Saturday, October 31, 2009

Music and Costumes and Beer, oh my!

This week started pretty slow, but took off with a bang! Wednesday, Lauren and I went to the National Theater to see Mother Courage and Her Children. Read the summery of the play here. This performance was unlike anything I have every seen before. It was shown as 'epic theater', meaning lighting, scene and costume changes, and musical elements are kept in full view of the audience to remind them that what they are watching is not real. A very interesting way to conduct a play but I think it worked quite well.Thursday after our classes Lauren and I went to ISH for free ballroom dance lessons. It turned out to be really fun! We learned the waltz, the cha-cha, the samba, and a few others, none of which I remember very well at this point but I think we are going to try to go again this week so maybe I'll learn them a bit better this time around. After dancing, we stopped up at the bar before going home. Thursday is karaoke night, which is always entertaining to say in the least. This week it was even more so with the night ending in a bar fight! Some kid smashed a beer bottle over someones head, in all my years of working at a bar I have never seen that before!
Saturday turned out to be the craziest Halloween ever. Aside from the fact that we got to spend it in London, there was a free Dead Weather show at a church in Shoreditch. Lauren and I waited in line for 2 hours with hundreds of other people, but we made it in! Once inside we were all given a free beer and left to find a spot in the dark, eerily blue lit church. I'm sure it was quite a sight to anyone who may have been walking past; tons of people dressed up in Halloween costumes drinking beer, standing on pews while listening to alt rock in a church, haha! The show was really good, and they even had a decent light show with it. It only lasted for about a half hour but it was so worth it.
Last night ISH had a showing Fast and Furious in their little theater, then we went home to watch the Vikings/Packers game. They actually had it on TV here! Vikings won :) All in all, it has been another weekend come and gone successfully. And somehow it is already November as well! Maybe now we'll get a taste of the the weather is really like here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Isle of Wight

Yesterday Lauren and I took a day trip through ISH (International Student House) and International Friends to the Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight is England's largest island about a half hours ferry ride from the southern coast. We woke up at the ungodly hour of 7am to be at the main housing building by 8, then were able to relax on a two hour bus ride to Portsmouth. From Portsmouth we took a car ferry to the Isle. Once safely on the Isle, we given a bus tour of the beautiful countryside. Unfortunately it was rainy, windy and cold but the scenery was still amazing. We made three stops on the Isle, first at small coastal town on the northern side of the island for pictures by the sea side.Our second stop was more inland for lunch and a bit of sight-seeing. We hiked up a hill in the center of the town to see a church and got a much better view of the scenery. Amazingly, when we came out of the church, the rain had stopped and the sun had come out! Made the rest of the trip much nicer. On our way back to the bus we stopped at a small little cafe for sausage and chips (french fries). Lastly, we stopped again at another small coastal town named Cowes to stretch our legs before the trip home and get a few last pictures.
After waking up so early and spendig the whold day traveling, Lauren and I spent most of the bus ride back sleeping (or at least trying to). But of course when we got home we found ourselves wide awake and decided to take a walk around Westminster. Today we slept in, laughed at all the Brittish people on the tube with mix-matched NFL jerseys on their way to the Buccaneers/Patroits game that was held here in London at Wembly today, and got some free food at a small party here at ISH. Alas, tomorrow is Monday yet again. Oh well, I still don't have to start my week quite yet ;)

One Month Down...

So as of yesterday Lauren and I have been in London for a full month! I can't believe it, sometimes if feels like I've lived here my whole life and sometimes it feels like I just got off the plane. Crazy.

Anyways, it was another relaxing week with school and such. Wednesday we took a trip to the Globe Theater for theater class (go figure) which was very cool. It was built to be as close to a replica as Shakespeare's original Globe Theater as possible. While I have no idea what the original looked like I'm going to guess that they just did a pretty good job.

Later that night we were off to see Cymbeline, a play by Shakespeare which you can read more about here. I would just tell you about it but it would take about 5 years for me figure out a good way to summarize all that :)
Yesterday after I was done with class Lauren and I decided to go up to Camden and wander through more of the markets. There are so many things to see there it's unbelievable. Lauren found herself a new pair of shoes on sale so we decided to dress up and go downtown for the evening. All in all it was a really nice, laid back day.Today however, was a different story entirely. But that is deserving of its' own post; I'll have that up either today or tomorrow!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Did you know?

The Old Crown, the oldest bar in Birmingham dating back to 1368. Lauren and I stopped here for a drink or two while visiting.

The London Beer Flood occurred on this day in 1814. At 6:00 on a Monday evening, a torrent of beer came rushing through the streets of the St. Giles district of London.

It started at the Horse Shoe Brewery at Tottenham Court and Oxford Street, where there were huge vats of porter perched on top of the roof. They contained beer, which had been fermenting right there for months. The wooden vats were enormous — some as tall as 22 feet — and were structurally supported by large iron hoops, dozens of them. They sat on the roof of the Meux Brewing Company, each of them containing hundreds of thousands of liters of beer.

The largest vat had started to strain under the weight and pressure of all that porter, and on this day, around 6:00 p.m., one of the iron hoops gave way and all the porter in the 22-foot-tall vat came gushing out. There were about 600,000 liters of beer in there, and when the vat burst and all that beer came exploding out, there was a chain reaction and the surrounding vats on the roof also burst. More than a million liters of beer toppled the brewery's brick wall (it was 25 feet tall) and began flooding the streets of St. Giles.

People came out onto the streets of St. Giles with mugs and buckets and pots and pans to collect the free beer; others leaned over and drank directly from the streams gushing down the streets. But many people were injured by the torrent and sent to the hospital, where inpatients smelled the beer and nearly rioted to get their share.

Nine people died. About half were children who drowned or sustained fatal injuries from the flood, which had also crushed the roofs of buildings near the brewery, adding heavy timber to the gushing rivers of beer. One man died a few days after the flood from alcohol poisoning. Trying to prevent all of it from going to waste, he had drunk a lot of beer in the span of a few days. People brought a lawsuit against the Meux & Company Brewery, but in court the flood was ruled an Act of God, and the brewery was not held legally responsible.

Taken from The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Week of Strikes & Theater

It has been a nice relaxing week here in London, my 3 day school week was cut down to one due to London Met's academic staff going on strike today and yesterday to protest huge cut backs in staff due to a 'clerical error' made by the school last summer. This and additional information about the financial situation of LMU has left me (along with numerous other students and staff) slightly worried as to whether the school with be running next semester, let alone next week. I'm certain things will be worked out, but until they are I guess we will all just have to wait and see.

On a much lighter note, Lauren and I have had the great opportunity to see two productions this week thanks to our class Theater in London.
Wednesday our class took a train out to Kingston to see Miss Julie at the Rose Theater. It was a well done Shakespearean play written by Strindberg set during a mid summers night. Miss Julie is the daughter of a well to-do Count, and after having an affair with one of the servants she 'finds herself caught in a desperate struggle'.
Thursday we were off to the Novello Theater to see An Inspector Calls by JB Priestley. This was a great thriller about a family whose night was turned upside-down by a police inspector regarding the suicide of a young girl. With twists and turns every minute, it kept us on the edge of our seats.

Next week hopefully classes will continue as planned and we will be off to the Globe Theater for a tour, plus the production of Cymbeline by Shakespeare. Next Saturday we will be taking a day trip out the Isle of Wight with the International Students House (ISH) as well, so as always there is more to come!

Monday, October 12, 2009


So Lauren and I found ourselves with no plans this weekend and decided that we should go out and see more of the UK. We were originally planing on our first trip being up to Edinburgh, but thought that would take more than one day to see (nor did we want to spend two days on a bus just yet), so we got on the Megabus and went to Birmingham!
Now, Birmingham was not at first one of our must see locations. But, my friend Sean studied abroad here last year and just absolutely loved it, so we thought we would go see what all the fuss was about. (That and it was only a three hour bus ride from London:)) The drive there was a bit dull, but we took back roads on the way home and were able to see more of the beautiful English country side.
The hostel we stayed at (Birmingham Central Backpackers) was really nice, much better than what I was expecting for the first hostel that I've stayed at. We got free breakfast in the morning and soup and bread for dinner each night, and our beds were even more comfortable than the ones at the dorms we are living at! We spent the weekend walking around the city center, going on a narrow boat tour through the canals, and seeing as much as we could with in walking distance of where we were staying. All in all it was a good, relaxing weekend away, I can only hope our next trip will be as successful!

Monday, October 5, 2009

School? Ummm... ok I guess.

So I've come to the conclusion that I am really quite terrible at remembering to update this blog, I'm also fairly certain that if Lauren wasn't so good about hers, I would probably not even bother. But she does, so I do as well. Anyways.... Today is Monday, the first day of class. Except for the fact that I don't have class till Wednesday. Fantastic. This lovely place is in Regents Park, just a minutes walk from out flat. Now that we have moved, we actually have a very nice view of the park through our window. What more could you ask for? The park is huge and green and quiet and really just all around perfect. You would never guess you were really in the middle of a city. Since we have had a fair amount of time before classes started, we have managed to see nearly all of the main touristy attractions in London already. This is St. Paul's Cathedral. From this angle you can't see the dome but I think you can at least get an idea of the overwhelming size and beauty of it. Lauren, myself, and our friend from the UK, Lauren who came up to visit for the evening, got here just too late to go inside, but it is on our list of things to do. A list, that somehow gets longer everyday rather than shorter no matter how much we do and see each day.

Friday, October 2, 2009

By Land or By Sea

Well we are still living and everything is starting to fall into place! Lauren and I will be moving into our new and improved room in the morning and classes start on Monday. Oh wait, did I say Monday? Hmmmm, seems I only have classes this semester Wednesday through Friday! Nice. In the meantime, we have done lots and lots of sightseeing... and I have about a million pictures to prove it. Amazingly there is very little here that isn't close enough to walk through. If you have the time and the patience, you can get pretty much everywhere in London by foot!

Yesterday, Lauren and I were fortunate enough to go on 2 different bus tours and a boat tour of London all for free! Ahh, the perks of being a foreign student. The second bus tour even served champagne and strawberries with cream. Doesn't get much better than that. More travels and adventures to come I'm sure!