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


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)!


Annie’s visit to London

Annie is studying abroad in Madrid this semester, but she decided to brave the cold and come to England to visit me in London! Unfortunately it meant picking her up at midnight and taking a night bus back home. (But, we did see a fox, it was like 2 feet away from us! Except it startled me and I accidentally scared it away.)

Despite our late night on Thursday (because we spent a few hours talking before going to sleep) we managed to pack tons of things into our day on Friday. We started off at the Tower of London, which I’ve been to twice before, but it was lots of fun. And a tip for anyone who’s going to the Tower, the admission price they charge you includes a voluntary donation, so if you ask for the price without the donation it knocks £1.50 off. (Unless you want to donate because it really is an awesome historical site.) Anyways, we walked through the outer wall and towers through the displays they have in there: recreation of Edward I’s bedchamber, prisoner’s elaborately carved graffiti in Salt Tower, a mini exhibit on the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, exhibit on the Royal Beasts, a timeline of old royal crowns. We also checked out the Fusilier Museum (which I’ve never been to before) and the Fit for King exhibit which has a lot of cool medieval armour. Also, did you know people actually live in the Tower? It’s true, I saw their laundry.

Trying on really heavy archer's helmets

Lion sculptures at the Tower of London (there are baboons, a polar bear, and an elephant too)


These statues of archers were all over the place

Afterwards we headed over to Brick Lane for lunch because Annie was craving something spicy. We picked a restaurant that looked good, and other than the overly attentive Indian and Bengali waiters, we enjoyed our delicious curries, mine not as spicy as Annie’s of course. Then we did a whirlwind tour of St. Paul’s, the London Eye, the House’s of Parliament and Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. I say tour, but we didn’t go inside any one of them (too expensive). Then a pit stop at Covent Garden where Annie bought a cool bow tie and we got happy over Christmas decorations. Then British Museum to check out the Rosetta Stone because Annie and I are linguistics nerds. Sorry for the grocery list of activities, but it was a crazy day.

Covent Garden decked out for Christmas

Look what we saw at the British Museum

We headed over to The Court, a pub on Tottenham Court Road, to meet up with Joe, Tra My, and Rashaad for dinner. Unfortunately, we had to leave because Annie only had a photocopy of her passport as ID, and they wouldn’t serve her. So far, this is the only pub that consistently cards people that I’ve been to. We ended up at another pub just down the road, where they didn’t card us, surprise. It was good to hang out together, even if it was for less than an hour. And the reason it was so short was because Annie and I had a play to see. My uncle’s got me tickets to Reasons to be Pretty at the Almeida Theatre for my birthday. We ended up being late (after a painful run to try to make it on time), but we were able to watch the first scene on a TV screen before we were let in during the scene change. The characters were American, so the actors had to put on an American accent. The two men had pretty convincing accents, but the two women were a bit nasally, especially Billie Piper (yeah, Billie Piper! As in Rose Tyler, Doctor Who, Billie Piper, Belle from Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Billie Piper).

And that was the end of my day. Well, I was going to go out with some Colgate friends, but a massive headache stopped that from happening. All in all, I think Annie got a very well-rounded London experience. We went to a historical site, saw the big sites, went a museum, a pub, and a show.

100th post!

This is one of the photos in the slideshow on Colgate’s homepage. That’s the fall semester activity fair and those 3 cuties are the leaders of the Chinese Interest Association. See that picture hanging from the table? I’m in that picture, the one on the very right. First time I’ve made it into a Colgate publication/website. Bam! It’s exciting.


What I learned- shrinkage, poop, and knops

I did something cool today. I touched old things.  In this case old=medieval and things=cauldron, keys, shoes, candlesticks, buckle, ceramics, spoon, dagger sheath. Basically, for my medieval history class we went to the Museum of London and after talking about how the museum presents the evidence of everyday life in medieval London and how problematic it is to try to do that (and also after laughing at school boys in purple and black striped blazers– awful uniforms), we went to meet a lovely woman who I thought was the medieval collections curator (but, I don’t remember her name and the internet is failing me). (Sorry, really long sentence, but I can’t be bothered. Also, sorry for all the parenthesis.) The really lovely woman showed us lots of cool stuff that we could touch with our very own real hands. Those things were from the handling collection, which is basically the kind of stuff that they have loads of (like “mass-produced” ceramics) so they can sacrifice a few. Which means lots of students and curious people get to put their sweaty, dangerous-to-old-excavated-things hands all over them. My table was particularly fond of the spoon and we fondled is a lot. A few of the objects (like the candlesticks and keys) were from the core collection which meant we had to put gloves on and be careful with them. Still cool. It was a fancy key.

In the end we learned lots of things. Like how conservationists basically freeze dry leather finds in order to preserve them, and how there’s only about a 5% shrinkage rate when they do that, and how the leather that is well-preserved in wet areas like by the river shrink anyways because of wet years and drought years so there’s no way to tell how much a shoe, for example, has even shrunk before someone finds it in the dirt, and how old methods of leather conservation usually meant the leather became stiff and blackish. And we learned how pointy shoes were really fashionable, but weren’t ridiculously pointy, they were like 2 inches max, and how there were laws about how long the point could be or who could wear them, and how shoemakers and cobblers didn’t like each other, and how low shoe edges were meant for men to show off their fabulous colored hosiery. And we learned that the decorative thing at the top of a spoon is called a knop, and the knop on top of our spoon was one of the apostles, but it’s been worn down so much you can’t tell which one it’s supposed to be, and the spoon probably came in a set with all of the other apostles keeping it company. And we learned that the maker’s mark stamped into the inside of the spoony part of the spoon was basically just a couple of initials and pictures of spoons, and not O’s with weird sticks like we thought. And we learned people dumped dirt and old things and garbage between their walls when they needed to fill is up, or cesspits would be filled with people’s garbage when it needed to be filled, and also, I didn’t learn this in class, but there’s a record of someone falling into the latrine and drowning in filthy medieval poop water. Sucks to be him. We learned other things, but this is getting tedious, and you probably didn’t read all of that anyways. Also, it’s 2am, almost.

21st birthday!

Yesterday was my birthday! And as my friend Mitch said, right age in the wrong country. To celebrate Joe and I went out to dinner with a Groupon we got way when we first got to London. Six tapas, a paella to share, and a carafe of sangria at The Cuban, a Cuban (duh) restaurant in the Camden Stables Market. It was a nice night out, and the only alcohol involved was the one glass of sangria that I sort of struggled to get down because wine is yucky. A night out with Colgate friends tbd.

A salsa lesson at The Cuban


Do I look 21?

Some wins and a fail

Win: I finally made my way to the Tate Britain. I’ve been to London 3 times before now, and have visited a shit ton of museums by now. (National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, V&A, Tate Modern, Courtauld Gallery, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Wellcome Collection, Museum of London, British Library, Charles Dickens Museum, Cartoon Museum, British Library, Geffrye Museum, Natural History Museum, Royal Academy of Arts) But, I have never been to the Tate Britain before now.

The Tate Britain is a collection of British historical and contemporary art. The museum is especially known for its collection of J.M.W. Turner paintings. Right now there’s an exhibit on Romantic art which includes a lot of the Turners. There’s also a cool exhibit on the colors that Turner used based on where he was painting and when. I’d show you pictures, but I can’t get them off my camera right now…

It’s really strange, being at the Tate Britain, because in one room there’s contemporary art (splatter paintings, weird sculptures that don’t make sense to you at all, colorful polka dots, that sort of thing), and then in the next room are old paintings, some dating back to the 1500s.  The strangest thing for me was walking out the contemporary art rooms and in the next room was John W. Waterhouse’s Pre-Raphaelite painting, The Lady of Shalott.

Contemporary art at the Tate Britain (that's not Pollock)

The Lady of Shalott top left

Win: So, I didn’t use the sugar skull inspired makeup for the Halloween party, but I did get my hair to look pretty awesome. (Minor fail: it took me 24 hours to get my hair untangled.)

I promise my hair was bigger at the beginning of the night

Win: Played my first rugby “match.” So it wasn’t a real game, but we played against the team from LSE in a sort of pseudo-competitive, but mostly in order to get tips from the coach game. Turns out it’s really hard to play rugby when you’re not wearing glasses. But, I managed to be a little useful nevertheless, even if I did get tackled and landed with the ball under my stomach. Ouch.. Still no pictures of me in my rugby kit!

Win: Joe and I tagged along my uncles’ trip to Cambridge last weekend. Uncle James showed us around his old college and we got to check out King’s college chapel (built by Henry IV and finished under Henry VIII, amazing original stain glass all intact, a wooden screen with some remnants of Anne Boleyn’s brief rise carved in).  We also went to the Fitzwilliam Museum to check out a couple of exhibits, Vermeer’s Women, and Imperial Treasures of Vienna.

Fail FAIL FAIL FAIL RAWR FAIL!!!!!!!: We were supposed to go to Oxford today… but we missed the bus. It’s not our fault! Joe and I left 15 minutes earlier than we planned to, but we got stuck at Euston station trying to get on the Victoria line to Victoria. The platform was jam pack and then after 3 trains went pass and not being able to fit on yet, they shut down the line. So, we had to go the long way which made us late. We were underground for an hour! FAIL WHALE.

Dia de los Muertos

So, I have a Halloween party to go to tomorrow.  Weird, I know, Halloween is over….  I sort of skipped Halloween this year because I was too lazy to figure out a costume.  And, in the spirit of laziness I thought I had come up with the perfect idea that would involve no extra purchases.  The idea was this: tomorrow (Nov 2) is still Dia de los Muertos, so use some makeup to make my face into a candy skull sort of looking thing, crazy up my hair, wear some clothes, BAM!  And then I realized I wear glasses and that completely ruins the whole makeup thing.  But check out my practice face (that I’m not going to do for real anymore).

What were you for Halloween?