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?

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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.


Bloomsbury Festival

Maureen Johnson!

I love happy coincidences.  First coincidence, Maureen Johnson hosted an event for her new book, The Name of the Star, in London.  Hey!  I’m in London….  Yep, so last Saturday I dragged Joe to the Beaufort House in Chelsea to attend.  Because 11am is early for me and there are no conveniently placed tube stops nearby, we got there late.  But, we managed to find the building and the swanky black members only door.  I have to admit, I’ve never read any of Maureen’s books before (well, I did read the beginning of 13 Little Blue Envelopes, but I kind of hated it).  My interest in Maureen Johnson is solely for her function as an active and public figure of nerdfighteria (if you don’t know what that is, watch some videos, but for now, suffice it to say nerdfighteria is a community of sorts).  I even won a set of magnets along with 49 other people, but I was the very last person to be picked after the two people called ahead of me happened to be absent.  What luck!  I’ve actually seen Maureen Johnson in person before, at a nerdfighter gathering at LeakyCon 2011, but I’ve never heard her speak.  She is one funny lady, even my boyfriend was laughing.  Awesome coincidence number 2… I met Ellie and Dasha!  I met them through the internet a few years ago (that’s not creepy, really), and they live nearish London, and we just sort of bumped into each other on accident.  This just seems to be the year of meeting internet friends in person (*ahem* Claire at LeakyCon).  Anyways, I bought a copy of The Name of the Star, but didn’t get it sign because despite the fact that we were in a smallish room and there weren’t that many people there, we literally moved 3 feet in an hour.  Toooo long.  (Oh, oh, also Charlie as in charlieissocoollike was there, as well as Rosi from Leaky.  So cool.)

With Dasha and Ellie

After waiting forever to NOT get my book signed we took a bus back to Bloomsbury for the festivities.  Well, first we stopped by the Cartoon Museum which is very close to the British Museum.  Admission was free with a Bloomsbury Festival pamphlet.  I wanted to go to see the exhibit on Doctor Who comics.  I couldn’t fully appreciate the older comics because I don’t know much about the original series, but I thought it was really cool to look at the original paintings that were printed into magazines.  There were also comics of the 9-11 Doctors, interesting to see how comic art has changed since the 60’s.  Also, there was a man there with an exhibition model of K-9 that has actually been used on some productions and stuff.  It was a real hit with the children, and Joe apparently.

K-9

Afterwards, we headed to Russell Square.  The square is quite big, so they managed to cram a lot of stuff into it.  There was a stage where some people were singing some songs (yeah, I wasn’t really paying attention), a crafts market, book market, food stalls, the Wellcome charm tree, and poet’s path.  Poet’s path was a pathway covered by an archway of greenery… oh, just look at the pictures.  But hanging from the canopy were strips of paper made up of any number of smaller pieces of paper that fit together.  The idea was that you could pick out words to create your own line of poetry and hang it up.  The words came specifically from 3 different poems, and each poem was done in a different font.

Then I got sick and was miserable all the way home.  Fun times.  The end.

Shopping!

If you were to look at all the money I’ve spent since I’ve been to London it’s clear I’ve been shopping.  It just happens to be that a lot of what I’ve been buying for myself has been less of a want and more of a need )or semi-need).  For example, I’ve had to buy things for rugby (cleats, mouthguard, other atheltic-like clothing).

But, now I’ve done some good and proper shopping just because I want stuff for myself.  Oh, wait, I remember I did buy something for myself.  I bought a tote bag from Liberty.  Just pretend that didn’t happen.

I went to Camden Market and walked around a little bit.  Camden Market isn’t one market, but a series of markets and shops and narrow passages full of ethnic food stalls.  Anyways, I  bought a sweater (but not after debating which one to get).

I got the one on the right.


Also, today I went to Brick Lane (curry capital of London) to go to a “flea market.”  It was basically an American Apparel sample sale.  Oh my goodness.  It was like a hipster fashion parade.  But, luckily I totally fit in with my newly purchased skull sweater and not so newly purchased suede boots.  I ended up buying a chiffon tank top and some other little accessories.  Funny how I’ve never owned anything from American Apparel until now… when I’m not in America.

Final score: 37-14

I went to support my team (my team! I’ve never had a team before) yesterday in our game against Brunel University.  As you can tell from the title, we won 37 to 14.  Brunel is in Uxbridge, which is in west London, pretty suburban.  The day started nicely, if a bit cold, when a small group of us took the Tube to Uxbridge and then a bus (“Are you girls going to watch your boyfriends?”  “Um, NO!”) to the University sports center (or rather, centre).  The game was nearly half over by the time we found the right field and then 20 minutes in it started to drizzle freezing cold rain.  Not fun.  But, fun to watch the team play a real game against an opponent, and fun to cheer everyone on.

Looks like rain

And for those concerned about me playing rugby, I could tell you that an ambulance had to be called for a girl, but then I would tell you that she was on the opposing team.  Maybe that’s not so comforting, but it really wasn’t too rough.

Here’s some pictures and a video (we’re purple).

Art, churches, and a surprise

My history class took us to Smithfield to visit the Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great.  According to our teacher it’s the oldest surviving church in London, founded in 1123 by Rahere, a courtier of Henry I and according to a poster inside the church cafe, a scene from Shakespeare in Love was filmed here.  The first thing that greeted us was a Tudor style front that led to a courtyard.  Finally, the church.  It was pretty stark, grey stone walls, plain glass windows, no gold or colors, but there was a nice wooden choir screen, and rust and white checkered pavement.  As it turns out the church is missing a lot of parts, including the nave, the transepts, and 3/4 of its cloisters.  I guess you can’t really expect the oldest surviving church in London not to be crippled.  And now queue intelligent conversation about the distance between the nave and the altar that physically represents the spiritual distance laypeople felt from their religion.  Or something like that.

Yesterday my art history class was at the Courtauld Institute.  I’ve been there before with Emily when my uncle took us, but I still had a hard time finding it.  Standing for 2 hours when your body is incredibly sore (see next paragraph) is not a fun time, but I enjoyed the art (and seeing all the works I’ve learned about in previous classes).  Usually there’s an admission fee to get into the gallery, but since we were there for a class it was free, so I made sure to walk around after our lecture and take advantage of the whole not paying to get in thing.

Inner courtyard of the Somerset House (where the Courtauld Insititue is located)

On a non academic note, I’ve been trying out some of the clubs and societies, including rugby.  What?!?!!  Yeah.  I am so not prepared for this, I mean, I didn’t even bring running shoes, so I came to training in canvas Vans.  I missed the first week of practices, so never mind learning to pass and other basic stuff, I got to start my experience by learning to tackle.  Ha!  Yup, I tackled people (successfully) and got tackled (a couple of scrapes, no bruises).  Most surprising bit, I’ll be continuing with it, which means going out later today to buy proper shoes and a mouth guard.  Oh good grief, what am I getting myself into?  Now to figure out how to deal with the soreness (two days later and my neck is still sore… looking up and to the left is painful).

Les Misérables and Pho

There has been a distinct lack of photos in my last few posts, which I must admit, makes them look really, really boring.  Now that I’ve been away from home for over a month, dare I say it… the novelty of being abroad has begun to wear off.  Plus, classes have started, which is a downer in its own way.  I swear, I bring my camera with me sometimes, but it never seems to occur to me to take pictures.  Being a photo taking fiend is tiring, and my purse is small, and I don’t want to be a perpetual tourist.

I did manage to take one photo since my outing with Jinri.  It’s of Joseph at the Queen’s Theatre, and if you know anything about London, then you know we were there to see Les Misérables.  Les Misérables has been showing at the Queen’s Theatre since 2004, and it’s been playing in London for the past 25 years (that’s older than me!).  I’ve actually seen it before when I was in London with my family a couple of years ago.

This time around Joe and I managed to get £10 tickets in the upper circle.  Three reasons to justify getting the cheap seats (with a terrible view).  1) We’re poor college students. 2) I’ve seen the show before (in much better seats).  3) Joe claims he doesn’t like musicals, so I wasn’t going to invest too much in case he hated it.  As it turned out Joe liked it fine enough.  The fact that it’s not over the top singing and dancing and happy happy yay!, is probably why Joe didn’t totally hate it.  Meanwhile, I was sitting there grinning like a little kid because Les Mis is one of my favorite musicals (thanks to my mother’s love for it).  I especially enjoyed Alexia Khadime as Eponine.  She’s black for one thing which was kind of refreshing, but she also had that sort of rich voice I associate with the role, not as breathy and airy as Cosette’s.

Saturday afternoon my uncle took me out to a Vietnamese restaurant in the East of London.  The reason?  To try me a big bowl of phở. It was delicious, and not at all what I expected it to be.  I think, if I hadn’t known what it was I wouldn’t have pinned it down as an Asian dish (well, except for the fact that there are beansprouts and rice noodles in it).  The soup is deceptively watery looking, but it’s full of spices like cinnamon and cloves.  (By the way, this was totally a missed photo-op.)

We also stopped by the White Cube galley (contemporary art) and the Geffrye Museum (furniture/living spaces from the 15th century to the present).  Lastly, a shop selling “pretentious men’s clothing” (Urban Outfitters meets Shoreditch).  But we weren’t there to buy £350 sweaters, we were there for the espresso (because, yeah, all pretentious men’s clothing stores have working espresso machines).