Friday, September 24, 2010

Topics of Conversation:

As most of you know, I’ve now been in England for over 10 days. Pause. In ENGLAND. Whoa now.

First off, let’s just talk about how insane this is. It’s just now becoming real to me, as I’ve settled in to my apartment, that I’m actually living in London. I’m not coming home next week. I’m not near my friends or family. I am, once again, in the middle of nowhere in one of the biggest cities on the planet. This time though, I think I’m more prepared.

Ok, so what you really want to know is what the heck I’ve been doing for 10 days. Here’s the rundown:

My first days in London were spent exploring my area. A roommate and I walked all the way from our apartment on N. Gower St (Google map it…) to Piccadilly Circus and to Trafalgar Square and then to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, and across the Thames to the London Eye. That experience was…surreal. Everything in London is an incredible mix of the old and new. Buildings on your left could be 20th century modern complexes and to your right could be a cathedral dating from the Middle Ages. What’s more, the people in London seem to feel this too. Nothing is lame or boring for them. These buildings, old and new, are as inspiring to them as they are to me. While the night life here is extremely busy and a party-like atmosphere can be found on every corner, locals really do chill mostly in the pubs. They talk, laugh, have a drink, and go home at 11 when pretty much every single pub in London closes.  It’s definitely not the “city that never sleeps.” Sometimes walking around London at night reminds me of a very old New York or Chicago, like what those cities will be in five hundred years. To use a paradigm that is often expressed in history classes, England is the wise old man, and America is the young child, the teenager. That’s pretty much exactly how it feels.

The First Weekend—My first weekend abroad was spent on a temporary homestay in Chester, a town about fifteen miles from the Welsh border. I stayed with a lovely old lady named Hazel Crank who made my housemate and me sack lunches filled with random goodies like Roast Chicken Crisps. Look them up if you dare. My favorite experience in Chester was walking around the city walls and touring the cathedral. Chester is the home of “the most complete circuit of Roman and Medieval defensive town wall in Britain.”  The stones on these walls date from 100 AD. The history surrounding them is dreamlike. It is, at once, impossible to imagine all of the events associated with the wall and impossible to separate them from it. Similarly, Chester’s Cathedral, which saw the change from Catholicism to Protestantism and survived the wrath of Henry VIII, was built on the ground of a Pagan religious site. The Cathedral has been a place of worship essentially since the Vikings invaded England. How incredible is that? What hallowed ground have I stood on since living in England for only 4 days!

Also that weekend, we spent one day in Liverpool, the home of the Beatles! Of course, that entire day was spent touring the Beatles Museum (more specifically called “The Beatles’ Story” for anyone who’s planning future vacations) and taking a taxi-cab tour of the Beatles’ childhood homes. I touched the Penny Lane sign and held the gates of Strawberry Fields. Coolest. Thing. Ever. One day, I’ll go back and actually tour the inside of the houses, but our time limit didn’t allow for that unfortunately.

This week has been spent preparing for classes. Not very many exciting things have happened, minus enrolling in UCL and trying to fit things into my schedule…which is pretty much how it goes in the US as well. I’ve done a bit of shopping…probably shouldn’t have, but I did. The main event of this week, though, happens tomorrow, when I go see Les Miserables at the Barbican Theatre. Shut the front door. I’ll let you know, how that goes.

Also, just so we get this out of the way—Yes. The Guinness is better here. It tastes like good coffee.  And the best thing ever happened---see below: