Doctor Who Experience

I thought I was going to leave London without going to the Doctor Who Experience (mostly because I didn’t have anyone to go with). But, I managed to convince Joe to take me. We may have been the only ones without children there, but that was fine with me, I can be a child (Joe wasn’t as pleased). The actual “experience” part is a little cheesy, but it’s still cool because you get to go into the TARDIS and also be a little freaked out by some weeping angels (although they don’t really make any sense in the story).

9 and 10's TARDIS

old TARDIS console circa Doctors 6-8 maybe? I forget

Evolution of the cybermen

The making of an Ood

We also stopped by Leighton House, house of Victorian artist, Frederic Leighton. My favorite part, the “Arab Room” is full of tiles that Leighton collected from Damascus and a gilded dome. But since taking pictures wasn’t allowed, I only have a picture of the outside. Not too exciting, but you can see the dome.

Check out the old school double-decker bus on Kensington High Street

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Concert, play, play

Earlier this month Uncle James and Su-su took me along to see Messiah performed at St. Paul’s. Now, I don’t know anything at all about Handel or oratorios, and I probably have even less appreciation for it. But I agreed to go because it seemed like a good ‘new thing’ to try. Luckily, for me it was a slightly shortened version of Handel, so instead of three hours, it was only two and a halfish. I might have fallen asleep during the first part, but that’s not because it wasn’t amazing in its own way. Hearing the music and singing and looking around St. Paul’s at the same time was really cool. It put the church into more context than just coming during visiting hours. Unfortunately, there’s something like a seven second echo, so a lot of the words got jumbled up, and since I’ve never heard Messiah I was a little lost. There were two songs, however, that I did know. The Hallelujah chorus (you know, hallelujah… hallelujah… hallelujah, hallelujah, halleeeeeelujah). The other song I knew because Amy Grant sings it in Joy to the World/ Unto us a Child is Born.

Joe and I went to see the Veil at the National Theatre. And here’s a tip for anyone under 25 coming to London, you can apply for an entry pass for free and get £5 tickets to shows at the National Theatre. Anyways, The Veil is a new play written by Conor McPherson that takes place on an estate in Ireland in 1822. Madeleine, a widow, is marrying her daughter, Hannah to a marquis in order to resolve the debts on the estate. But, Hannah hears voices in the house and the Reverend Berkeley, fascinated, performs a séance. The whole play takes place in one room, and the set is beautiful. The room is sort of falling apart towards the ceiling, and it extends backwards into the stage. You can even look out the windows and see ivy growing on the side of the brick building. The whole play is rather eerie, but the part that stuck with me is at the end, when Madeleine calls out to Mr. Fingal as he is saying goodbye, off to be married to someone else, but Mrs. Goulding interrupts them and Mr. Fingal just leaves without another word. Call me a romantic, but it was so tragic. Also, side note, I’m 99.9% sure we were sitting in the row behind Brendan Coyle aka Mr. Bates from Downtown Abbey. Joe doesn’t believe me. But, it looked like him, sounded like him, and he starred in another of Conor McPherson’s plays, The Weir. Evidence.

The other play we saw, was The Woman in Black, a Christmas gift from the uncles. I really wanted to see this play because it’s about to be made into a movie, starring Daniel Radcliffe. (And the play is based on a novel by Susan Hill.) The novel is pretty much a straight up ghost story, but the play is framed completely differently to allow for just two actors. In the play, Arthur Kipps wants to tell the horrific story to his family, and he enlists the help of an actor because he wants to be able to do the story justice. The actor is really enthusiastic and instead of just reciting the story, the two of them end of acting it out, with the actor playing Arthur and Arthur playing the parts of the secondary characters. The first half of the play was a little tiresome because Arthur is very resistant, and there are many breaks to their “acting.” But, by the time the second half begins Arthur has fully embraced his parts and the two of them are just purely acting out the story. David Acton, the man who plays Arthur Kipps was amazing. He had to play the parts of several different characters and turn them on and off at the flick of a switch, and all his characters were still 100% believable, I barely even noticed it was the same man over and over again. The only disappointing part of the night was that there was a group of middle school aged kids there, and the girls screamed at every opportunity they got. Sometimes it would be a delayed reaction to the ghost, and one time is wasn’t even anything scary, they just mistook the actor for something else. Which isn’t to say the show wasn’t scary, I kept jumping in my seat, and the one thing that really freaked me out was when the source of the strange noise is discovered to be a rocking chair, rocking itself. OOooOoOooOO… spoooooky! Now I can’t wait to see the movie, although, the descriptions I’ve read make it sound a lot different.

Book vs play vs movie...

Baile Átha Cliath (Dublin)

The first weekend of December I flew to Dublin with some friends who are in London with the Colgate program. We flew out of Gatwick which meant we had to find a way to get there first, which would in our case would be easybus. No problem, right? Except, despite being super lucky and catching the right District line train at the exact right time, I missed the bus. I was running in the rain towards the bus stop and I could see the bus, and then it drove away. So I thought I could catch the next bus, but the next bus would have been too late, so I high-tailed it over to Victoria station to take the Gatwick express instead. It wasn’t that late at night, but the airport was super empty, which might have been a good thing because it took me forever to get through the fancy thingamabobs that look at your eyes because it couldn’t read through my glasses.

Interesting mural in our hostel

We stayed at a hostel right next to the Christ Church Cathedral aka right in the middle of the city. The first morning we went on a walking tour that took us to the Dublin Castle and City Hall, with a lot of accompanying historical information all about the Irish spirit and yadayada. Our guide was super nice and she despite the cold cold cold she kept everyone entertained and even spoke a little Irish too. Interesting fact, in an effort to make Irish more familiar to new generations new words have been introduced sounds more like English. Or something like that.

The oldest surviving bit of Dublin Castle, Record Tower c. 1228

The garden at Dublin Castle, celtic knot in the grass, and a wall built to hide the slums from some queen or the other

We also went on a pub crawl, no, not a literary pub crawl, just a regular old pub crawl. Crazies thing happened. There was a girl there that I knew! One of the American girls who’s on the rugby team was also in Dublin that weekend, and at the same pub crawl. We even played a game of beer pong against her and her friends, Colgate vs Bryn Mawr. We won, of course.

Traditional music at a pub

The next day we went to check out the Liffey Bridge, formerly the Wellington Bridge, named after the Duke of Wellington, but also nicknamed the Ha’penny Bridge because of the half penny toll that people had to pay to cross it. Then to the National Leprechaun Museum, which was sort of lame… Not much of a museum, more of an “experience.” The two little kids who were the only one there besides us, got scared halfway through because it was dark…. And because I’m a nerd, while my friends went to the Guinness Storehouse tour, I went to the Chester Beatty Library. Chester Beatty was American, but he collected lots of amazing books (including some Egyptian love poems) from all over the world and all of it is on display at this library.

Funny story. Our tour guide told us about Darky Kelly who was burned as a witch and supposedly haunts a certain ally near Dublin Castle. And as it happens I found myself on the very stairs that led to the ally as I was going back to the hostel from the Library. I had to try really hard not to be spooked.

The River Liffey

Ha'Penny Bridge

Sitting in a giant's chair at the Leprechaun Museum

One thing I realized, I really love the Irish countryside. Dublin is a really nice city, but I wish we were able to g out of the city for a bit.

A picture of Dingle Penninsula from my visit to Ireland in 2007

Rugby for reals

Way back in November, nearly 3 weeks ago, I played in my first (and only) rugby game. First of all, the end of November is COLD! And since I was obviously not a starting player, I spent the first part of the game jumping in place on the sidelines and shoving my ice cold hands into my armpits to keep warm.

I ended up playing scrum half back, which I had never ever played before and it really freaked me out. The scrum half gets to make a lot of decisions and yell at people, but considering I’ve never really played rugby, I didn’t feel so confident. “Scrum halves are often short and fast over a short distance and should also be very capable handlers of the ball. I pretty much only satisfy the “short” part.

In a nutshell, I roll the ball into the scrums and retrieve the ball from a ruck to pass it on. Definitely some moments of confusion, trying to grab the ball and not being able to roll the ball properly. But I had my moments. Doris complimented my quick retrieval of the ball from one particular scrum, and Amanda apologized for not catching one of my better passes.

In the end we won the game, only letting LSE (London School of Economics) score one try to our five, so my attempt at playing wasn’t completely disastrous. 😛

Since I have no pictures of me in my rugby kit, here’s some pictures from some rugby socials and events.

Wonderful Wednesdays

Last Wednesday Joe and I went to the London Studios to be part of the TV audience for comedian Alan Carr’s show, Alan Carr: Chatty Man. We almost didn’t make it in. Despite having (free!) tickets, they didn’t guarantee that we would be able to get in. First come, first serve kind of thing. Well, we were literally the last people to get in (too bad for the 100 people waiting in line behind us), but we were told that we wouldn’t be able to sit together.  As it turned out there were two seat together in the very last ro (so no chance we made it onto the actual show).

But, despite not know any of the guests (Bear Grylles, Lee Evans, 1 Direction) it was a lot of fun. Alan is super funny (even when the camera aren’t rolling). It was interesting to see how these sorts of talk shows work. For the most part it was non-stop as if we were actually watching on TV. And where there were commercial breaks the crew got ready for what was coming in the next segment. A few lines has to be reshot (mostly scripted parts like when Bear plugged a charity), and the audience had to do a few things (like cheer when there was nobody there, or look surprised when nothing was going on) which I assume will make more sense when it airs on TV (which is has already). The band, 1 Direction (a British boy band that formed to compete on X Factor because they weren’t good enough to compete individually…), performed a song at the very end which I thought was interesting to watch because I could see the live band playing and the way it looked though the camera via screens hanging from the ceiling. The smoke, and light, and pyrotechnics actually look way more dynamic on screen than in real life.

And this Wednesday (aka today) Joe and I went ice skating! We went to Somerset House where Tiffany & Co. hosts “Skate at Somerset House” every winter. It’s been a long time since I’ve ice skated, and I’ve pretty much forgotten how to (my 5-year-old cousin would put me to shame), but I managed to not fall at all, so that’s a plus. I forgot my camera (grrr), so no pictures…

And on a non-Wednesday note, I helped Su-su and Uncle James trim the Christmas tree on Monday! Yay, Christmas!

Giving thanks in London

Since Thursday meant work for my uncles’ (and school for me), we celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday instead. Uncle James started cooking as early as the morning before, so I woke up to the smell of stuffing Thursday morning. I didn’t help out too much, but I peeled potatoes, cut brussel sprouts, and mashed potatoes for the cause.

Joe came over, as well as Su-su and Uncle Jame’s friends. At some point they were all talking about 80’s music and everything just went over my head, I could only understand 10% of what they were saying.

I forgot to take pictures of the table, but there was so much food, and all of it delicious. On top of the essential turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing (made from fresh bread), almond and arugula mashed potatoes, lemon zest green beans, bacon and chestnut brussel sprouts, sweet potato casserole (aka sweet potato pie), pumpkin pie with maple syrup whipped cream (made from an actual pumpkin, not from a can). Everything was so good (well, except for that glass of champagne I had, I’m not convinced…).

Maaaaancheeeesteeeer!!!

Ugh, early morning. Literally, the earliest morning I’ve had in a loooong time. Me and Annie woke up at 6:39 (yeah, that’s what time the alarm clock was set to) to make an 8:00 train. I got dressed while Annie showered, and I might have fallen back asleep while I waited for her to finish. So sleepy. We made our train and I proceeded to sleep for another 2 hours and 7 minutes on the journey there (to Manchester, duh). I remember Annie being excited about sheep and Annie laughing at me because my head kept bobbing down as I was falling asleep (I think I told her to shut up).

Jinri greeted us at the train station in Manchester (her greeting of choice was “Boo!” because we almost ran into her without even realizing it was her). We then made the half hour walk to her dorm/flat (which she shares with some other Colgate students and British students). Manchester is a lot different that London. To me it seemed cleaner and a lot more open. Most of the buildings are on the newer side, but some of them definitely have that Victorian/ Industrial Revolution vibe.  Once we got to Jinri’s flat she made us lunch (noodles!) and after a quick rest we headed out for the day.

Apparently, Jinri doesn’t believe in buses, so we walked to the center of Manchester from her dorm. And then the shopping commenced. Oh, so many cute stores with cute things that cost not-cute money. Jinri is like the Manchester thrift/vintage store queen. She took us into so many awesome vintage shops my heart was close to exploding with the pretty. Some of the places were just straight up thrift shops with some pretty horrific sequined dresses side-by-side with some real gems, others sold clothes that made been remade (think leather shorts made from leather pants, or tunic tops made from men’s flannels), there was even a place selling handmade clothes and the designer was sewing away at a sewing machine in the corner (but with sheer tank tops starting at £25 I sadly had to pass). We took a very brief snack break at the mall (it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a mall). We navigated the Christmas crowd and got food at the market inside (not the food court, the market). I got a cupcake and a Cornish pasty. I’ve been dying to a try a real Cornish pasty ever since I smelled them at a West Cornwall Pasty Co. stand in Saffron Walden three years ago. It was yummy.

Once it started getting dark we took out the map (which Jinri had major difficulties printing out earlier that day) of Christmas Markets that are scattered around Manchester. It was a lot of fun (but I’m sure these markets have nothing on the likes other European Christmas markets, like in Brussels). There were lots of people selling Christmas-y things (ornaments, wreaths, decorations), handmade stuff (scarves, hats, jewelry, toys), and food (sausages, cheese, fudge, waffles, mini pancakes…).  The biggest of those markets by far was the one in St. Albert’s Square (giant Christmas light Santa included). It was completely packed. So, with 8 hours of non-stop shopping out of the way we decided to call it a night and took the bus back to the dorm.

Whee! Christmas lights in the streets

Clock tower and giant Santa in St. Albert's Square

Fudge!

Annie left early the next afternoon to catch her flight back to Madrid, but before she left we nipped into the Manchester Museum (which is run and owned by the University of Manchester). The museum is sort of hard to describe, let’s call it a British Museum wannabe. The first gallery was a “this is Manchester” overview with random things that somehow relate to the city, like the skeleton of an elephant that was once part of a circus in Manchester, displays about immigrant populations, and a stuffed capybara from the zoo (also the labels were written with dry erase markers… fancy, not really). The second was a mush of things referred to as the “living cultures” gallery, which ranged from pottery to Japanese ivories to African charm statuettes. Oh, and the archery collection was tucked in the back of the room. The museum also has an Egyptology collection (which is being reorganized, so a lot of it isn’t on display). They have mummies too, but watch out for the one sitting all by itself in a dark alcove, kind of spooky.

Whiteboard labels

The last gallery we went into was something called Living Worlds. It was a really interesting exhibit. The museum website says it “explores the connections between all living things, including us, and shows how we can all shape the future by the choices we make.” You can see pictures of it on flickr. Basically, each display case is based on a theme, which is written out with lights above the glass case. So, an easy example is “Bodies” which is a case full of different animal skeletons. There’s another one labeled “Symbols” that describe how animals are used as symbols (for example, a stuffed lion is displayed next to the MGM lion logo and the Royal Arms of England. One of my favorites was “Peace.” Inside the case was a stuffed crane and a piece of glass/metal that had been melted together during the atomic bomb explosions in Japan. Inside and outside the glass case were hundreds of folded paper cranes strung from the ceiling. It was a very moving display, not something you’d expect from this sort of museum (still not sure what kind of museum it is).

The "Peace" display

We did a little more shopping (more shopping!). I got a little felt ornament for myself (£1, I don’t feel guilty at all) and I also went back to a store to get a dress I saw the day before. I did a lot of thinking about this dress, whether I wanted to spend the money on it, which pattern I liked best, etc., but in the end I bought it, and I’m glad because I like it a lot.

Bye bye, Annie

After Annie left Jinri took me to the Manchester Art Gallery. We didn’t stay long because our feet were hurting so much. But, I did spot a Max Ernst (I wrote about him for my art history paper) and a Modigliani (I know I’ve taken a picture of another Modigliani before I knew who Modigliani was, at the Courtauld maybe?). We hung out at a café (Costa) across the street for a little bit to rest our feet (cinnamon hot chocolate, yum) before walking back to the dorm.

I had a fabulous time in Manchester (but my feet are still a little sore and it’s 4 days later)!