London Blog: The Haul

It’s been about two weeks since I came home from my trip to the U.K. and I miss it terribly. I never realized that I could miss a place – the sights, the sounds, the food. Everything was like a dream. I tried very hard to take London back with me. (Unfortunately, it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase!) So I settled for some lovely souvenirs (pictured below). I wanted to buy even more, but the fear of running out of money for food slowed me down.

The souvenirs

The haul

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I ended up with six (yes, six) boxes of tea, most of which were from Twinings, but other than that I’m quite happy with my purchases. Here’s the grand total: three jars of blackcurrant jam, two necklaces, a shot glass, key chain, and a box of chocolates from Windsor Castle, a small mirror, a decorative plate and pen from the Sherlock Holmes Museum, a new “London Love” passport case and change purse, cupcake shaped measuring cups, two buttons, a pink fountain pen with matching pink ink, a dozen or so postcards, and a program from each show that we saw. I also came home with a huge stack of U.K. magazines for some friends; golf balls and candy for my dad; scented soap, a key chain, pen, and a candy bar for my grandmother; and a teabag dish and some tea for my mom. It’s amazing that I was able to carry it all back with me!

The postcards decorating my desk at school.

Postcard collage decorating my desk at school.

Sometimes when I’m sitting at my desk doing schoolwork, I’ll gaze up at the postcards and daydream about London. Even my beloved New York City can’t get London out of my mind – it’s just not the same. I know I will return again someday, I just need to be patient.

This concludes my London Blog, but I enjoyed writing it so much that I’m not quite ready to stop blogging. So, I’ll continue to blog about my next chapter: the last semester of my senior year of college. It’s really an exciting time and I look forward to sharing it with you! Stay tuned for my next post all about my first week interning at Parenting.com in New York City!

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London Blog: “London is the place for me…”

“London is the place for me,

London that lovely city.

You can go to France or America,

India, Asia or Africa,

But you must come back to London city…”

– Lord Kitchener, calypsonian, 1948

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London Blog: Food Gallery

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I ate incredibly well on this trip, so I thought it would be fun to share the photos of my meals. (Keep in mind I’m a vegetarian, so you won’t be seeing any meat in this gallery.) Click through to view this delicious slide show. Bon appetit!

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London Blog: “So Long, Farewell, Aufedersein, Goodbye!”

We woke up at 6 a.m., had our last breakfast in Stratford, then lugged our heavy suitcases downstairs to load up the bus. As we drove away from Stratford we passed mile after mile of frost covered countryside in the morning light. The entire landscape was a gradient of gray – from the pale gray sky to the dark gray silhouettes of the bare trees. Even the frost on the ground was a shimmering gray. It was beautiful and I did not want to say goodbye, but before I knew it we were at the Heathrow airport, ready to catch our plane. London and Stratford will always have a place in my heart and I know it won’t be long before I return to them. Maybe someday I’ll even move to the U.K., but for now I’m on my way back to New Jersey for my final semester at The College of New Jersey. I’ve been on an incredible journey these past two weeks and I’m sure it will take some time for me to fully realize all that I’ve seen and experienced, but right now all I feel is overwhelming happiness. I’ve met some incredible people and made some wonderful new friends and I am anxiously awaiting my next journey abroad. I hope that this is only the first of my travels and perhaps someday I will become a world traveler. So, until next time, “So Long, Farewell, Aufedersein, Goodbye!”

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London Blog: Origins of Some Commonly Used Phrases

Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

During our visit to Anne Hatheway’s Cottage (the home of Shakespeare’s wife, not the actress who just won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Fantine in Les Mis) our guide told us the origins of some commonly used phrases while showing us around the kitchen. Now these phrases actually make sense!

  • a pinch of salt – instead of a salt shaker, a tiny bowl of salt would sit on the table and in order to put salt on your food you would need to pinch it between your fingers.
  • a cut above the rest – bread used to be cut horizontally and the hard bottom portion of the bread would be given to the children because they held the lowest position in the house. The man of the house would be given the best slice at the top of the loaf, or the upper crust, because he was the most important member of the family. Getting a “cut above the rest” meant you got the better slice of bread due to your higher position in the family.
  • pin money – extra spending money that women would make from doing “womanly” things.
  • chairman of the board – dining tables would have benches along either side of the table because chairs were expensive. The man of the house would get the lone chair at the head of the table making him the “chairman.”

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London Blog: Day 10

Big Ben

Big Ben

I woke up early so I could have breakfast at Starbucks and blog for a bit. I had warm porridge with dried fruit. (Yum!) Unfortunately, I didn’t get too much writing done, but I definitely enjoyed the atmosphere. Afterwards, I met with our group and we took the Tube to Westminster. Once we stepped off the Tube we saw Big Ben and I snapped even more photos of the giant clock. We made our way to Westminster Abbey and took shelter inside from the bitter cold. I think our entire group gasped collectively when we walked through the door and saw the first alter. The high alter took my breath away with its golden glory. Words cannot describe the beauty of the Abbey (and unfortunately photography is not permitted inside).

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

We walked past the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, surrounded by large crimson flowers. Our tour guide told us that there are over 3,000 tombs in the church, but this is the only tomb in the floor that people do not walk on out of respect. We continued into the church, walking along the same route that Kate Middleton walked during her wedding to Prince William. If while I was watching the royal wedding someone had told me that in just over a year I would be standing in that very church, I would not have believed them. This entire trip has been like a fairytale and I still cannot believe that I am actually here!

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

As we continued into the church, we passed the tombs of Sir Isaac Newton and Sigmund Freud. Next we made our way into a small alcove where two royal half sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, are buried. Some of our group became a bit emotional at this portion of our tour, but I was able to hold it together until I heard a voice over the loudspeaker that filled the entire Abbey announcing the hourly moment of prayer. I am not by any means a religious person, but when I opened my eyes after the prayer I had tears streaming down my face. From this point on I really began to grasp where I was. My favorite part of the tour was at the end when we visited Poets’ Corner. I saw tombs and commemorative plaques to some of the most beloved authors and writers in the history of the English language. I saw plaques and/or tombs for Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, William Shakespeare, and Charles Dickens. Lewis Carroll’s plaque had his name written in a circle to play homage to the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. Somehow another hour had slipped away and while we were in Poets’ Corner it was time to pray again. When I opened my eyes and saw the bust of William Shakespeare I started to cry all over again. If you ever find yourself in Westminster, you must explore the Abbey.

Twinings, est. 1706

Twinings, est. 1706

At noon we had a lovely lunch at the Middle Temple and sat very close to the high table. This was a buffet style lunch and I had some nice warm soup, a vegetable pie, and a few samplings of different salads. Salads in the U.K. are very different from salads at home. In the States, salads usually have lettuce, but here they rarely do and are made of any number of fruits, vegetables, pastas, potatoes, and/or seafood. They are very delicious and there are so many vegetarian options! After lunch I shopped at the original Twinings tea shop that opened in the early 1700s and bought more tea than I could ever drink in a lifetime. (It looks like I’ll need to throw some tea parties once I get home!)

In the evening we saw the opening night of The Three Sisters production at the New Diorama Theatre. This was definitely my least favorite play that we’ve seen so far on the trip. For fear of sounding whiney or ungrateful, I’ll just say that some actors were prone to overacting and the lighting was a bit blinding at times. I was definitely not alone in feeling this way because when the lights went out at the end of the show, I heard the most unenthusiastic applause I’ve ever heard and I feared that it wouldn’t last until the lights went back on and the actors took their bows. I would like to think that the production was still working out some kinks and that future performances will show some improvement. Even though the show was a disappointment, I still had a wonderful day!

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London Blog: “No story lives unless someone wants to listen.”

“No story lives unless someone wants to listen.”

– J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter's Hogwarts letter

Harry Potter’s Hogwarts letter

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London Blog: Harry Potter Costumes

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Click through the slideshow to see some of the beautiful costumes from the eight Harry Potter films.

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London Blog: Museum of London, History of Fashion

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Click through the slideshow to view the history of fashion from the 1700s to today.

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London: Day 9

Welcome to Hogwarts!A group of us woke up extra early to catch a bus to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. The bus ride was a bit lengthy – over an hour and a half long, but it was so worth it! The tour started with a quick video about the history of the Harry Potter phenomenon. The film concluded with Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint standing in front of the front door to Hogwarts inviting us on the tour and then suddenly the screen lifted revealing the actual door! The group was ushered through the door which opened to the Great Hall.

Ghost of Ravenclaw’s dress

Two house tables were set up and the side walls were lined with costumes from the film. My favorite was the Grey Lady’s gown, the ghost of Ravenclaw. The front of the Great Hall had Albus Dumbledore’s costume and on either side were the other professors’ costumes including McGonagall and Snape. After we made our way through the Great Hall I slowly strolled through room after room of sets, costumes and props from the eight films. (Once I get home I will post a slide show of the beautiful costumes – the WiFi connection is too slow here.) The Potions classroom was an incredible set. I learned that each jar, bottle and flask was hand labeled and filled with an assortment of creatures and bones.

Umbridge's Office

Umbridge’s Office

Dumbledore’s office looked exactly like the one in the queue (line) at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios. Some of my favorite things were Luna Lovegood’s radish earrings, Ron’s Yule Ball costume, Bellatrix Lestrange’s wig and costume, each of the seven horcruxes and Umbridge’s pink costumes and office – kitten porcelain and all.

Butterbeer and cheese sandwich

Butterbeer and cheese sandwich

Next we walked through the outdoor exhibit which had the Knight Bus, the Weasley’s flying car, Sirius’s motorcycle, the Hogwarts Bridge, and Number 4 Privite Drive. I also got to have a glass of delicious Butterbeer. Butterbeer is only sold at two places in the world (the second place is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida), and now I’ve had it at both locations. For anyone who hasn’t had a chance to try Butterbeer, it’s a bit like an extra foamy cream soda. It is incredibly rich and sweet. One cup is more than enough, even for someone with my sweet tooth.

Buckbeak

Buckbeak

The next area was indoors and was home to the Harry Potter Creatures Shop. I saw Buckbeak the hippogriff, numerous Goblin masks, Dobby, and an audio animatronic Hagrid. Many of the creatures, such as the mermaids and the thestrals, were both terrifying and beautiful. It’s amazing to think that artists designed each creature and someone had to make them by hand!

Flourish & Blotts

Flourish & Blotts

The next room was Diagon Alley! This is exactly like an indoor version of this iconic street at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The street was complete with everything from Olivanders’ Wand Shop to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. I loved walking down the street and peering into the shop windows. The attention to detail was simply extraordinary.

Next door were wall-to-wall blueprints of the Hogwarts Castle and just through the next room was a giant scale model of Hogwarts. At the very end of the tour (before the gift shop of course) was a room filled from floor to ceiling with wand boxes, each with the name of a person who worked on the films.

Wandboxes

Wandboxes

It was such a nice way to give the many Harry Potter contributors the credit that they deserve. I browsed through the gift shop for a while, but I didn’t end up making a purchase. I was already wearing my Griffendor scarf from Universal Studios and feeling nice and full from the butterbeer so I was content.

After the bus ride back to the hotel, Liz and I quickly went to the Museum of London to see the original Peter Pan costume from the 1911 production. I also got the chance to photograph some beautiful clothes from the 1700s to the 1970s. Even though we rushed to get to the museum before it closed, we ended up having plenty of time to enjoy the clothes.

Peter Pan costume, 1911

Peter Pan costume, 1911

Near the museum was St. Paul’s Cathedral so we walked around simply gazing at the amazing architecture. Unfortunately the cathedral was closed for the night so we couldn’t go inside, but we enjoyed just looking at it from the outside. On our way back we grabbed some dinner at an Indian restaurant near our hotel. It was such a lovely day!

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London Blog: “Excellent!” I cried. “Elementary,” said he.

“My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don’t know.”

– Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

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London Blog: Day 8

Welcome to 221B Baker Street!

Welcome to 221B Baker Street!

After my usual breakfast at the hotel (oat and raisin cereal, plain yogurt and a croissant topped with just a smear of black currant jam), I took a bus with Nicole and the professors to 221B Baker Street to visit the home of my favorite fictional detective: Sherlock Holmes. Over the summer I started reading the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which chronicle the many adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Naturally, the Sherlock Holmes Museum was a must-see destination. As we walked down the 200 block of Baker Street, I started to feel giddy and once I saw the sign for the Sherlock Holmes Museum I actually squealed with joy. A museum employee dressed in an old-fashioned police uniform smiled at me and said “Someone’s excited!” And he was entirely right. I put on a Sherlock Holmes hat (conveniently located beside the front door for photo ops) and got my photograph taken with him under the famous address. Next we went into the shop next door to purchase our museum tickets. The ticket was £6 (just figured out how to do the pound symbol on my iPad – woo!) but I knew that I’d soon be spending even more money on Holmes souvenirs once I got a chance to explore the shop.

Sherlock's Study

Sherlock’s Study

The ground level of the museum contained a small, Victorian style hallway with a narrow, winding set of stairs. The short climb to the first floor (in the U.S this would be called the second floor) brought me face-to-face with the beautifully decorated study I had so often read about. It was exactly as described in the books complete with Holmes’s violin and pipe. I sat in the comfy chair by the roaring fire just taking in the lovely details of the room. The next room was Holmes’s tiny bedroom. The other floors contained Dr. Watson’s room and the landlady Mrs. Hudson’s room.

Just hanging out with Sherlock

“To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.” – Dr. John Watson, A Scandal in Bohemia

The third floor was home to some rather creepy wax figures depicting Holmes, Dr. Watson, Irene Adler and some other characters from the well-known works. Around the figures were plaques and letters thanking Holmes for solving various cases. The very top floor had a Victorian style toilet and an attic with some suitcases. Every room contained numerous trinkets from Holmes’s many cases and I really enjoyed walking through and seeing which objects I recognized from the stories I read, but my favorite room was definitely the iconic study. I finally made my way back to the gift shop and bought several items to remember my visit. Nicole and I stopped at a restaurant on Baker Street for lunch. I had delicious penne pasta with a chunky tomato sauce.

Next we made our way to Covent Garden to see Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre, but since we were early we met up with some of our group and went shopping. There was a small stand in the street selling “Real British Sweets” that instantly drew me in. I bought tiny bags of licorice, toffee, and jellies. We happened upon a vintage shop and I loved browsing through the clothes, gloves, hats, and shoes from the 1920s-1980s. The last shop we went into was a used bookshop that was filled with old leather bound books. I could have spent hours browsing the shelves of this shop. I’m very sad to say that I left without buying a book because I couldn’t make a decision quick enough and we had a show to catch.

Matilda set

Matilda set

Matilda was delightful! Each child role is shared by four different children. In our performance, the title role was performed by the adorable Chloe Hawthorn. I’m still not sure how her powerful belt could come out of such a small girl. The musical was very similar to the Roald Dahl novel, but had a slight change in focus. The book focused on Matilda’s magical powers, while the musical stressed her love of books and telling stories. The set was bright, colorful and covered in letters. And if you looked closely enough, the letters spelled out words that had to do with each scene. Since this show is coming to Broadway I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just say that the set was beautiful, the songs were catchy, the children were immensely talented, and Trunchbull was wonderfully terrifying.

The Tower of London and London Bridge

The Tower of London and London Bridge

For dinner our group ate at The Crypt, which I couldn’t fully enjoy because the thought of eating near bodies made me a bit nauseous. Afterwards we went on a nighttime tour of The Tower of London. Our tour guide was excellent and it was fascinating to listen to the creepy stories of The Tower. It was very cold outside and I was so happy to crawl into my warm bed at the end of such a long day.

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London Blog: Day 7

To blog, or not to blog...

And on the seventh day she rested (and blogged).

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London Blog: Day 6

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Having grown up with Disney movies (which cultivated a slight obsession with princesses), I’ve often dreamed of castles and towers and royalty. Visiting Windsor and getting to see a real live castle in person was a bit of a surreal experience for me. In the morning, we took a tour bus to Windsor and drove through the town of Slough (pronounced slow), which was the town that the U.K. Office took place in and has a reputation of being un-cosmopolitan.

Changing of the Guard

Changing of the Guard

Once we got to Windsor I was blown away by the beauty of the castle. It looked exactly like a castle should be – complete with stone towers, rolling hills, and a moat. We walked through the front gate and around to the side of the castle for the Changing of the Guard. It was a beautiful 20-minute ceremony that felt almost like a parade with the live band and marching. My favorite part was when the officers called out to the men and they shuffled into place to straighten out their lines.

St. George's Chapel

St. George’s Chapel

Afterwards we wandered around the outside of the castle snapping photos and enjoying the architecture. Beside the castle is St. George’s chapel which is absolutely breathtaking. I didn’t want to leave the chapel but we had very limited time. Next we walked through a room with Princess Mary’s dollhouse and marveled at the craftsmanship that went into building the three-story treasure. It made me a bit sad that it would have been small for Barbie dolls, but I imagine that Mary had dolls specially made to fit in the house. Once we got our fill of the castle we ventured to the gift shop where I spent way too much money on souvenirs. (In my defense – where in the U.S. can you buy things from a real castle?) Afterwards we walked through the quaint town of Windsor enjoying the shops and grabbing lunch at a local café. Much too soon it was time to go back to our hotel and then on to the theatre to see War Horse.

War Horse set

War Horse set

War Horse was my favorite book that we had to read for the trip and I had been looking forward to seeing this play all week. We saw the play at The New London Theatre, (the same theatre where the PBS special of Oklahoma! starring Hugh Jackman was filmed in the 1990s) and the stage has a giant turntable. The conversion from stage to screen was incredible. The book told the story from the point of view of a horse named Joey, while in the play the audience watched the action unfold with the help of beautiful music sung by a folksinger. The horses in the production were the perfect mix of artistic puppets and realism. Although Joey wasn’t given a voice in the production, it was still very easy to understand what he was feeling with the help of three incredibly talented puppeteers. Using sounds and movement, the puppeteers conveyed a great depth of emotion to the audience. Their every movement reminded me of a ballet and I was astonished when Albert first climbed onto his horse Joey and rode him across the stage! Not only were the horses beautiful, but they could support the weight of grown men! Although a bit of Joey’s innocence was lost in the stage adaptation, the production still told a beautifully moving story and I wept at the end.

The Tardis!

The Tardis!

In the evening we went back to the hotel and saw a Police Call Box on the way – (Any Doctor Who fans?) I was incredibly excited to get a photo of the Tardis. So long!

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London Blog: Fashion Exhibit, Victoria & Albert Museum

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Click through the slideshow to see some the fashions on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

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