Sunday, September 30, 2012

The city of Bath

This is the countryside we drove through on our way from Salisbury to Bath!

More countryside!

You can see some rolling hills in the background. 

The Roman Baths! The United Kingdom was originally part of the Roman Empire. Because of this, many remains from ancient Roman times have been discovered. The Roman baths are one of these remains that have been discovered in the city of Bath. Romans used to travel here from all over the world to have a bath in the hot spring waters, pray in the temple, exercise, receive massages, and socialize.  

Abbey in Bath near the Roman Baths. 

This street is called "Circus." These rounded buildings go all the way around the circular street. The diameter of the street and the buildings on it is the exact same diameter as Stonehenge. 

The city of Bath sits at the bottom of a bowl, surrounded by large hills and countryside. If you look through the trees, you can see the large hills that surround the city!

More beautiful countryside!

This is water right from the hot springs of Bath! It's clean enough to drink, so I tried it. I don't recommend drinking it! Delicious sulfur!

another view of Circus Street. 


Salisbury is a small town in the eastern United Kingdom. The best part is that it's a few miles from Cheddar, a city known for cheddar cheese! Needless to say, my lunch was a brick of cheese :) YUM!

the buildings were so cute and "typically English."

Salisbury Cathedral, build in the 1200s. 

Inside the Salisbury Cathedral. 

This is the oldest clock in THE WORLD! 

Beautiful stained glass inside the cathedral!

Quaint little restaurant along the river. 


I can't believe I saw the REAL Stonehenge!!! 

One of the coolest things I've ever seen!

Not to mention, the day was absolutely beautiful!

For anyone who does not know the story of Stonehenge, here's a brief explanation: Still today, we have no idea who built this structure of why. There are many theories, not there's not conclusive evidence as to why it was built here, what purpose the site had, or even who built it! It's a complete mystery, which makes it even cooler! The most likely reason it was built in this specific location is because 3 or maybe even 4 magnetic lines cross right in the center of the rock formation. Some people believe this gives the site mystical powers, and may be the reason for the site being built here!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Week at a Glance!

I apologize for the lack of blogging this week! I've been very busy with school, travel planning, and of course bopping around London! I'm going to give you a brief rundown of my week, and then stay tuned for entries about my weekend! I am going to Stonehenge, Bath, and Salisbury! It's a trip with a lot of people from my program (one of the organized "field trips") so it should be great fun! Bath is supposed to be amazing by day AND has an awesome night life, so hopefully I'll have some fun pictures and stories!!

Okay, so here's this week at a glance:

Monday: I, along with my English class, retraced the steps of Mrs. Dalloway's walk to the flower shop and back in Virginia Woolf's novel. I was very excited for this walk, and it would have been absolutely delightful had it not been pouring with rain! It was an actual monsoon, to the point that my umbrella ripped in half during a gust of wind! Needless to say, an hour into the walk I was drenched from head to toe, and my entire class was miserable. Thankfully, my professor was nice enough to recognize that we were all miserable (she was miserable as well), and the walk ended quite early. After that I headed home, made myself a hot cup of English Breakfast tea and got back in bed!

Tuesday: Not much happened today, other than I had my gym induction at my apartment complex. I'll post pictures soon, but the gym is on the 33rd floor of my building, and you can see all of London from up there. It's absolutely beautiful and quite breathtaking to work out with a view like that. And, the treadmills are pretty legit so that's always a plus!

Wednesday: Today I had my first course at Queen Mary (an actual London university)! The course, or "module" as they call them here, is a freshmen-level course which is awkward since the freshmen here are roughly 17 years of age and I am 22. Regardless, the professor was really great and I am excited to learn about Environmental Issues in the UK, as my environmental knowledge pertains solely to the United States. What is more awkward, however, is that Queen Mary is a tiny school and everyone in my module knew each other and had groups of friends. I am only taking this one course at Queen Mary and am therefore not "in" with the students. Consequentially I sat alone next to an Indian teen who clearly did not know how to speak much English. Should be an interesting semester!

Thursday: Today, my British Youth Culture class discussed the Fashion industry and when it took off in London. It was awesome getting to learn about designers like Mary Quant, Coco Chanel, and Vivienne Westwood! After sitting through that class my friend Annabelle and I had a massive urge to shop, so we made our way to Primark - the cheap fashion mecca of London! The deal is, you can find the same stuff here as you would at Herrod's or Sulfrages (their large department stores), but it's only for a couple pounds! Absolutely brilliant! I had quite the shopping spree and am not one bit sorry about it! I now have a few more "Londoner" clothes and am very excited to wear all of my purchases!

Tomorrow: Tomorrow Bennett and I are going on our usual Friday trip to Burrough Market! We'll probably walk around, try some free samples and grab lunch before we head to Herrods! After gawking at all the designer clothes that cost amounts comparable to my college tuition, I am taking Bennett to Primark to see the magic for himself! Should be interesting...I wonder if he'll go on as much of a spree as I did? :)

Saturday morning we leave for Stonehenge at 8:30 am, then we stay the night in Bath at a very nice-looking hostel (double rooms, much nicer than a 20-person dorm!), and finish Sunday off at Salisbury before heading home. I will definitely post some great photos from this trip so look forward to that after the weekend! Thanks for reading and have a great weekend everyone!! Love and miss you!

p.s. I found 70 pounds in my carry-on bag!!!! I hid it for the trip here and obviously did a great job because I didn't find it until now! Can you say WINNING LONDON???

Friday, September 21, 2012

Random Photos

Here's a few photos of the group from this past week!

The "W" we are holding up is for Whales because the four of us are going there! 

Ready for a fun night out!

All the girls!

Buckingham Palace!

Went to Buckingham Palace this afternoon, and the flag was flying which means the Queen was home! Unfortunately she did not make an appearance outside the palace gates...maybe next time!

River across from the Palace!

Bennett and I in front of Buckingham Palace!

This is the very place where Will and Kate had their first kiss as a married couple!! 

Regents Park!

Regents Park is supposed to be one of the most beautiful parks in the WORLD, absolutely the most beautiful park in London. It was breathtaking. The pictures don't even do it justice, but will give you a good idea of just how amazing it is!!

A not-very-attractive photo of me! 

Beautiful gardens inside the park. 

Doesn't this look like a dream?

Post-Card status

Cute little bridge that leads you into a rainforest-type area!


This garden was so vibrant and full of color! It reminded me of the gardens in Alice in Wonderland!

Phantom of the Opera

Last night, Annabelle and I saw Phantom of the Opera! It was even better than I remembered. That is absolutely my favorite musical of all time! The love story is so beautiful and tragic and the music is absolutely astounding. I will be playing the soundtrack on my iPod all week!

Will and Kate Mug!

This is the best purchase I have made, yet!! Everything tastes better when coming out of a Will and Kate mug!

British Culture and the History Behind It

Since I arrived in London two things have fascinated me: the way the British dress and British men. Some of you have heard my stories, but here's what I've noticed. Everyone here dresses up and looks fabulous all the time. It doesn't matter whether they are heading to work, the grocery store, or a dinner with friends. Everyone looks like a fashion icon all the time. The time I wore my running clothes to the grocery was both my first and last. Talk about getting stared down!

The second point I mentioned was the British men astound me. They are so much thinner than American men! I have yet to see a fat man in London, literally. They are thin (and quite good-looking), and they also dress up. All the time. The suits they wear to work would put any American to shame. Each suit is perfectly tailored to their body and is perfectly accessorized with just the right colored tie and the perfect amount of shine on their shoes. Some of the men here are better accessorized than I am...concerning. Not to mention their mannerisms that differ greatly from American men: kissing each other on the cheek, hugging their friends, having close contact with other men. I have wondered about all of these cultural differences since I've been here. I've wondered why these cultural aspects are so different here from America? and why, why can I not run errands in my workout clothes!?

Luckily, my British Youth Culture professor cleared all of these things up for me in class this week. In discussing British culture, we discussed these very things I have been wondering about! So now I no longer have to wonder about all these things, and I have a better understanding of British culture - and American culture as well.

What I learned about the "dressing-up" aspect of British culture helped me to both understand the British and appreciate American culture. As my professor explained, one fundamental difference between the United States and Britain is the way we define class. In America, class is not so much about where you've been, but more about where you're going. We base social class on how much money someone makes, and how much "stuff" they have. It's the American dream in a nutshell. No one cares whether you grew up in Beverly Hills or   the slums of Detroit. It's all about where you want to go, who you want to be, and what you can become. This is one aspect of culture that Britain envies about America, because they view class in a very different light. In British culture, social class is all about someone's accent, where they're from, and who their parents are. The way people speak in Britain is a huge part of their social status. George Orwell said, "The British are branded at birth with the ways of their tongue." Basically, as soon as someone opens their mouth and reveals their origin, a social status is placed on them and there is no going back. In Britain, status is all about where you've been, what you were born into. It's a sad reality, but it's a fundamental difference in cultures.

So, the reason everyone here dresses "to the nines" is because they are trying to mask their social status. In dressing nicely, wearing the most expensive most attractive clothes they can afford, they are attempting to give the appearance of a high social status. This is why my workout clothes at the grocery store were such a shock to so many people. They must have thought I came right from the slums! Everyone here dresses to impress, and dresses to hide their past. I, as an American, don't have to dress like I'm wealthier than I am because no one thinks that way. No one would ever look at my lack of accessories or lack of designer bag and think "wow, she's in a very low class." That's the beauty of America, and one of the less exciting realities of the UK.

My next point does not put America in as great of a light as the last one, but it is another fundamental difference in the two cultures. The men here dress in gorgeous Italian suits so they, like everyone else, can mask their social class. But their accessorizing and fashion sense, along with their feminine mannerisms (like kissing their male friends on the cheeks), come from an entirely different aspect of London culture. As a whole, Britain is a much less homophobic country than the United States. In 1967, Britain passed the Sexual Offenses Act which made it illegal to make any public comment that degraded one's sexuality. Following that, in 2005 the country passed a law, "The Civil Partnership Act," which stated that gay marriage is a federal right of any UK citizen. In the united states, gay marriage isn't even legal across the United States. Homosexual individuals underwent torment and abuse for years and years without anyone even making an attempt to stop it. Gay marriage is a federal right. That's how the UK feels about homosexuality, and that is why they are a much less homophobic country than the United States. Because of this, the men in the UK aren't afraid of truly expressing themselves via fashion or mannerisms. They kiss each other on the cheek to say they love each other, and they're not afraid of being mistaken for a gay man. They care about fashion and the way that they look, and no one here believes that makes them gay. And even if someone did mistake them for a gay man? Who cares! In a less homophobic society, the lines between gay and straight men are not as severe. Men in the states think they need to be "manly" and buff, wearing masculine clothes like football jerseys and t-shirts. Here, the men want to look good (and boy do they!). They are free to dress and act as they want, without ever fearing that someone might think they're gay. It's really a beautiful aspect of their culture, and one I think the United States could really learn a lot from.

So there you have it. My enlightenment on British culture. I cannot wait to see what else this class will teach me about both British and American culture! And don't worry, I'll share all of my discoveries with you all :)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hampton Court Palace

This afternoon, we went to Hampton Court Palace - home to King Henry VIII! It was absolutely beautiful, and so exciting for a history buff like me! We saw the kitchens, bedrooms, gardens, entertaining rooms, dining rooms, and everything else inside the palace grounds! This is my first time ever seeing a place like this in real life, so I was thrilled the whole time! Below I have posted pictures from the day and descriptions along with them!! 
Waterway walking into Hampton Court Palace

View of the Palace

Me and Bennie! Yes, he is wearing a Colts a Palace! 

gardens inside the palace walls

me in the gardens!

Very medieval looking palace...

Stoves from hundreds of years ago! The fire burns in the coves on the ground and heats up the surface above! 

Dining room for all the servants of the palace. 

Elaborately decorated ceilings throughout the palace. 

Fireplace and artwork above

Beautiful gardens! This was the view from  Mary II's drawing room.

Love the engravings on the mantlepiece.

Mary II's bed! Very elaborate, and the spoon-looking object is how they used to head the beds in the winter! They placed hot coal in the spoon thing and put it under the covers at the end of the bed.

Bath tub! Try getting clean in that...

Dining room. I especially loved the china

The Great Fountain Garden. 

Pond and fountain in the gardens. 

Hampton Court Palace from across the garden. 

Small stream that goes along the palace grounds. 

The Knot Garden

This side of the palace was built after the rest of the palace. It has a more baroque-style rather than medieval. I like this better, it's much prettier!

The pond gardens. So pretty!

gorgeous! Love the flower colors