Monday, 13 July 2009
First weekend in London
Welcome to my blog! Here I will record my experience in my British Studies summer program which focuses on British libraries and information centers, and my general observations about my summer abroad.
This weekend I was very jetlagged and tired. It was also a little disorientating being in a new country, and instead of it being time to go to sleep it was time to eat breakfast. The first couple nights I would wake up at 2 am wide awake, and be hungry in the middle of the night but not during the day. I am mostly adjusted now.
I went for a walk on the first day we were here at 5 in the morning because I could not sleep. I walked over the Hungerford Foot bridge, down the Victoria Embankment, around Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. Apparently the government has been here longer than these buildings. They were built in the 1850s to replace similar buildings on the same site, and give the impression of being older than they are. Then I walked across the Lambeth bridge and walked past the Florence Nightengale Museum, the History of Gardening Museum (a national obsession), and County Hall. County Hall used to be a government building but is now an art space. It includes an exhibit called Dali Universe and also the aquarium. I walked past the London Eye which takes visitors to the top of a ferris wheel to give them a great view of the city. I will be doing that on Wednesday night. At 7 am there was still people drinking in the streets, and being from NY where bars close at 2am and it is illegal to drink in the streets, I was very shocked. This wasn't a couple of people either, this was multiple large groups. Maybe people in NY just work all the time, and culturally and legally this just isn't something we'd do. It made me think that this idea of them being so much more "proper" than Americans may not be totally true. (Inspiration for Da Ali G Show had to come from somewhere.) I will say that the men might be better dressed than American men. I guess that is hard to say because New York men seem better dressed than Michigan men (suits instead of hoodies and jeans falling off), but they actually seem to make an effort and they look nice.
Then we learned about our schedule and I decided to go to Ireland on the mini-break we will have at the end of July. Then we went to orientation and I went on a walking tour of classic pubs in London. It was super interesting, and the cultural and historical significance of pubs in this country cannot be understated. It was also good to get more of a feel of how things are laid out here geographically, and I feel I am getting a handle on the stereotypes of neighborhoods (which is good in orientating yourself even if stereotypes may not hold up). Then I was so tired because I got up at 2am that I went to sleep at 5:30 in the evening and woke up at 2am again. I was very mad at myself for this. I got up had breakfast, called my boyfriend (who was having dinner in NY), took a shower then forced myself to go back to sleep. I slept until noon and woke up feeling normal.
I walked down to Potter's Field Park. Many London landmarks are in this area, such as the Tower of London (where the crown jewels are guarded by "Beefeaters"), Tower Bridge (which apparently has an exhibit on the history of the bridge inside), city hall (a controversial modern building), and St. Paul's cathedral. I laid in the sun and read my book about Albany for about three hours. There were kids playing speaking in Hindi, German tourists laughing hysterically, and English people with accents so thick I had no idea what they were saying. There were also people playing Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy" from like the 1990s really loudly on their radio, and that was unexpected. It seems just as diverse and tolerant as New York and I enjoy that vibe a lot. I walked back and found a very pretty garden down the street from where I live, and that will be nice to go sit in and read.
Another thing is the food. People warned me it was terrible, but actually I think its really good (expensive sure, but fine). I love Indian food, and even Starbucks has curry flavored things here. They have prawn cocktail flavored potato chips! And naan you can put in the toaster! I will say that I ordered a chicken pie and it was ok, but expensive, and pretty bland. My mom with everything fat free makes more flavorful chicken, haha. It was alright though. They gave me some kind of weird green veggies and pureed sweet potato, which I didn't eat they were so flavorless, but I was kind of full anyway. It seems nothing is wrong with the food in London if you don't order English food.
Anyways, today we are going on a tour of the St. Paul's cathedral library and it has the stone stiarcase from Harry Potter which I am psyched about seeing (not to mention the cathedral which is apprently 3 domes - the outside one, a brick one that weighs 64,000 tons, and an inside one, and is supposed to be very beautiful). The librarians are giving us a tour.
We are also planning to go to the Fashion and Textile Museum. Apparently their shop is supposed to be great with all kinds of accessories by up and coming designers. People are going to be like "That's great! Where did you get it?", and I'll say "oh.. just over the pond.."