Cold Hands, Warm Heart

Hello Yanks,

Each day I’m becoming a little bit more of a Londoner. I walk on the left side of the road, can navigate the tube and don’t blush at British accents (finally!)

I worked at my internship Monday, Wednesday and half a day Thursday. Based on the articles I wrote this week, I can tell you about the top 5 war memorials in the world, the top 5 Chinatowns and the best upcoming festivals worldwide for the next month (Carnival, anyone? They’re going to be everywhere! But then again, Japan’s naked man festival might be more up your alley).

I also ventured into the chilly London afternoon to ask locals about their tips for saving money in the city. Most people said they didn’t budget, so I didn’t learn too much (except that I shouldn’t follow in the example of one 18-year-old and spend 500 pounds on one shopping spree).

My internship class went to the Guardian, where we talked with Peter Preston, who was once its editor for 20 years. The Guardian office is enormous and home to many different publications. It looks very modern, with glass windows and cube-ish furniture.

In between classes on Tuesday, Claire, Jessica and I walked around Covent Garden, Chinatown and Oxford Street. We looked into many stores that we’d never ever be able to afford (where’s my friend from Tiffany’s when I need her?) We stepped into a vintage magazine store that had endless copies of Vogue from decades past. London has a great balance of independent and chain stores. You can find a Starbucks and KFC on almost every corner, but hidden in the nooks are “mom and pop” (or should I say mum and dad) bookstores, jewelry stores and clothing shops.

On Wednesday we went to a pub to watch the Chelsea soccer game, so it’s clear that we’re true Londoners now. It was packed with true football fans that were much more into the game than I. Football is truly England’s sport of choice, even though some might argue that cricket is more fitting. Cricket doesn’t get people excited and slamming their drinks down on the table. Football gets their blood boiling, their voices rising and their fist pumping. The energy is contagious!

On Friday we took a boat down the South Bank to Greenwich. Once again, it was “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey” as they say here in England. We saw the Cutty Sark, which was one of the fastest British clippers to be built. We then power walked to the Old Naval College, which is where scenes from Les Mis, Sherlock Holmes and Harry Potter have been filmed. Many film crews use the location because it’s reminiscent of Victorian England.

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Ahoy, matey!

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I remember seeing this in Les Mis

We went into the Painted Hall, which is a room filled with intricate paintings by James Thornhill. The artist actually painted himself into the portrait with his hand out asking for money because he wasn’t paid on time. The staff at the hall put a life-size version on the grounds to ask for donations for their upkeep. Because I’m a college student on a budget, I could only offer him a dance. He wasn’t having it.

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They don’t make ’em like this anymore

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A dance, sir? No? Ok.

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We then went up to the Royal Observatory, which is the home of Greenwich Mean Time. I stood in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres at the same time, so I have completely upgraded my abilities as a world traveler.

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That night we went to Barfly, which is where Coldplay, Adele, Amy Winehouse, The Killers and my girl Florence Welch all played very early into their careers. There was no live music, but I did have a fun time dancing to British Indie rock. For once I can focus on dancing to the music instead of lip-synching the chorus verses to rap songs.

On Saturday we went on a walking tour of the South Bank, and it was thankfully above 35 degrees Fahrenheit. I know I’ve been living in London for almost 20 days, but seeing Big Ben, the houses of Parliament, the Tower Bridge and the river Thames up close made for a true “wow” moment. I had a short pause for internal reflection where I thought “wow. I’m actually here. In London. Seeing all of these iconic sites.” It was a beautiful, sunny London day and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

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We took a lot of pictures, perused a book sale and stopped so Claire could satisfy her craving for chips and guacamole. Mexican food is not as common here. We’re too far from the border for that, I guess.

I also got to see the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe. There won’t be any shows until the last week that I’m here, but you can bet I’ll return to watch a show performed live on stage in my last few days in London!

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We tried to go to a bar in Soho that night, but weren’t on the guest list (I know, I’m not sure why either). On the bright side, we did get to see some of Soho while walking around in the drizzle.

Today we went to Portobello Market, which is a two-mile stretch of shops down Portobello Road. It took us almost an hour to get there because our tube station (and the entire line for that matter) is closed for maintenance this weekend. We’ve been condemned to the bus, which stops much more frequently and has to fight London traffic. I’ve never appreciated the tube more. I’ll try to remember this when I’m crammed up against a stranger’s armpit on the tube tomorrow morning.

Back to Portobello Market, where we walked almost the entire length and saw a mass amount of antiques, jewelry and crepe stands per square foot. I’m definitely going to have to make a trip back sometime soon. I need more time to look at all of the dresses!

I’m not sure what will happen this week besides work and classes, but there is always a lot to do in London. I can’t wait to see what this last week of January brings!

Love,

Allison, whose core temperature is finally recovering from the cold

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Sorcery, Stonehenge and “Seeing” Jane

Is the weekend over already? I guess time flies when you’re riding broomsticks, looking at ancient rock structures and following in the footsteps of Jane Austen.

Yesterday I hopped on the Euston train to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour (I wasn’t allowed to take the Hogwarts Express because alas, I am a muggle). Luckily they let me in so I could live in Harry’s world for a little while.

The tour is on the Warner Brothers studio lot, which is a bit (I’m trying to incorporate more British lingo) outside of London. After queuing (lining) up to get in, we waited outside two huge doors before we could go in … the Great Hall!

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Great Hall!

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Can I stay for dinner?

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Me and the profs

 It was great, but not as big as I thought it would be. It was much less than the length of a football field and hard to believe that more than 400 students, professors and production crew members fit inside for filming.

We continued on to see many of the sets, props and costumes. The studio had Daniel Radcliffe’s original Harry Potter robes (from when he was a wee 11-year-old), Hagrid’s hut, the Gringott’s vault door and so many more.

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The Common Room

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Dumbledore!

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Buggy rides

I couldn’t believe how detailed everything was. Every single wand case in Ollivander’s was labeled with a name. Every potion had a number. The letters that were used in the movie were handwritten (Lily’s handwriting looks so feminine and Umbridge’s letter was on cat stationery. Too perfect!)

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I rode in Ron’s dad’s car through the countryside and on a broom through London, and for a few seconds with no hands! I even got to put on robes (but the Muggle supervisor wouldn’t let me take a picture of myself wearing them. He wanted me to pay 20 pounds for the studio picture).

I knocked on the door of Privet Drive, stood on the Knight bus, read almost every placard and soaked in the magic. I also tasted it in the form of butterbeer (which is really sweet cream soda with a lot of foam. Definitely sweet enough to get the house elves tipsy).

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More “butter” than beer

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The castle is really small, too

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As a writer, one of the most exciting parts for me was viewing things from J.K. Rowling’s perspective. I loved imagining how she must’ve felt to have her world, the world that began on a coffee shop napkin, come to life before her eyes. All of the interviews with the directors, producers and actors showed how invested each member of the crew really was. Harry Potter became real-life magic because so many people believed in the story and were moved by it.

The exhibit is a must for any Harry Potter fan. Based on the number of people who liked almost every single picture in my Facebook album, I know that Harry Potter was a defining part of many of my friends’ childhoods. And like J.K. Rowling said, I was really glad Hogwarts was there to “welcome me home.”

Today started very early. Our bus left for Stonehenge at 8 a.m. and we made the bus just in time (public transportation tried to make us late by not running at its scheduled time. Luckily, we won).

We drove out of London to Stonehenge, which is about 90 minutes away, past fields of sheep and pigs. (How British, right?) Stonehenge is the most famous of all of the 1,300 stone circles in the U.K. (yes, there are that many). It’s believed that ancient people in 3050 BC started lugging stones all the way across Europe to create the circle. The construction took place over 1,550 years. Some of the stones weighed more than 50 tons; so don’t ask me how they placed those stones on top of the others. (Some conspiracy theorists say that aliens made the circle as a portal to Earth, and I think that’s the only explanation for this arrangement). Just kidding.

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We got all the way there and it was closed. Well, as closed as Stonehenge can be. You can’t touch the stones anymore because people used to come chip away at them to take pieces away as souvenirs. Now no one can touch them because they don’t want the stones to fall down. Today the path that leads up to the stones was blocked off because of the weather, so we had to take our pictures through a fence. I am happy to report that there were no UFO sightings, so the aliens must be happy with the status of their rocks for now.

Because Stonehenge was closed we had extra time in Bath, which is a town in Southwestern London. I was really excited to go to Bath because of its ties to Jane Austen. She lived there for a short time and hated it because of the self-important society women she saw at balls. (Luckily, these feelings were not wasted because she channeled this snarkiness in her books.) Because I wasn’t exposed to any of these women (and I don’t like in the 19th century), I loved it!

It’s a beautiful village with buildings made primarily of Limestone. Even though it was frigid outside, I’m glad we got to see the town with a layer of snow coating it. I felt like I was seeing the wintery English countryside of my literary dreams!

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Sorry, Jane. I loved Bath!

We first saw Assembly rooms where Jane Austen once went to balls. There I was, standing in the same room she has been in! It was very surreal for me. I spent most of my time in the rooms imagining how the whole town of Bath once gathered for balls and how women leaned against the very columns I was leaning against while they were waiting to dance. I loved it!

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Jane was in this room!

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Waiting patiently for the next dance

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See? I would fit right in

Then we saw the Roman baths, which are some of the only ancient baths that still work. They were communal, co-ed steam pools where people bathed naked! How scandalous!

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Next I walked past the Jane Austen Centre, which was closed as I expected, so I took a picture in front of the sign. On the two-hour drive back to London, we watched Pride and Prejudice on the bus TV. It was the perfect ending to a Jane-filled day!

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As close as I could get

Until next time,

A literature lover in London

Work, Learn, Tour, Repeat

It’s me again!

I finished the majority of my first full week in London and a lot has happened. This has been the week of museums. And class. And internships. And lots of other things. Let’s start at the beginning.

Monday: I started the day by going to my interview at TNT magazine. It was great! My editor met me in the kitchen, where multiple people were brewing cups of tea. She explained that I’m going to be writing 3-5 articles for the online edition every day, as well as feature stories for the print issue. The only hard part about Monday was the tube, which I’ve learned Brits LOVE to complain about.

The tube is SO crowded in the mornings. I was pressed in between two people for almost my entire ride. There was a guy on my first line who was very, very drunk and singing a song about pickpockets (no, not the Oliver song. Just his own little ditty). And yes, it was only 9 a.m. He was getting a lot of weird looks and people were recoiling from the whisky smell on his breath.

Then, on my last line, there was a person crouching in the corner by the tube door and wearing a rat mask. He was dressed in all black, so I guess he was trying to look like an enormous rodent. I guess some people have a lot of free time.

That afternoon Claire and I went to the National Gallery, which has more than 2,300 paintings from the mid-13th century to the 1900s. You can’t take your own photos and it was completely and utterly silent, except for the sounds of a few French teenagers running and yelling through the museum.

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There was one common theme in a lot of the pictures: centaurs. Or satyrs as they were labeled. Remember the little guy from Hercules? They were EVERYWHERE in the paintings. I really don’t know why.  See a picture of a pretty woman? She’s bound to be surrounded by centaurs.

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Overall, the gallery was very beautiful. It’s impressive that the Brits have such a wide collection of paintings, even if they did take them from their native countries. I was most excited for the Monet room, and of course, Murphy’s Law happened. It was the only room in the entire gallery that was closed. I guess I’ll be going back!

Then Claire and I went to Harrod’s, which is an enormous department store similar to Macy’s in NYC (except more expensive). They have everything you could ever hope to buy in there. In fact, someone bought Ronald Reagan an elephant named Gertie there.

We were automatically singled out as 1.) foreigners and 2.) poor students. The concierge came up to us and told us to come back on Saturday for some good bargains. He also told us to go to Floor 4 for “casual clothes.”

But that didn’t stop us. We walked into the Tiffany’s store and saw a woman looking at diamond rings. She waved over the employee, who was looking at us very disdainfully as we walked in, and bought a $2,300 diamond ring for her friend for her 50th birthday. Yes, that’s right, $2,300 for a birthday present. Unfortunately, she didn’t offer to buy me one, too.

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Glass slipper shop for little girls to try them on! (I was too old).

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“I’ll take you to the candy shop” (but I can’t afford to buy you any)

Tuesday: More of a serious day. I had class from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.  It’s one thing to have a class near your dorm or sorority house and leave 10 minutes early, another to have an early class across campus and a completely different thing to have an early class across a huge city.

In between classes, Jessica, Claire and I went to the Victoria and Albert museum, which is an art and design museum. It’s six floors, so we only got to see a small part of it. We looked at the “fashion through the decades” section, the British gallery and the Raphael “cartoons.” These cartoons are actually huge tapestries that Raphael and his apprentices painted for the Sistine Chapel, but they belong to the Queen now. The sign in the room says “On loan from Her Majesty the Queen.” (How kind of her!) The British galleries were also cool because they recreated rooms from different artistic periods in British history, so there was a music room, sitting room, etc. and they were all decorated with authentic furniture.

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Music room

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Hips don’t lie

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Cardboard chair

In my second class we had a Mizzou alum that writes for the Dow Jones newswire service talk to us. He was nice and just gave us information on what to see in London and what to expect in a British newsroom.

Over here they’re much more laid back and casual in the newsroom. I’m also writing without the protection of the First Amendment! That means that if something is wrong, I’m automatically presumed guilty. Weird to think about. There are errors EVERYWHERE in the British papers. It’s ridiculous. Even though you’re supposed to be factual and don’t have protection, papers still make up articles. It’s almost like every paper over here looks like the National Enquirer. Some papers have “Page 3” girls, which are topless pictures of girls.

It’s very odd, and I was shocked the first time I opened the paper to see a girl in a bathing suit without a top on, but besides that, the Brits must be doing something right though. They have more subscribers than papers in the U.S. and our population is so much bigger.

Wednesday: My first full day of work! I wrote two articles for the print publication and an article for the web. The British newsroom is definitely more relaxed. My colleagues are great and often get up to drink multiple (and by multiple I mean at least five) cups of tea each day. We listen to Indie rock stations on the radio and swearing is much more common (read: constant).

That night I went to dinner with Bill, who is one of my dad’s best friends from college. He’s a pilot and was spending the day in London in between his flights. I was incredibly happy to see him. Between the unreliable wifi and the time difference, it’s been harder to communicate with my family than I’d realized before I left. We had a great time talking about his favorite sites in London and his adventures backpacking in Europe after college while we ate Thai food. He was even nice enough to bring me peanut butter and a jar of jellybeans that’s shaped like a cupcake! Thank you so much, Bill. I can’t tell you how great it was to see you.

Thursday: Class and work! My editors sent me me to “zone 3” of London, which is a little outside the city, to do a “Vox Pop.” This is a section where TNT reporters ask random people on the street a question. I went to a cute little suburb called Muswell Hill to ask people why they liked living there. Easy enough, right?

Almost. The hardest part was finding it without my iPhone and map applications, which I can’t use anymore because there isn’t wifi. And I RELY on the iPhone maps, even if they have gotten my lost in East Cleveland after the Lady Gaga concert and told me to turn the wrong way into cornfields when I was driving to Cedar Point.

At first I was nervous about traveling outside of London, but the area was very quaint. It was then I realized that this was what I wanted to do: talk to locals and learn more about life in England. I seized the opportunity and spoke to many Brits in the local Starbucks. They were all very polite. And articulate. (Maybe the accent helped with that).

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Cute suburb

That night I went with Jessica and Claire to a couple pubs in Camden. One was the “hipster” pub where they had a live band and played Indie music, and the other was a Blues kitchen where they played ‘60s music. Both were pretty fun.

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Hipster band

It’s really different here because people start to go home before midnight. At Mizzou, people don’t start to “go out” until after 10. Maybe Londoners are just more in touch with the real world (which makes sense compared to my reference group of college kids).

Also, people in Britain aren’t as great at dancing as they are in the U.S. I know, I know, my moves are unparalleled, but the Brits often stand and head bop or tap their feet. It’s charming in a way!

Friday: It’s snowing here and Londoners are freaking out. Majorly. The tube is delayed (even though it’s underground). Even though England is Northern, it doesn’t snow much in the city. Of course, I unknowingly brought the Northeast Ohio snow with me. Sorry, London!

This afternoon we trudged through the snow to the British museum for a guided tour. We ended up splitting off from the group so we could spend more time looking at the exhibits. Some highlights included: The Rosetta Stone, Cleopatra’s tomb, sacred bull “moo”mies (I’d like to copyright this term, thank you). Apparently the Egyptians mummified everything, including their bulls and pet cats.

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Rosetta stone

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Mummified

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My favorite display: Cameos

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Royal Gold Cup

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Rubbing the Buddha’s belly for good luck

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Now, I’m going to get a little symbolic here. The British museum houses a huge number of artifacts from ancient civilizations and focuses on the progress of man throughout time. It was humbling to see the beginnings of man and the mummies that weren’t embalmed. We all start out the same and end that way, too. (Sorry to be a downer).

The good news is, it further encouraged me to embrace my time here and see everything I can while I’m here. I’m so blessed and lucky to have this once in a lifetime opportunity and to have the modern technology and support of my parents that allowed me to travel this far to see another part of the world.

Alright, enough seriousness. Now you’re all caught up! This weekend is going to be very busy. Tomorrow I’m going to the Harry Potter exhibit, which, is falsely advertised as being in London. We have to take a train there, but it should only take about 20 minutes. Then Sunday we’re going to Stonehenge and Bath.

One more Murphy’s Law: The website for the Jane Austen Centre (which is in Bath) says it’s going to be closed until January 29th. Of course my group is going this weekend. Although it’s mainly a gift shop with a lot of overpriced things, it has one exhibit that talks more about her that I was looking forward to. Jane! How could you do this to me?

Luckily I’ll still be able to go to her house and that’s what’s most important.

Until next time,

Allison the Austenite

Minding the Gap

Greetings!

I’m not sure I’ll be able to blog this frequently once my internship and classes start, but I promise to do my best! Tomorrow is the first day of my internship at TNT Magazine and I’m really looking forward to meeting the staff. I’ve heard great things about the publication and can’t wait to get started.

Since I last posted, I went on a pub-crawl throughout Camden. This area is known for its nightlife and a lot of college students come here to have a good time on the weekends. It’s also a popular spot for tourists (especially American tourists) to “go out” on the weekends. In fact, most of the people I talked to on our pub-crawl were Americans. Oddly enough, I met three guys studying acting from Boston University who are friends with some of my friends from high school. What a small world!

Most of the 30-something students in my program went on the pub-crawl. We started out at The Wheelbarrow, which was a very chill bar with dim lighting from hanging lamps and leather couches set up for hanging out in small groups. There was a small band setting up, but Mumford and Sons was playing over the stereo. This one was by far one of my favorites just because it was so casual. I met some college students from Scotland and they agreed that it was one of their favorites, too.

The second, Belushi’s, was a little more rowdy and crowded. Instead of couches there was a lot of empty space where people were standing around and pushing against one another to get to the bathroom. Not much was happening here.

The third was AWESOME! Its name is Proud and the venue is 200 years old. It used to be a hospital for horses, but now it’s a bar where the distant neighs of horses from the past can be heard. Just kidding. But the stables still do exist in the bar! You can rent one out for you and a group of friends if you want to have a hay-filled good time.

Next we went to a blues bar with a live band. Live bands seem to be a very big draw here in Camden. Many of them are very amateur and just getting their start. But, according to a few sources I’ve read online, Amy Winehouse and Coldplay both got their starts in Camden, so I could be seeing the next great thing.

Last was Koko, which is a nightclub where there was also a live band! Surprise surprise! But this place was more of a huge concert hall with multiple levels for standing and watching the show.

The next day we went on a panoramic bus tour of London. I was happy to be able to see Big Ben for the first time since I’ve been here. It also helped to travel about ground to all of the sites so I can see how London connects for the first time. Usually I take a few flights downstairs to the tube, ride in the carriage and come out to my destination. Our tour stopped at St. Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. We were able to get out into the freezing London air and take some pictures. The guards were not changing at the time we were at the palace. They also had coats on because it was so cold, so I couldn’t see their full uniforms. Of course, they were wearing their bearskin hats, and they are just as wonderful in person as you can imagine. The Queen wasn’t in at the time we visited, which our tour guide informed us based on the fact that the Union Jack (or UK flag) was flying. When the Queen is in, her royal flag flies. Not only should you hail the Queen, you should hail her flag, too.

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After the tour, we went to visit our friend Jenny from Mizzou who is studying abroad in London this semester, too. She’s living in Notting Hill. We took both the tube and a bus to get to her flat, so we felt very accomplished in our ability to navigate London transportation. (To get around we use Oyster cards, which are prepaid passes for public transportation. They work for both the tube and buses depending on what “zone” in London you’re going to. When you get on and off the tube, an automated voice reminds you to “mind the gap between the train and the platform,” hence the title of this post). We then went to a pub with … you guessed it! A live band! They covered songs by Stevie Wonder and Amy Winehouse and were pretty good. However, I was kind of distracted because the lead singer wasn’t wearing shoes or socks and his feet were relatively close to my face. Nonetheless, we had a great time.

Today we went on a guided tour of Primrose Hill and the Camden Markets. Harry Styles actually has a “luxury pad” in Primrose Hill. A ton of other celebrities live there too: Daniel Craig, Gwen Stefani, Helena Bonham Carter, Jude Law, Alan Rickman, Kate Hudson and more. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any of them. I did see a wonderful view of London from the top of Regent’s Park.

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We then walked to the Camden Markets, which were surprisingly close to the posh estates of these celebrities. In fact, the bridge below is very near a row of expensive apartments. The markets are huge and sell all types of specialty clothing and food, and even more kitschy tourist favors. There was an abundance of screen-printed tank tops with Starbucks, Jack Daniels and Rolling Stones logos on them. I think I saw a stand selling these exact same shirts every five or so steps.

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It was incredibly cold for a walking tour. In fact, my core temperature is still sub-zero and I don’t think it’ll ever get back to normal. Despite the freezing wind, it was still possible to smell the ethnic cuisine being sold. There were a lot of traditional Mexican, Asian, Turkish and English stands. Some handed out free samples, but the trickiest were the workers at the Asian stands. They held the samples out on forks and beckoned us over, then snatched them back when we reached out for the nugget of food and asked what we wanted to order. Tricky, tricky.

My roommates stopped for coffee and got cappuccinos with artfully designed cream and steamed milk. I wasn’t in the mood for coffee but the male barista desperately wanted to make a sale off of me (his business must’ve been slow). He asked if I wanted hot chocolate, but I declined after he said it wasn’t for free. Eventually, after I continually denied his offers, he gave it to me for the Camden Markets employee price. Mere pence! Success.

After we defrosted, I mapped out my commute to my internship, which I will visit tomorrow.  The tube is really fast, but it stops very often. I have to switch lines to get to my location and then walk about 10 minutes from the closest tube station. My internship is in East London, which is an area I haven’t seen much of yet. I have class in West London, live in Northern London and work in Eastern London, so I feel very lucky to be exposed to so much of the city.

This week my classes also start, so it’s sure to be busy. I’m ready to start my first full week in London!

Cheers,

Allison

The Beginnings of Life in London

‘Ello mates!

I’m happy to report that I’ve arrived safely in London! I’ve only been here a few days, but they’ve been an absolute whirlwind. I left on Tuesday night and experienced my first international flight. The plane was a Boeing 777 ( I incorrectly typed airbus the first time), as is to be expected, and SO much bigger than I’d imagined. The flight was pretty smooth, but even that couldn’t help me to sleep. I dozed in and out of sleep while watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower (they didn’t have Pride and Prejudice, so this was the next best thing) and listening to the free radio. The coolest part was the “Map” feature, which showed our location as we flew across the Atlantic. It also showed our estimated time of arrival, which was helpful for an impatient person such as myself.

Once I arrived at Heathrow, customs was surprisingly very easy to get through! The line went fairly quickly and I went to baggage claim to get my bags. (I’m mentioning all of this detail because there’s something important coming, I promise). I brought two black suitcases, so I really had to pay attention to which one was mine so I wouldn’t take the wrong one. It was then that someone started talking to me. “Do you need help?” he asked. “No thank you, I’m fine.” I told him. I looked over and saw a man in his 20s with curly blonde hair in a ponytail. He asked me why I was in London and how long I’d be in London for, to which I gave him very vague answers. Then, Gustav (the dude) wrote down his number and asked me to text him when I got settled so he could show me around London. So at least I know I have a friend here! (Kidding. Sorry, Gustav).

I then took a shuttle to my flat, which is in Camden. It’s right across from Sainsbury’s, which is the main grocery store here. I’m living with my friends Jessica and Claire, and so far it’s been great! Our flat is very nice and modern, though small. We all share one bedroom, which has one bed and a bunk bed, one closet and three small drawer units with three tiny drawers each. Luckily I had enough room in my suitcase to bring my pillow pet :)

We have our own kitchen, which has both an oven and stove (and also a washer/dryer combo thingy). I personally love our living room because it has the most space and a big couch with a TV. The bathroom is European-style (but don’t get too excited…there isn’t a bidet) because the glass for the shower only goes halfway across. We haven’t quite mastered how to take control of the showerhead yet, so our bathroom is always flooded. We’ll work on it.

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After we unpacked, we went on a walking tour of Camden, which is a very young area known for its live music and for the Camden Market, which we’ll be visiting this weekend. The area is full of shops with open doors selling everything from clothes, to phones to food. There are also a ton of off-license liquor stores. My favorite is Booty liquor, which I haven’t visited. I just like the name. There are also an abundance of tattoo parlors and piercings, so I’m at no loss for where to get a cheap, new, permanent physical reminder of London! (Don’t worry, mom).

After our tour, Jessica, Claire and I had lunch in Camden and then went to the grocery store where we were soon overwhelmed by all of the British brands. We tended to buy the bargain grocery store brand and made out pretty well! One very disappointing part of England is that Diet Coke is SO expensive. It’s nearly twice the price of Diet Coke in the U.S. Because of this, I’ve only had one bottle in the time I’ve been here. I know; I can’t believe it either. I’ve never lived on my own before with the responsibility of making my own food, but I’m proud to say we heated up a pre-made pizza without burning anything down! Score!

We went to bed pretty early Wednesday night because we were all dozing off every time we sat down. We slept on our very springy beds, but on the bright side, we’ll all have very good posture at the end of this semester!

On Thursday we started orientation. We took to tube for the first time (successfully, might I add). I was very surprised at how quiet the tube is, even in the middle of the day. People keep to themselves and if they are talking, it’s in very low voices. So if you want to look like a tourist, yell very loudly on the tube!

In between our orientation sessions, we walked around Kensington, which is where our classes will be. The area is incredibly beautiful. It looks like traditional England, with row houses, fine architecture and expertly pruned greenery. We planned on walking to Kensington Palace but took a wrong turn and ended up filling the time by taking pictures with the scenery.

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That night we went to the South Bank for an orientation reception where we were promised traditional pub food. There wasn’t any fish n’ chips (which I have yet to try), but there was fried brie and potatoes, as well as barbecue chicken and hamburgers. It was a great mix of American and English food to ease us into London. I also got to drink cider legally. Haaay!

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The wifi doesn’t work too well here, which takes some getting used to for someone who is very used to being connected at all times. As the semester goes on, I’ll have to learn to embrace moments of disconnectedness and be patient when my free calling apps repeatedly hang up on my parents.

Today we had more orientation sessions and another chance to walk around Kensington. We went to the palace and asked for Will and Kate, but they were already engaged for the day :) The palace is beautiful (from the outside) and we’re eager to see more, so we might venture inside soon!

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Tonight all of the people in my program are going on a pub-crawl around Camden, so it should be a lot of fun! Tomorrow we’re taking a 3-hour bus tour around London and Sunday we’re visiting the markets.

I’m looking forward to getting into a routine and discovering more of the city. London has so much to offer and I know these next few months will fly by!

From London with Love (shout-out to Bethany Christo for this sign-off),

Allison

Jolly Ole London Town

I’m not really sure when it started, but I have a blushing problem. It happens specifically when I hear accents, British accents that is. There’s something about hearing a British accent that gets me incredibly excited, which somehow triggers a blushing response. But whatever the reason, I’m prepared to be completely red-faced for at least the first two weeks I’m in England until I get adjusted, starting …

TOMORROW. Today’s the day! In just a few hours I’m leaving for London! I’ve wanted to go to England for almost as long as I can remember. That desire grew much stronger once I started obsessing over British literature. Of course, I’m fully aware that going to England because I love Jane Austen is like a foreigner coming to America because she loves Mark Twain — it really won’t mean anything to anyone who lives there. But still, I’m incredibly excited for what lies ahead.

Of course I’m nervous. English food doesn’t have the best reputation and seeing Oliver and humming the catchy “You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket or Two” has made me very aware of little thieves. I also have a nagging fear that my suitcase(s) will get lost. I’m not very good at directions, and given my past “first day” experiences, I’m a little wary of what this one will be like. But in the grand scheme of things, these are all little fears that will quickly go away.

Luckily, I have a great support system. I have constantly been reassured by a wonderful network of people who are genuinely happy for me to venture across the pond. I have a great list of must-see places from friends who have already been abroad (lucky ducks) and well wishes from those who know how much this trip means to me.

There are plenty of reasons why I’m excited to go to England! Here are just a few (this is by no means an exhaustive list):

1.)  To LIVE in London! I’m going to wake up every day in foggy London town and see double decker buses drive down the street. I’ll splosh through London rain puddles and wander the streets of one of the greatest cities in the entire world.

2.) The free museums! Yes, I’m a nerd, but I’m so excited that admission to all museums is free. There’s so much to explore in the British Museum and National Gallery (to name a few).

3.) The Globe Theater!

4.) Going to Jane Austen’s house (I mean, duh. Also it’s the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice this year and the exhibit is staying up all year long at her house, so this was clearly the year I was meant to study abroad).

5.) Working as a journalist in London. I’m interning at TNT Magazine, which is a travel, news and entertainment magazine “for Londoners and travellers.” I’ll get to talk to Londoners themselves, all while learning how to be a better writer.

6.) To figure out how I take my tea! Maybe I’ll even be converted from Diet Coke.

7.) To explore the rest of Europe. I’m not sure where I’ll be heading just yet, but London is a great jumping-off point.

8.) The palaces, the gardens and the parks (which I’m going to see rain or shine).

9.) Touring different London newsrooms (including Conde Nast UK) as part of my internship class!

10.) The unexpected. As much as I like to plan everything out, I’m so excited for the journeys to come.

This semester is going to be one big adventure. As much as I’m sad to leave my friends at Mizzou and my family at home, I’m ready to challenge myself to embrace every opportunity and make the most of my four months abroad.

I know in these four months, despite the best-intentioned wishes from friends, I will most likely not meet my Mr. Darcy. I’m more than ok with that. This trip is about self-discovery. About finding out more about myself through a wonderful new world around me (and all the rest of that cheesy stuff). And I promise to post frequently with my updates.

London, I can’t wait to meet you.

Cheers,

Allison