Day ????

It’s been over a month since I’ve returned to the U.S., and I miss London! Just a few reflections on my trip:

  1. I figured I would end up saying this, although most people probably think I’m crazy, but I miss London weather! It’s so bloody hot here that you can’t even enjoy the outdoors, let alone go outdoors.
  2. Every city should have as many parks as London. It should just be mandatory.
  3. Although there are no height restrictions as far as I know on buildings in London, unlike in DC, I haven’t seemed to notice that buildings here are any shorter. That’s a different story when comparing New York to DC, but I think London does a good job at staying away from skyscrapers (with the exception of The City and the shard).
  4. I can’t say I miss paying for things in pounds, or even in cash for that matter! I do miss going to the Chapel Market for my veggies and just walking to get everywhere - it can be annoying when the weather isn’t great, but it’s good exercise and a good break from technology/electronics/machines.
  5. Americans are stupid. That hasn’t changed no matter what country I’m in.
  6. Dinwiddy living is on par with Swarthmore living. That’s not a compliment, but it’s not the worst thing in the world, either.
  7. Swarthmore needs to up its tech game. SOAS allows you to tap your ID card on the printer to pull up your documents and print them. Easy; genius. I know I mentioned this before but I can’t seem to get over it.
  8. I want to go back!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s definitely been fun keeping up this blog for everyone to read (or not read) and as a memento for myself when I want to look back on this time. I finally got around to making myself a Snapfish photo book of my travels as well, which I definitely recommend.

Well, that’s the end for this blog! I’ll continue to keep it up for others but this will be the last post ever! For those thinking about whether or not you want to study abroad, DO IT! It’s the only chance you’ll get to do a lot of traveling on a small budget, especially if you have friends all over the world also studying abroad to stay with!

TTFN!

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Day 155: Last day

Today is quite bittersweet. I’m sitting in Heathrow now, waiting for my gate to open so I can begin the long journey home to the good old US of A. I’m super excited to go back home, but I’m going to miss London so much. Some American quirks I’m looking forward to:

  1. American slang - I’m sick of saying “toilet” and “rubbish bin” and “crisps” and silly things like that. Also American English in general - I quite like my stupid American English rather than that pretentious British English!
  2. Driving! And not just driving, driving on the right side of the road!
  3. A dishwasher!
  4. Getting actual service at a restaurant. Last night I went out for drinks for one last time and the service was horrible, as has been every server I’ve had in London.
  5. Using a normal smartphone and being able to talk to people whenever I want!
  6. Paying for things with credit card and not having to carry pounds of coins around (pun intended).
  7. All my favorite restaurants.
  8. REAL COFFEEEEEEEEEEEEE
  9. Target.
  10. The dollar. $$$$$

Things I’m really going to miss:

  1. Walking everywhere.
  2. Going to my favorite doggie/cemetary park and saying hello to my doggie friends like the three-legged Westie I’ve fallen in love with.
  3. Taking the tube/bus - London by far has the best transit system of any city I’ve ever been to.
  4. Buying produce at Chapel Market.
  5. Euphorium Bakery - having one last scone this morning.
  6. All my friends at Dinwiddy.
  7. Going for runs on Regents Canal.

Of course, there’s many things I’m leaving out of both lists, but these are the first that come to mind. Hopefully it won’t be too much of a culture shock when I get back! I’ll be sure to update once I’m home on the biggest contrasts that I notice when I get back. Until then - TTFN!

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Day 153: Private Tour of Parliament

Today was definitely one of the highlights of my semester abroad. I was fortunate enough to get a private tour of both houses of Parliament, and on such an important day as well - today the gay marriage bill was up for debate. There were dozens of protesters outside Parliament and Westminster Abbey who tried to catch my attention, but I’m used to seeing people with megaphones like that all the time in D.C., so it didn’t really bother me. I was supposed to meet at the St. Stephen’s entrance, but once I arrived there, I was led down into the visitor’s entrance and ended up in the House of Commons side. I ended up having to exit the gates and walking back over to the House of Lord’s side before I finally met my host/tour guide. What a wonderful visit! We started in the House of Lords, which is fancier than the Palace of Holyroodhouse I was just in last week, and much fancier than the inside of Westminster Abbey. The ceilings had ornate carvings and the carpets/decorations were all red. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to take any photographs because we were moving pretty quickly and I don’t think I would have been allowed to anyway. I even got to sit in on some debate in the House of Lords. What I found most unusual was the fact that despite how formal this house is, members would debate each other quite scathingly and even laugh at each other! The tone was not at all what I expected. From there we went to the Commons side, where we also got to sit in on a much drier debate. This time, though, the gallery was behind a thick pane of glass and I had to give away my purse before going in. Apparently when Margaret Thatcher was in power, people would sit in the galleries and throw bags of ketchup down below so that it looked like blood splattering everywhere - hence the glass and not being allowed to carry anything in. So strange!

The contrast between the two houses is amazing. The House of Commons is the exact opposite of the House of Lords: bland, poorly furnished, dark. Perhaps the government doesn’t care to furnish it properly because the Queen only visits the House of Lords and will never set foot on the Commons side, so it would be a waste of money to make it look nice for her! Who knows. The number of pointless and frankly rude traditions that continue in Parliament was absurd, and patronage is certainly rampant as with any legislature. However, it’s a beautiful building and a humbling setting for any member of Parliament, that’s for sure! We even got to have tea in the House of Lords, which was lovely. Of course, I tried to order iced coffee (it was offered to me by the waiter), which turned out not to be coffee with ice but coffee with ice cream! I was quite embarrassed, but it was delicious! All in all a great day (minus the part where my heels kept getting stuck in the sidewalk and I made a fool of myself falling over on top of a tourist immediately after meeting my host). Let me just end by saying that London is not a city for heels! The sidewalks are full of cracks and bricks and the city is basically a death trap to anyone not wearing completely flat shoes (and even with flat shoes I trip at least once a day). Lesson for today: AVOID HEELS IN LONDON. That is all. TTFN!

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Last Big Ben sighting…😢

Last Big Ben sighting…😢

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Day 152: SOAS End-of-term Party and Chime for Change

These past few days have definitely been a wonderful sendoff from London. On Thursday night I went to SOAS for the end-of-term party. We started in the JCR at SOAS, just hanging out and meeting up with friends. Then a samba band started playing, and we followed the band through the streets of London until we reached Scala, the club where the party was taking places. It was basically a parade, with fire-jugglers and a huge band, and we took up the streets of London cheering and dancing. It was about a 15-20 minute walk on a normal day, but we took an hour to parade down the streets and people were looking through their windows trying to take pictures and videos of us. I’ve never been in something so awesome before! Once we got to the club there were four different rooms, but I only went in two because the place was so big. There was a live band that was basically a mix of Carribean, African, and Mexican music, and they were really great. I think it was at least 10 people, and they were all dancing and singing and having a great time. The whole thing was awesome. If I hadn’t just come from Edinburgh that morning I would have stayed out later (the club was open until 5 am), but I only managed to make it until about 2:15. Definitely the coolest party I’ve ever been to, and it was super convenient that the club was about a 2-minute walk from Dinwiddy so I didn’t have to worry about going home. Way better than any Swarthmore party could ever be!

This Saturday, I went to Chime for Change, a benefit concert called “feminist live aid” by some. It was the coolest concert I’ve ever been to and will probably ever go to (see pictures below). Here’s a review of some of the top acts:

  1. Jessie J was a surprise guest and the first on stage. I’m not a huge fan of her songs, but she’s not bad and did really well considering all the pressure that must come with performing at such a large event. She sang a lot at the closing ceremonies for the Olympics last year, but other than that I’d never seen her perform. It was a good start to the show.
  2. Rita Ora: I don’t think she would have been a performer if she weren’t signed to Jay-Z’s label, Roc Nation. She doesn’t have an album, as far as I know, and her songs aren’t great. She did a good job performing but I can’t say I was super into it.
  3. Haim: AMAZING. Talk about a girl-power band. They did a super cool drum solo in their second song and I can’t wait to hear more from them in the future. Definitely a group I would go to see again once they get more songs out there. I hope they become more popular from this event!
  4. Florence and the Machine: I posted a video of their performance on Facebook, but I’ll try to get it up here because Florence’s voice live is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. I certainly would have paid the 65-pound ticket price for this concert just to see her alone! She looked wonderful barefoot in a green flowy dress. What an angel.
  5. J-Lo: She never really was the greatest singer, but she can dance, and she’s still got it! The surprise duet with Mary J. Blige didn’t hurt either. Highlight of her performance: two dancers helped her put a cape on, and she thanked them both, one as “baby” and the other as “boyfriend.” Guess she’s still dating that 25 year-old backup dancer, then!
  6. John Legend: I like his music fine, but I find it kind of boring. However, in person, it’s wonderful. He has a great stage presence and I think his voice sounds much better live than recorded. He also looked great in that brown polka-dot suit! Props to Gucci, I assume, for clothing him.
  7. Timbaland: Saddest thing I’ve ever seen. He’s at least 300 pounds now, and couldn’t even rap the few words he has on other peoples’ songs. I felt so sorry for him.
  8. Ellie Goulding: Also disappointing. I love her music, but when you sing really high-pitched in your recordings but can’t pull it out live, it’s disappointing. I think she might have been shocked and nervous to perform in front of such a live audience (and right before Beyonce, nonetheless), so I would like to see her again in a smaller venue just to see if she’s the same.
  9. Beyonce: What a diva. Flawless, although the video that played in the middle of her set that was supposed to be about empowerment for other women was really only about her life - who would have thought she wouldn’t talk about herself, though?

Of course, these were only a few of the performances, and there were also dozens of other guests who introduced the performers and showed videos of the various charities that are being supported by the concert. It was a long day - we got there at about 12 to wait in line for a show that eventually started at 6, but it was totally worth it! Now, it’s back to reality and time to finish packing since I leave on Thursday! Tomorrow it’s off to Parliament for a private tour - I’m so lucky! TTFN!

Post-awesomeness #chimeforchange

Post-awesomeness #chimeforchange

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So excited for Beyoncé!!!! #beyonce #chimeforchange

So excited for Beyoncé!!!! #beyonce #chimeforchange

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Queen Bey #beyonce #chimeforchange

Queen Bey #beyonce #chimeforchange

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Tickets for Chime for Change! #latergram #chimeforchange #beyonce

Tickets for Chime for Change! #latergram #chimeforchange #beyonce

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Edinburgh: Part 3!

Day three was not as great, because the weather was pretty crappy. I can’t complain, though, considering it was typical Edinburgh weather - 50, raining, bleh - and I had managed two whole days beforehand without getting caught in the rain. I decided to take it slower since I was running out of things to do. Edinburgh is a wonderful city, but once you’ve covered the basic tourist destinations, you can run out of activities pretty quickly! I wanted to hit the botanical gardens, but it clearly wasn’t the day to do it, so I had to skip that. Instead, I started by getting coffee and a scone at Elephant House, the coffee shop where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter. I’m not a Harry Potter fan, but it was still cool to go to the place where she wrote some of the most popular books of all time. See the photo collage below that I took of the shop. It was great for coffee - I got a small pot that was more than three cups’ worth (or at least, I only managed to have three) and was only 2 pounds! Much better than getting a watered-down espresso (excuse me, Americano) for more than that. I sat there while a rain shower passed by and read the local newspaper and people-watched. By the time I’d had enough coffee, it had stopped raining and I walked all the way down the Royal Mile until the end, which is where the Palace of Holyroodhouse is located. This is the Queen’s official residence in Scotland.

I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside the castle, but it was really cool to see where the Queen stays since I’m not able to go inside Buckingham Palace (it’s only open in the summer months when the Queen is on holiday). It was a little spooky in some parts, like where Mary, Queen of Scots was exiled and her friend, David Rizzio, was murdered by her husband, who feared he was getting to close to Mary. There’s so much history in that palace! I got an audio guide free with my ticket, which was nice. I don’t usually like those kinds of things, but there wasn’t much room in the palace itself for information stands/posters/whatever you want to call them.

From inside the palace, I went to the Abbey, whose roof collapsed years ago but the walls are still intact:

After that, it started pouring, so I took shelter and waited until it stopped so I could tour the gardens. After about 15 minutes, the rain let up and I walked around the grounds before heading out. This is where the Queen hosts her garden party every year.

Unfortunately, as soon as I made it back to the center of town, it started pouring again. I was already pretty wet and even though I had a cover for my camera, I didn’t want it to get any wetter so I headed back to my hostel and retired early. I wish the weather had been nicer so I could have gone to the botanical gardens, but I was pretty tired from walking around so much and not sleeping too well. 

Edinburgh is a wonderful city to visit, but I don’t think I could live there if the weather is like that year-round! If there were a summer I would definitely stay longer, but I do need some sun every once in a while!

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