Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Last Day :(

         Today is our last day in London L While I am sad to leave, there are some things I am looking forward to getting back to…i.e. sunshine and flip-flops!! Today I went on a walk known as the Millennium Mile, according to my travel book anyways. It is actually about two miles and I went past where it ended so I’m guessing I did close to three miles. It started at Houses of Parliament and Big Ben which I have seen already and then headed across the river. Here I could see the London Eye for the first time. It is really tall. We might go on that later tonight. The walk continued and I also passed the Sea Life London Aquarium, Waterloo Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, and the Tate Modern, which is an Art Museum.

        I am a fan of the arts, as many of you already know, but I prefer things such as music and theater. I don’t really enjoy looking at still art as much as watching someone perform. The Tate Modern is full of artwork that I’m sure many people enjoy looking at and interpreting in their own way, but I personally did not really enjoy it. It was definitely an interesting experience and I am glad that I went, but it is not something I would do again. I would recommend going there, because there are many different pieces to see. 
        After the Tate Modern, I continued on my walk and came upon the Millennium Bridge, which is the bridge blown up in one of the last Harry Potter movies. I was glad to see it was all put back together! I really liked the design of the bridge. The next thing I saw was Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I wish I would have had the time and money to go to a play there, but it was still awesome to see. Next was the Southwark Cathedral which was also very beautiful. My travel book then said to go under the London Bridge and go back to the tube station, but I continued onward towards Tower Bridge. London Bridge is boring and looks like any other typical bridge, but Tower Bridge is brightly colored and unique with its towers. I’m definitely glad I went to that bridge, even though by this time I was completely soaked and my umbrella was broken (I forgot to mention that it has been raining all day). I then found a tube stop and headed towards the Monument stop. The Monument is literally right outside the tube stop I came out of which was nice since I basically just wanted a picture and then headed back to my hotel.

    Overall this has been an incredible trip. We leave tomorrow at 4a.m.!!! I am not looking forward to having to wake up at 3 nor am I ready for this trip to be over, but I can’t be on vacation all the time. I guess it is time to get back to work.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Legal Walk and British Museum

     Today we had our last official activity. We went on what is called the Legal Walk because it goes through the four Inns of Court, which are where barristers work. Barristers are required to commit to one of the Inns in order to become a barrister. The four Inns are Grey’s Inn, Lincoln Inn, Inner Temple, and Middle Temple.  We also saw the Royal Courts of Justice, which is an appellate court. Here, we watched more court cases. I think I have sat in enough courtrooms for my life. Seriously, I do not enjoy that. I understand it is part of class to learn about how things function over here, but I’m pretty over sitting in court. The one I sat in today we were in for a total of 25 minutes and there was literally nothing happening for 20 of those minutes.

     After we got done there, Alesha and I went to get some lunch. We found an Italian place that was really good. I had mushroom spaghetti with meatballs. We then headed to the British Museum. This is one of the largest museums in the world and definitely has a ton of stuff. I feel like my dad would really enjoy it. It was cool to be able to go to something like that and see things such as the Rosetta Stone and some of the Egyptian stuff but I don’t typically like museums so there was that aspect of things.

     On our way back to our hotel, we stopped in Russell Park. There are parks everywhere in London, which is surprising to me for such a big city. When I think of a big city, I think of buildings and busy streets and not these beautiful parks. Russell Park is one of the smaller parks in London, but it is still awesome. It is a nice quiet relaxing place to get away from the busy city, even if it is only for a short period of time, such as a lunch break.

The Most Wonderful Place I've Ever Been!

DUBLIN!!!! Tuesday Morning we were up and at ‘em pretty early, especially by my standards, but it was for a fantastic reason. We were headed to Dublin!! We got to the airport and the line for Ryan Air was insane. However, it moved pretty fast so we got our passports checked and were good to go. We didn’t really have any issues getting through the airport both in London and Dublin. When we got to Dublin, we weren’t sure what bus we were supposed to get on but got it figured out pretty easily. We then headed to our hotel to drop of our bags before heading out for the day.
                The first stop for the day was the National Leprechaun Museum. This was one of the coolest places I have been to. It helped that we had a group of Scottish guys who were hilarious along the way. This was not like a traditional museum in that the first room we went into was called the Giant’s room. This room is to make you feel like a leprechaun. There are chairs and tables to climb around on that are all really big. I climbed around a little bit but I was in a skirt so didn’t want to get too crazy. The Scottish guys, however, took over everything in that room and were hilarious while doing so. We then moved to the map room in which we learned about the folk tales of Ireland and some of the mythical creatures such as banshees, fairies, and of course, leprechauns. The next room had different things showing on the walls and our guide told us about different legends and why certain things have meaning today such as the horseshoe, which was not a symbol of luck, but rather protection. The iron in the horseshoes kept children safe from being stolen by fairies. We then came to the pot of gold! Here, we heard some more folk tales before moving on to the final room with the wishing well. Here we heard one final folk tale which our guide had been referencing the whole tour. I loved it because it is like something I would tell. Four beautiful children were turned into swans by their stepmother and made to live 900 years in 3 different places. The father tried to have them changed back but couldn’t. So the beautiful children lived those 900 years as swans and turned back into humans. But instead of turning back into those beautiful children, they turned into rickety old people and died. The end. This is how most Irish Folk tales end, which just adds to my idea that I should live there.

                After the Leprechaun Museum, we headed to the Old Jameson Distillery. We went on a tour here also and at the beginning, our tour guide asked for some volunteers to taste some whiskey. One of my roommates and I both volunteered so after the tour, we sat at the front of the group and tasted three different whiskeys. We started off with Jameson, an Irish whiskey, followed by Jack Daniels, an American whiskey, and finished off with Johnny Walker Red, a Scotch whiskey. Jameson was my favorite which I knew already since I’ve had all three before. For volunteering for this, we received certificates saying we are professional whiskey tasters so that was pretty cool.

                After Jameson, we headed to Kilmainham Gaol, which was the jail used until 1924. It was used during rebellions and the Great Famine. Sadly, my camera died right after we got there so I didn’t get very many pictures. However it was still really neat. We were able to see what the old prison cells looked like. Kilmainham has also been used in movies, with the most notable one for me being The Italian Job. We were able to hear about some of prisoners who were held here when Ireland was trying to become independent from the United Kingdom. One person that was imprisoned here later became president of Ireland. Overall, Kilmainham was pretty sweet. I think they should do night tours because that place has got to be haunted.

                Our next adventure was finding our way back to the hotel. Kilmainham was a long walk in the first place so walking back took forever. It definitely did not help matters that I really do not like one of the people who was with and they were arguing everything I said every time we were going somewhere new. When we were heading to Kilmainham, I was leading and that person questioned my directions when I was following my map which had the jail on it and his map was only for central Dublin so it did not even have the jail on it. So getting back to our hotel was an interesting adventure, especially because the streets in Dublin change names every couple of blocks. However, we finally made it back and I took a nap before heading to Temple Bar for dinner. It was a Tuesday so I did not expect all of the pubs to be completely packed, but most of them were. Almost all of them also had live music playing and signs saying this happened every night. The stereotype that the Irish drink all the time seemed to be pretty accurate. We found a place to eat and I got fried mushrooms, which were delicious and Bailey’s Cheesecake which was quite possibly the best thing I have ever eaten.  After that we headed back to the hotel to call it a night.
                When leaving London at 4-5 a.m. Tuesday morning, Kalee pointed out that London never sleeps. When we got up Wednesday morning in Dublin, we determined that Dublin sleeps until noon. Seriously, there are almost no shops or restaurants open before 11:30. It was kind of ridiculous. We headed back to the Leprechaun Museum so Kalee could get another book and ended up talking to the manager for a while. We heard some interesting stories about things that have happened in the museum and talked about some other random stuff as well. We also talked about tattoos. Obviously I am a fan of tattoos and was thinking about getting one as a souvenir of this trip. He told us where to go look and I ended up getting a clover on my ankle (mom don’t kill me).  We then spent the rest of our time on one of the tour buses that goes through town. We got to see some cool sites, such as the zoo, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Guinness Factory. It was a nice relaxing way to finish our trip to Dublin.

                We got to the airport way early and ended up having about an hour and a half to kill so we wandered the airport in search of outlets so Kalee could use her computer. It is ridiculous how hard it is to find outlets in the world. I feel like they should exist a lot more. I was very sad to leave Dublin; I honestly think I could live there. I heard a ton of beautiful Irish accents and had an absolutely fantastic time!!

Old Bailey

                Monday we went to Old Bailey Crown Court.  We met a guide there and thought he would be giving us a tour, but really he just told us about Old Bailey and some history of executions in London.  One interesting thing from that was about a man who was cook for the bishop. He was boiled to death for poisoning a group of people. We also learned that there are two parts to Old Bailey, one being the old side, and one being the new side. Other than that, I didn’t really learn much from that guy. We then were shown where the entrances to the two sides of court and were told we would be able to go watch cases. We stood outside for almost an hour before they let us in and were told what case we could watch. The case we were allowed to watch was closing statements so I had no idea what was going on. It was cool to be able to see the barristers and judge in their robes and wigs, but that was the most interesting part of Old Bailey for me.
                After that, we headed to ISA (the agency who helped set up this trip) to use the internet since it sucks at our hotel. I was able to get some pictures put on facebook and will hopefully get some put on here shortly. We were also going to ISA because we had a lecture there in the afternoon. The lecture was by Dr. Thomas MacManus. This lecture was more exciting than the one from New Scotland Yard and it was more interactive. We were able to ask random questions and he seemed to be very useful. However, today (Thursday) our guide gave us information that contradicted some of the stuff he said, so I’m not sure who is correct.
                Monday night was boring because everyone had to be up incredibly early the next morning so everyone pretty much went to bed. Everyone going to Paris had to be ready to leave at 3:45 and those of us going to Dublin were meeting at 4:30.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Stonehenge and Bath

                Last night was insane. Because the legal drinking age here is 18, I am able to go to pubs and clubs. I had a cider at a pub one of my first nights here and last night I experienced the club scene. It was definitely a blast. We headed to Leicester Square because we had seen one club there when we went to the play but that is not where we ended up. When we came out of the tube station, there was a guy standing there who asked us if we wanted to go a club so he lead us to the place to buy tickets and then to the club itself. My first thought when this was happening was of the movie Magic Mike and how funny it would be if something like that was happening. It wasn’t. I think the club was called the Rumba, but I don’t remember for sure. All I remember was that it was a blast!! I think the group of us that went have officially had the most fun on this trip. There are many stories that could be told from this night, but seeing as this blog is for class credit, I probably shouldn’t go into those details here. Long story short, we didn’t get back to the hotel until after 4 a.m. and had to be on the bus at 8. I set two alarms for 7, but didn’t wake up until 7:45.  It was definitely a rough morning.
                We made it to the bus, just in time and were off to Stonehenge. We left in such a hurry, that I forgot my camera so I don’t have any pictures for the day, but I’m pretty sure all of my batteries were dead anyways. Stonehenge was pretty cool. We didn’t spend a lot of time there because we were headed to the city of Bath, which is 2-3 hours from London. We then continued toward Bath with our tour guide, who told us about every little thing we passed, including the pig farm with the “piggy porkies” (ask me about this in person, or say it out loud with a British accent. Trust me, it was hilarious). I was not feeling the best after last night and just wanted to sleep, especially since I get slightly carsick when going through hills and turns anyways, so I didn’t think all of her information was completely necessary.However,that was what she was there to do, so otherwise it would have been useless to have her. She did give us some information about Bath as well so that was useful.
                Bath was interesting because all of the buildings look basically the same. They are all made out of stone and there were many areas that were very uniquely designed, such as the circle and the crescent. We were given free time to explore the town and get some lunch, before gathering for a tour of the Roman Baths. These date back to 1st century A.D. They are naturally heated baths similar to those of Hot Springs, but this water is warmer than Hot Springs, if I remember correctly. Most of the water was a strange, green color, due to the chemicals and minerals in the water. There was also one bath that was bubbling, not from the heat of the bath, but because of the chemicals in the bath and the gases escaping. We were able to feel and taste the water. It was very warm and tasted like metal, but it wasn’t the worst thing I have ever had to drink. It was still better than any beer I’ve tried. After Bath, we headed back to London and got some dinner. We are calling a night pretty early tonight as we are still recovering from last night’s fun.
                Tomorrow we go to Old Bailey Crown Court and have a lecture from a professor from King’s College. Hopefully it will be more interesting than the last lecture we had.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Yay for being tourists!!

                Today started with a tour of the Houses of Parliament. Here, we were able to see where the Queen gets ready to start terms of parliament. The building is crazy old, I think he said it dates back to 1000 A.D. which is obviously a long time ago. When the Queen gets ready, she crowns herself with a crown that weighs over 2 pounds and has over 3000 diamonds. The Queen has only missed opening 2 sessions since she became Queen. The Queen enters the House of Lords and has someone go and get the House of Commons because she is not allowed to enter the House of Commons at all. There are over 700 Lords and over 600 members in the House of Commons. The most interesting thing I learned today was about Westminster Hall, in which only three people from the modern age have ever been allowed to address parliament. These people are the Pope, Nelson Mandela, and Barack Obama. Overall, this was an interesting tour and I’m glad we were able to do it but I am not interested in politics at all so it was not my favorite event.

                A group of us then decided to head to Camden Town, which others refer to as being sketchy and full of hippies, but I actually really enjoyed it. It was full of street vendors and one of my roommates got a tattoo. Many of the street vendors were selling Beats headphones for like 10-30 pounds!! All of us ended up getting some after some discussion with the vendors and getting the prices even lower. They might be fake, but they work really well, so oh well. I also got a really cute pair of boots for 11 pounds!!

They are pretty awesome!! They are warm and waterproof, and surprisingly comfortable for a heel. I also got a new shirt that lights up to the beat of whatever sound there is, and there is not a design on it because I can write on it with any highlighter so I’m pretty excited to try it out. I think it will be perfect for my 21st this year!! We are now getting ready to head out for the night to a club so it should be a fun night!

Oxford, Stratford, Warwick

                Today started with a trip to Oxford. Oxford University is made up of 38 colleges, all throughout the town. Our tour focused on Christ’s Church, which is one of the most famous of the colleges because of people who went there, and movies that have been filmed there. One of the most interesting things about the college is that it served as the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. While he was teaching at Christ’s Church, he observed the Dean’s three daughters, one of whom was Alice. All throughout our tour, our guide would point out things that were inspirations in the book, such as the Dean being the White Rabbit and always being late because he had to go a long way from his office to the chapel for mass. There is also a window in the great hall referred to as the Alice Window because it has a picture of the real Alice, as well as creatures from the book along the bottom. The other cool thing about this college is that it was used for the Harry Potter series. The great hall here was the inspiration for the great hall in the movies. The only reason it was not actually used was because the school still needed the hall to be functional for its students. The staircase leading up to the great hall, however, was actually used in the first movie, as well as one other hallway. I stood in the exact same spot as Dame Maggie Smith.

Yeah, I’m kind of a big deal!! The tour continued throughout the town and we learned about some other famous people who attended school here such as the current prime minister, and author of the Narnia series, C.S. Lewis. We also were able to see his inspiration for some of the characters in his books and the lamp post used in the first movie. We then saw many other buildings and different parts of the colleges, ending at the University library that houses thousands upon thousands of books. We did not go inside, but it was still pretty neat.
                Next we head to Stratford-Upon-Avon, or the city of Shakespeare. We were taken to the area where he was born, rather than where he lived, but this was also our lunch time and we only had about 40 minutes total so we weren’t really able to do much here. I saw the house where Shakespeare was born, but I did not go inside on the tour because I wanted lunch instead. I did try Shepherd’s Pie for lunch and it was actually pretty good. Yay for new things!!

                Our final stop for the day was Warwick Castle. This is a crazy old castle dating back to a long time ago (I don’t remember the century, probably why I’m not a history person). It was however, really cool. It has a really tall tower that has like 5,000,000 stairs…okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit but there were a lot. It didn’t help that we were in a rush to climb it because we didn’t have much time here either and did this last. But I’m glad we did because the views were amazing. Overall today was pretty awesome. It was a lot to do in one day and I wish we would have had a little bit more time because everything was very rushed, but it was still cool.
 View from the bottom!!
View from the top!!