest thing ever! Naked people riding their bicycles all over, stopping to chat with shocked passerbys. Why were they naked? I don't know. Why were they riding bicycles? I don't know. Why were they riding bicycles around the park naked? I don't know anything! Don't ask me okay!

But so fascinated was I with this most un-Utah-like sight that I and many other gawking people followed them around like a cat chasing yarn snapping pictures like the papperazi as if this shocking occurence had never happened before and would never be repeated. After all, I don't see naked bicycle riding catching on in the US anytime soon. Unfortunately most of those pictures obviously aren't suitable for the family... sorry. The one I put in the photo gallery is explicit enough. :b Like I said, you never know what to expect in London.

The southeast corner of Hyde is really cool with the Roman pillars and giant statues. It was getting late and I caught a bus near here. I love the double decker buses! I sat at the very front of the bus on the top level and had a nice big window so that I had a great high up view and it felt like I was driving through these crazy streets. I wouldn't mind hopping on one of these buses and just riding through the city like this for hours, but perhaps I'm easily entertained.

Last night a guy from upstairs and 3 girls from downstairs came to the flat and all of us drank together. Then we decided to go to a dance club so we headed to Soho. But the streets and clubs were so packed that entrance fees into the clubs were through the roof. So when everyone started heading into a 15 pound club (!) I decided to pass and head home... it was just too expensive to be worth it to me. I got home remarkably smoothly... simply had to jump on a nearby night bus at Piccadilly which dropped me off very close to the apartment. So yes the night was a bust for me but since this is our last week, we are all going to be partying our asses off no doubt.

Today is study day and thats probably for the best because it is pretty icky weather out there. Once again it was nice in the morning so I threw on a tee shirt to come to the college and now it is on the verge of raining. :( I have a paper to write and then a lot of material to read for the last *sniff sniff* week of class. I can't believe we're already down to the last week. Like I've always said... the best times are always the ones that go by the fastest...

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Regents Refectory! I love you endlessly!

Yet another picture update today. Including the much anticipated photos of the Red House Red Kitty! http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/lucky_luke1202/album?.dir=/a1f2&urlhint=actn,ren%3as,13%3af,0

Well I don't have much to add today. Last night was Michelle's birthday and to celebrate she wanted to go to... get this... Star Wars! The 3rd time is even better than the 2nd time! ;) So then I headed home and watched some television with Mark and Carli. A friday night without drinking... what a concept! I was up so late that I slept in and got a late start to the day. This had a bit to do with the Tube being closed for the weekend, forcing me to *gasp* walk to the college. But while I was walking, I saw the coolest thing. Suddently this army of soldiers on horseback come galloping down the street. I just had time to take out the camera and snap a shot which you can check out now. You never know what to expect in this city. And that includes the weather department. London weather is bloody bizarre. Every morning you wake up to a crystal clear cloudless day so you put on all your outdoor gear and take off and sure enough, skies are completely downcast overhead in no time.

My lunch today from the Refectory (college cafeteria) was incredible. It was this perfect chicken breast with spicy vegetable rice and a big side of broccoli. But the sauce on the chicken and rice blew me away! Must... find... out... recipe...

I'm telling ya, this Refectory has saved my butt in the cash department. We were given a 100 pound credit on our student card and with their large proportions for good prices, one early meal a day there has kept my belly satisfied until dinner. I'm down to 2 pounds on my card so I'm going to have to start dishing out my own dough this week, but that along with the unlimited Tube pass have been the greatest pluses of this trip.

Andrew comes back tonight and I'm guessing the three of us are going to... uh... party maybe? My last Saturday in the flat... *sniff sniff* But first I'd like to at least go check out Hyde Park. XOXO to everyone! Over and out.

Friday, June 10, 2005

And then there were 2!

It's been very very nice having only 1 other person in the flat. Things are so peaceful!

Yesterday I walked all around Parliament and Big Ben mesmerized. It's simply the most dazzling building I can think of... not even St. Pauls compares. I could sit and stare at it all day. I think I like it because I love Gothic architecture! I sit there and stare at it and all the jagged angles make me dizzy. I'd love nothing more than to tour the place but security swarms the area. I wish it hadn't been so gray yesterday. I need to return there on a sunny day and snap lots of photos!

Regents College rocks! Not only is their cafeteria amazing but get this... there is a student pub! And it has really reasonable prices! That's where Mark and I headed last night to meet the girl he has been dating while here. He just met her in the cafeteria one day... he is such a player! Anyways, it is only 1.80 pounds for a whole pint of Carling! That is amazing for London! It's so different from Utah here. There are all these hilarious signs on the walls like "Beer... helping ugly people hook up since such and such" and there was one hilarious quote that said something like "When I think back to all the beer I've drunk, I'm ashamed. But then I think of all those workers who labour endlessly to produce it and I know that helping them is certainly much more important than worrying about my liver." It's places like this that help me remember how lame Utah is. A student pub is such a wonderful place for students to come together and get to know each other, building social networks during the after hours in the safety of their college environment. I think that a place like this is so valuable for creating a sense of community. This is for student bonding what libraries are for knowledge and I think it is really sad that the University of Utah would find the whole idea absurd.

Today was a long class excursion by train clear out of London to the Red House in Kent which William Morris built and owned. Writer, architect, artist... what didn't this guy do? The house wasn't all the big but it had an amazing garden and in that garden was a big adorable orange kitty! Being as obsessed with kitties as I am, I was more interested in the cat than the tour guide and spent a lot of time petting it and taking its picture. It thought I was crazy but didn't mind the attention.

I thought it was stange that we were going so far away just for this house, but this was one of the most enjoyable outings. After being in the big city for so long it was very refreshing to get out to a more rural area where I could actually hear birds chirping again! It was a very nice! I can't believe it's less than a week before my class is over and only a couple more days after that until I come home. Time flies too bloody quickly for my taste.

Tonight I'm kind of beat so I'm gonna relax. Tomorrow, if it is a nice day, I want to go to Hyde Park and Royal Albert Hall. If it is rotten than probably the Natural History and Science Museums. Cheers!