Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Day at the British Library

Today we went to Platform 9 3/4, which I must say was a major disappointment. Due to construction at King Cross station the platform (which is just a fake wall) was moved out of the station and is located on the street. But I must say I did get a good picture after I cropped it.

Then we went down the road to spend the day at the British Library. Getting to see all the treasures of the library was amazing. I was able to see a Gutenberg Bible, original printing of Shakespeare, Henry VIII's prayer book, Emily Bronte's handwritten Jane Erye, one of the four remaining Magna Cartas (I saw another in Salisbury). I wish I could have taken pictures to remember this experience, but its far more important to protect these amazing items. If you want to take a look at some of the items click British Library to take you to the website. I suggest everyone take the time to view some of the wonderful treasures.

Standing in a room filled with such history just makes you think about everything that happened to create the world we currently are living in. What if King Harold II (one of the first Godwin, which is one of my family lines) had not lost the Battle of Hastings to the Norman invasion of William the Conqueror, would we still have the same history we have today. King Henry VIII and his six wives may have never happened. Its interesting to think the world could have been completely different with religion moving forward faster or slower. The Americas might not have been found as soon as they were, or they could have been found earlier. It makes me think of the Butterfly Effect. If one little change in history had occurred would I and everyone I know even be here. Points to ponder.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Crumpet the Kitty Cat

When I was told to bring a mascot on this trip I thought what fun thing could I bring with me. I thought of bring a California Raisin and a Care Bear. But one day at a store I saw this cute kitty cat that looks a lot like my old cat Jack. I decided she has to be my travel companion. But I should have known that all tuxedo cats are the same, sweet one day and trouble the next.

Watch the video to see what kind of trouble Crumpet has gotten into so far. Who knows what she will do tomorrow.

lyesmom (November 29, 2005). I'm a Kitty Cat. [Video File]. Retrieved from

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

5 Picture Story in Salisbury

Today we spent the day at Stonehenge and Salisbury. I must say that Stonehenge is a beautiful place to go and just think. The stones were amazing and to think it took years for each stone to be dragged 25 miles to this site.

After we spent some time at Stonehenge, we got back on the bus and road out to Salisbury to see the cathedral that was built from 1220 to 1258 AD. It is also the home of one of the original copies of the Magna Carta. To see all this history up close was awe inspiring.

The photography focus for today was to create a story in five pictures. So I created a story about food, because I was so hungry that is was all I could think of. I had a lunch of macaroni and cheese with a side salad and bread. I would love to say it was delicious, but it was actually just okay. The restaurant was cute but the service was terrible, which I think is why I didn't think the food was so great.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tower of London

On Sunday, July 24, 2011 a few of my classmates and I went to visit the Tower of London. This was the one stop in London that I was determined to make. I wanted to see where some of the most famous British stories take place. Where Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, and Jane Grey were beheaded and later buried.

At the entrance to the Tower of London, it is guarded by lions (or metal copies of really lions that were once there). Crumpet saw them and had to take a picture because they are all part of the cat family. There were also monkeys climbing the walls near the crown jewels.

It also houses one of the most famous prisions in the world. To see where people carved their names into the walls as a way to make their last mark on earth was heartbreaking. There was also a place where Grey's husband carved Jane into the wall. The sadness in those rooms could be felt in the air.

We were given advice on how to approach the Tower experience. After being some of the first people to go through the gates that morning, we ran to the where the Jewels are shown to avoid long lines. I wish I could have taken pictures in there, but if your interested click here to see some Google images. The First Star of Africa was an amazing site to see. The diamond looked huge!

But the most surprising part of my trip took place when I found out people still live in the Tower of London. The governor, a doctor, and a chaplain all live on the grounds. There are also 7 ravens that are permanent residence to the tower. The homes were quaint and reminded me of old fashion townhouses.

The White Tower was the central feature to the Tower of London. It was the first part built by William the Conqueror. I found everything it housed so interesting that it was where I spent most of my time. I have created a video that shows my favorite aspects, but I must say it only scratches the surface on what was an amazing visit. Take a look at my video to see what I found most interesting.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Oh Look...It's Art

This weekend was full of fun and excitement. I was able to visit with my friends Samuel and James, who I haven't seen in at least 5 years. It was so nice to get to catch up. They took me to a pub along the Thames River, where I had the best fish & chips. While we were walking on the footpath (aka sidewalk) I saw some very interesting things.

Here is London this thing called a Pedibus. It is where you get about 8-10 of your friends together and drink while riding this 10 person bike-bus through London. I have to say it looks really fun. If we had the time during our busy schedule, I would suggest going. I guess I'll have something to look forward to the next time I come to London.

Samuel, James, their friend Mike, and I went to Tate Modern Museum. This is a converted power station with a huge ramp once you enter. I was excited to see the collections. Some were moving and awe inspiring, while others only made me say, "Oh's art."

When I was in college I took a photography course and saw a few pieces of Diane Arbus's work. I must say that in person her work is amazing. If you want to see some of her pieces, then click on her name and it will take you to Google Images. I also saw some Andy Warhol, Picasso, and Monet's Water-Lilies.

Art is supposed to give one strong emotions, whether it is good or bad isn't the point. However, when I first saw the pill of sunflower seeds in the middle of the room I thought, "This is ridiculous!" Then I read what the seeds were. They were individually, handcrafted porcelain sunflower husks that are also hand painted. (In the picture is James on the left and Samuel on the right).

But my favorite sight to see was the duck tape work done by a handyman who I can only guess was trained in the Southern USA. And for your information, the duck tape is holding on to a boat that is in the Thames River. If it was created for submarines, why not use it on boats.

Friday, July 22, 2011

History of Tea

On our second full day here in London a few of us decided to enjoy a nice afternoon tea at the Strand Plaza. We sat on lovely couches and ottomans around a table filled with tea cups; towers of sandwiches, scones, and pastries; and teapots. It made me start to wonder why a Chinese drink was so popular in England. I came home and did a little digging on the internet to find information on the history of tea in England. I found a website called United Kingdom Tea Council. Who else would have a the best information about the history of tea in Great Britain than the official council for tea.

According to the council, tea was not common in England until a Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza, with a big craving for tea. In Portugal tea was a common drink and a favorite among the Portuguese court. When Catherine was sent over to England to marry Charles II in 1662 she brought with her a chest full of tea as part of her expensive dowry. However, tea was not yet a drink in England so she was offered ale when she arrived. After marrying Charles II, Catherine made tea a popular fad in the royal court.

The eighteenth century was filled with the upper class trying to keep tea a luxury item and prevent the lower classes from drinking it. One way of doing this was to promote that tea was unhealthy to drink. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, went as far to say people should abstain from drinking tea all together. Jonas Hanway argued tea was unhealthy to drink and Dr. Samuel Johnson argued there was nothing wrong with drinking tea. This started a large argument between Hanway and Johnson that continued through the press for years.

As time has gone by not only has society chosen to side with Dr. Samuel Johnson, we have scientific proof that tea is beneficial to drink. So having tea with my meals isn't a bad habit to pick up here in England.

Take a couple of minutes and listen to my podcast for more information.

Podcast Powered By Podbean

Hale, B. (n.d.) A Nice Cup of Tea (Audio File). Retrieved from

MacLeod, K. (n.d.) The Forest and the Trees (Audio file). Retrieved from

United Kingdom Tea Council. (2011). Tea - A Brief History of the Nation's Favorite Beverage. Retrieved from

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Day in Oxford

Since Crumpet was such a troublemaker yesterday, I decided she should stay home for a timeout today. Our study abroad group traveled by train today to Oxford. We were lucky that is barely rained all day. Our first stop was the Bodleian Library & Radcliffe Camera at Oxford University. The building was magnificent with stone carvings and crests placed all over. During the reign of King Henry VIII the reformation took place where many of the statues and decorations in churches were destroyed. However, the library and Oxford was considered such an important piece of architecture that it was spared. Unfortunately many books were destroyed and the library disappeared.

At one point we were able to go into the reading room. The library was rescued and repaired by Sir Thomas Bodley, which is where the name Bodleian Library comes from. We were able to see the very same books he donated and collected back in 1598 to 1602. Of course we were not allowed to touch the books. Apparently if we had tried to take the books off the shelves alarms would go off.

The Radcliffe Camera was built from 1737 to 1748. This building has a large dome at the top and in the building the dome and ceilings are decorated with a mint green paint with white carvings. The architecture was so breathtaking that I forgot all about the books. This building was created in a circle with a lot of windows, which allowed for an abundance of natural lighting.

After the library we went to Christ Church and Story Museum. While they were interesting (especially Christ Church), I wish I could have seen more of the libraries. I would have loved to climb up a flight or two to look at the books on the shelves. With the collection being of historical importance I understand why we couldn't touch them, I just wish I could have explored more.

To end the day we had dinner at the Eagle and Child, which is the same pub that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein used to meet and have a pint. The chicken and cider pie was delicious. I also tried my first Guinness while in the U.K. I have to admit it does taste better here than in the U.S.A.

No photos on this post. Unfortunately my battery died very quickly and all I was able to do was my assigned photography for class.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Crumpet's Day of Trouble

Today we went to Regent's Park, Primerose Hill, and Abbey Road. Crumpet was having so much fun being outside. She found a patch of wildflowers to hide in, which made me realize she looks a little like a skunk. I'm glad she doesn't smell like one.

At one point Crumpet made a cherub very angry. The little boy tried to throw her across the pond. I took my eyes off of her for one minute and she is making statues mad.

However, we did take the time to smell the roses.
There were so many different types of flowers all over the park. The roses were lovely.

After a walk through the park, we went to Primerose Hill for a picnic lunch and to fly kites. We were trying to reenact the kite flying scene from Mary Poppins. However, Crumpet again was trying to cause more trouble by ripping a hole through the center of the kite. I guess that's what I get from buying a dollar tree kite.

Crumpet was also making the other mascots angry. Raul, Aubrey's mascot, was ready to use crumpet for an afternoon snack.

Crumpets biggest trouble happened when she decided she would break in to Abbey Road Studio. The studio is currently have renovations done and the front does not look too pretty. The gates in front are covered with signatures and drawings. I found this one brick that I really liked.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

East London, Not As Bad As You Thought

East London also known as the East End is known for its slums and rookeries (where criminals and prostitutes are), but today's East End is rapidly changing. When London found out it would be the host of the 2012 Olympic Games they decided to build the Olympic Park and Village in the East End in Newham. Not only did that demolish old, rundown buildings, but it began the changing of a poor area. The rehabilitation and repurposing of the area brought in a lot of new jobs for the area. Plus when the the the Games will bring in more. It's exciting to see this kind of change in a community since we are in a tough time.

The Olympic Park is massive with with around 2,000 trees planted and another 2,000 to go. The first one closes to the stadium was planted by Queen Elizabeth II. The gardens built around and in the park give visitors a place to sit and have a picnic. There is also the ArcelorMittal Orbit, which is a large red structure that will have an orb shaped building on top. It will look a lot like a roller coaster.

My favorite part of the East End was seeing where 3Mills Studios, which is London's largest film studio. I love the fact that this studio is built in such a historic setting. Our tour guide Sean told us that films like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and theatre productions rehearsed there like Billy Elliot. The film nerd in me was so excited to see this building. I kept looking around for a place to break in at, but my silly conscience told me not too.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Westminster Abbey, London Eye, & Street Performers Oh My!

Today started off cold again. But it quickly became exciting when we went to Westminster Abbey. The Abbey is historic, iconic, and breathtaking. I was able to walk by the resting place of Queen Elizabeth I and Bloody Mary. An interesting fact is that they are both buried together in one grave and the effigy on top is of Elizabeth. I guess the Mary will always lay in Elizabeth's shadow. Unfortunately we are unable to take photos in the Abbey. But I did cheat and get a picture of the oldest door in England (I know, not nearly as exciting).

The London Eye was beautiful to see. There was even a wedding in the next pod over. Seeing London from above was great, but the best part of the Eye was seeing the street performers around it. I saw some great guys. There was Captain Jack Sparrow, Darth Vader, a man dancing with a doll, etc. Take a look at some of the photos.

Most of the street performers just stood around in entertaining clothes for tourist to take pictures with. The guy with posed with talked a lot and made funny jokes at people. As a tourist I was more attracted to the performers who were actually performing. The ones that just stood there were pretty boring. The man dressed as Queen Elizabeth II had music playing and did a little dance. Charlie Chaplin also did Chaplin's famous walk, which must be done when anyone dresses like Charlie. I feel some of these characters would do better at attracting business if they added a little entertainment to their acts. Even if it is making jokes at the people who walk by.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bus Tours & Cat Calls

This morning we went on a bus tour of London, which was wonderful. We had a great tour guide and bus driver. The bus tour drove all over London, but the downside is we didn't get to so into any of the sites. We got to see St Paul's Cathedral, the London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Buckingham Palace along with Prince Charles, Harry, and the love birds Will and Kate's residences.

St Paul's Cathedral was our first stop. I can't explain how is felt to see this amazing structure. Queen Anne's sculpture at one of the ends was beautiful to see. However, I learned she was only 5'8" and weighed over 300 pounds.

We did stop in to see the changing of the guards. The main point I would like to make is that some of these guards are only babies. The guards in front of Prince Charles and the Prince's residences looked only 18 at most. Maybe that's why there was a police officer inside the gate looking out and watching the crowd. After watching the guards getting off duty march out it began to rain. I must say I am getting the true London experience.

After our tour some of us went to lunch at a sushi restaurant and then grocery shopping. I asked a clerk at Waitrose if they had peanut butter and he looked at me like I was crazy and said "Of course." I just wasn't sure if they grew peanuts here. Apparently they do.

As we walked back to the flats I had a very interesting experience. Crystal and I were walking by two men and one made eye contact with me so I nodded my head at him. The next thing I know he is saying, "Rrrrrrrrrrrr! You're hot!" So cat calling in London is very different than the states. Last night we had some "Hey baby!" being said to us, which would also be normal in the states. But this guy made me laugh so hard that I might have offended him.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Girls' Day In London

So it was a rainy and dreary day in London. This was the kind of day you want to stay in bed with a good book and a cup of tea. But we decided to take our chances and go out to play.

Our first stop was Covent Square Gardens Market. The street market was great, but then we found Lush! We spent about half an hour just looking at all the different types of soaps and cosmetics. If you don't know what Lush is, check out their website by clicking the name in this paragraph. With a yucky day outside, we need some natural soap to clean up our day.

We made reservations for afternoon tea at the Strand Place Hotel's Lounge Bar. It was so wonderful to sit down with the ladies on pretty couches to drink wonderful British tea with cream while eating tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, plus yummy pastries. I find afternoon tea to be a much need necessity that should make its way to the States.
Taking the time to sit and drink warm tea with friends replenishes you for the day ahead. Instead of having the afternoon drag that makes me want to take a nap, I was ready to go for the rest of the day.

After tea we decided to just wonder around until we found a good place to stop. So of course we wondered into Chinatown. At first it smelled a little fishy, and when I say fishy I mean stinky rotten fish. But then we passed that restaurant and things were colorful and fun. I saw some Durian fruit, which also didn't smell to good.

Having a Girls' Day in London was wonderful. Even though the weather was yucky, London still looked beautiful through the gray light of the sky. Plus its nice to see that even when its rainy outside this city has plenty of things to keep a person entertained without getting soaking wet to the bones.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Boots and Beer

In England there is this place. It contains wonder and miracles galore. If you go there with a problem chances are you will leave with a solution. The people are kind and helpful. Boots Pharmacy you are amazing.

My legs are swollen after the flight, so I went to see if there was anything that could help me. Not only was there a pill, but it was made by Boots. I then went to the front to pay and the impulse section was filled with Boots products. They had ibuprofen that would be prescription strength in the USA. If you have a pain you don't even need to worry about ibuprofen, instead try paracetamol & codeine over the counter. Luckily for me I just need a water pill to help decrease the swelling. Click Boots if you want to check out their website.

This evening we went to dinner at Marlborough Arms Pub. The fish & chips (yes I know two nights in a row) were delicious. The chips were better than last night. Oh, and I now understand the point to malt vinegar. The Youngs Ale was the perfect match to go with dinner. To end we had apple pie with warm custard. Definitely not the American way to do apple pie, but it was pretty tasty.

Can you find where Crumpet was hiding at dinner tonight? I think she wanted to steal the fish off our plates.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fast Cars, Short Skirts, plus Fish & Chips

So London is amazing. It has historic buildings everywhere mixed with retro and modern buildings. Brittany and I landed safely in London this morning around 10 am London time and 5 am EST. So needless to say I didn’t call my loved ones back home to tell them I arrived ok.

We got a taxi from the airport. The thought was is would be easier than trying to figure out the buses from the start. We had a great driver, Kevin, who told us some wonderful places to go.

Since I’ve been in London I have noticed three things. One, people drive like psychos! Not joking, they put Americans to shame. The roads are too small for the amount of car they pack on it. I don’t understand how it possible to drive safely on these roads.

Two, OMG the skirts are so short! I understand that part of my trip is to try new things, but this is one piece of fashion I will have to skip. The skirts barely cover the whole bottom, let alone if they sit down or need to bend to pick something up. I don’t even thing you can squat in this skirts. However, I want to make a point to say these are some brave women. If you’re comfortable wearing it, then more power to ya!

Three, the fish & chips in England ROCK! I had a wonderful fish & chips dinner tonight. I did notice that every restaurant we looked into had fish & chips on the menu. I guess I’ll be eating a lot of that while I’m here.

I'm staying at 13 Bedford Place. Here is Crumpet in front of the building.

Here are some of the key people who may come up in stories.

Brittany – Friend, travel companion, and roommate

Jackie – Classmate and roommate

Joey – Classmate and roommate

Dr. Everhart – Professor

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Heading to London!

So my trip to London is only beginning but boy has it been crazy. I got in a car accident heading to the airport in Orlando. Not only was it a semi, but he hit my mom and me TWICE. I can only hope the flights are better. Brittany has decided she will never travel with me again. We were following her and her brother.

Well off to Boston then running to the connector to London. I'll post again when I get on the other side of the Atlantic.

Also take a look at my travel mascot. Her name is Crumpet!