Saturday, February 26, 2011

Holy Crown Jewels, Batman!

I dunno. I am a bit delirious from exhaustion today. I woke up not feeling particularly well (thought it might be the changing in seasons/weather mood wings here) and I'm thinking I may have come down with a slight cold. Nothing to fear, just terrible timing. But that wouldn't stop me from my London adventures!

Liz, Sarah and I all headed over to the Tower of London this afternoon for some spectacular viewing, despite the on again off again rain that almost always persists in London. What I love about the Tower of London is that it isn't a tower at all. It is like a FORTRESS. Ok, maybe not exactly, but still cool.

We got an abridged tour from the Yeoman guide. They have a nickname- Beefeaters. They have no idea where this name came from nor why it persists, but they still have it today. An interesting fact I learned about them is that they have all served and achieved a pretty high rank in the Royal military. I thought it was just like a tour guide job. Nope. You have to be legit. They and their families live inside the Tower. Pretty sweet, huh?

So we saw lots of execution places and lots of armour (like seriously, you probably could skip the exhibit and just go on my Facebook since I took pics of everything I could) because they were having a Royal Armour exhibit in the White Tower.

I have to say the coolest thing we saw by far was the Jewel House, home of the Crown Jewels. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take pictures, but that is a sight I will never forget. There were about 7 crowns, all composed of hundreds of diamonds, rubies, sapphires and more. God, they were brilliant. You could probably have cut off a small piece of one and solved the world debt crisis. Apparently, the jewels are so invaluable that they cannot be insured. There has only been one attempt to steal them in the history of them being in the Tower.

The crowns aren't the only thing in the Jewel House. It is also home to everything they use in the coronation ceremony and other royal occasions- the orb/globe, the maces, the swords, the communion sets, the dinner set. So. Cool.

So in general, we spent a good 4 hours there just wandering around and being awestruck at the awesomeness that was the Tower. Then we headed off to meet Casey and Andrea to check out Fleet Street.

While we didn't actually find a meat pie shop on Fleet Street, we made due with Pasties because Fleet Street is actually not that popular of an area. Lots of stuff was closed but whatever. Casey and I sang "The Worst Pies in London" while walking down the street with her turkey and cranberry and my steak pasties. I consider this a dream well fulfilled.

Sunny! Enjoying the swing in the London Centre's garden!

Tower of London from outside

obviously the best place to get ice cream?

Yeoman guards

The White Tower

Roman wall inside the Tower

Knight and horse in full armour

Suit of Armour as part of the exhibit

The Kings' Heads. Creepy

The Line of King's exhibit

Small 'nook' that Sarah found- note, it is an old school toilet. 


My fierce knight getup

Legend has it if the ravens leave the Tower England will fall. So they clipped their wings (there are 6). I think that is cheating, England.

In front of the Tower Bridge (often mistakenly called the London Bridge. It isn't)


I know why nobody cares to take them, I should know, I make them, But good? No!
The worst pies in London, Even that's polite! 


In my continual planning discussions with my flatmates, my sister and my mother, I have been avidly updating my Google calendar in order to keep track of everything we have planned. Plus I really just like writing things down. I loved seeing my months get fuller and fuller, packed with spring break plans and school trips and when I had extra work shifts at the London Centre.

But looking at it now, about halfway through, both thrills me and makes me nervous/sad. Sad because half of my time here is spent. Nervous because we have packed a ton of things to do into the next two months. Thrilled because I am going to get to do and see so much that I never thought possible and it is going to be a blast.

The outlook:
Cesca will be here Tuesday until Friday- we are exploring and seeing 2 shows in the evening. Friday I leave for Italy, followed by Spain and France, which makes up my Spring Break.

The weekend after (St. Patrick's Day Weekend) we are heading up to Stratford Upon Avon to see Romeo and Juliet and a bunch of Shakespeare-y stuff.

Andrea's parents are visiting the weekend after and we are seeing Les Mis (YES!!!!!!!!!!)

The weekend after that we are heading to Dublin for some Irish lovin'. After our return Andrea and I will be enjoying a performance of The Lion King, which I cannot wait to see again. I'll also include a trip or two more to see Phantom in April and May. I will then have completed my goal of seeing it once a month while here! Yes. I really made that a goal.

The weekend after that Casey is visiting a friend in Germany so I'll probably take the time to indulge myself and go to the Globe Theatre and Imperial War Museum, either on my own or with anyone who wants to accompany me.

Then there is the Edinburgh trip, and the next weekend, Easter weekend, we are planning a day trip to Dover to see the cliffs and enjoy stuff. My dad suggests we take the ferry over and see the beaches of Normandy, but I'm honestly not sure how much money I'm going to have left at that point, haha (family and especially Mom- please don't read this and worry. I'm joking. I will have enough money).

The following weekend is THE ROYAL WEDDING which I plan on avoiding or watching on TV since I work on Fridays I wouldn't be able to go or anything. Unless I get a shift cover, which I can do. We will see how that goes.

That leads to finals week, so I have a free weekend at the end and then I am heading home. It is sad to see my calendar say May 9- Back to USA and then see a pretty much blank calendar before me. After months of craziness and so much to do and see, it is kind of depressing to think about the adventure ending. Good thing I'll be back to Europe soon!

Talk about a crazy life. We also have to squeeze in trips to King's Cross to see Harry Potter stuff like platform 9 3/4, and a trip to the London Eye so we can ride it and look out at the glory of London. Sounds pretty cool.

Oh yeah. I have classes. I might be doing homework sometime too. Probably not though :)

No pics yet today, haven't done anything crazy since Wednesday. Heading to the Tower of London today and then Fleet Street to sing "The Worst Pies in London" while eating meat pies. I'm so cool, I know.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fun Times

A raven is like a writing desk because Poe wrote on both. Take that Tim Burton's Alice and Wonderland, I know the answer! Anyway...

It has been an eventful week already. Not that we've actually done a ton of stuff, but we've been planning things for a while and are finally getting settled with what the heck is going on.

First, we booked our flight home from Paris. Which probably cost more than half the trip. Seriously. London to Paris is expensive.

Then we booked both our flights and our hostel in Dublin. I have a few friends that studied/are studying there plus others who have visited to get an idea of what to do, so that promises to be a great weekend.

Today on my break I walked down the the Lyceum Theatre and bought tickets to Lion King for Andrea and I. 21 pounds! I'm excited. I haven't seen that show since it came to Buffalo in like 2005 so it has been a while. I am super excited to see it again.

We are also planning/booking a day trip down to dover to see the white cliffs at the end of April. Which means I have basically something planned for every weekend till I am gone. This weekend- The Tower of London. Then we plan to go eat meat pies on Fleet Street while we sing "The Worst Pies in London" from Sweeney Todd. Oh yeah, I am stoked.

So that's the plan for now. Other trips include the Globe Theatre and the Imperial War Museum, which I will be doing myself at some point when I have a free day in a weekend. Not sure what I have planned for the wedding weekend (you know, besides crashing it), so that's also a possibility.

In other exciting news, I almost had a heart attack at work today. Sofia Escobar (the West End Christine that I just saw last week) came in to buy a Good Luck card for the Raoul that was performing tonight (he's a second cover and it is his first time!). I instantly recognized her from the programme (and last week at the stage door). She obviously didn't remember me but is super sweet and I was so excited. I wished her a good show and then hyperventilated for like 10 minutes.

All in all, a good week so far.

Picture time!!!!

I love these statue people. There was one in front of the National Gallery today

Plus a bagpiper! 

I thought this was so adorable- someone designed this as their wedding invitation

Tickets to all of the things I've seen so far (or will see, Lion King is in there). Many more will be added soon

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?

I'm trying to be creative with titles here. So sue me!

Anyway, this weekend ended up being a quiet one as 3 of my 4 flatmates were not in the flat. Liz went to visit amigas in Madrid (haha, see what I did there, because it's in Spain!) and Andrea and Casey went to Liverpool. Now, I'm all for class subsidized trips (The West Country one was awesome!) but since I found out that the Edinburgh trip is like twice the cost of a normal trip and I'm not really that invested in Beatles history (let's face it, that's basically all Liverpool is) I opted to skip this one.

I am a bit jealous though. They did get to go in the Yellow Submarine...

Instead, I spent a quiet Friday writing an essay for my International Business Operations class. So, if anyone needs to know information about the formation and goals of the European Monetary System and the creation of the euro, I'm your gal. But seriously, that wasn't a fun time.

What was a fun time was spending the next day out with my lovely flatmate and former US roommate, Sarah Singer. We decided to not get an early start because we are lazy. So we headed out around like 11 or so towards Marble Arch, where we hit up some souvenir shops so I could pick up some postcards (I'm collecting them for a professor at home) and then check out some store that many of our peers have raved about, Primark. Now, Primark is basically like Forever 21 at home. Except it is a lot more organized. Though not less hectic. We wanted to try things on (because I only have a rough estimate as to what my UK size is) but there was a line of at least 50 people. So we said "No way Jose!" and just bought the stuff we wanted (after checking the return policy- 28 days with a receipt!)
The Marble Arch

Long story short, got a cute skirt, and a couple tops for not that much, though I'm just going to forget about the horrible exchange rate. After wandering around a few more markets (Petticoat included, which was kind of deserted because of the rain) we headed back home. But we were hungry, so we of course stopped for the most elegant, classy meal that Britain has to offer: Fish and Chips (take that Cesca and your pear ravioli with zucchini and whatever sauce).
My delicious fish and chips. I have no idea why they give you a serving of fish big enough for 3 people, but let me just say that it is incredibly delicious. Surprised I like it? Me too.

So yeah, not a huge amazing weekend, but it was nice and relaxing. Sarah, Liz and I are planning a trip to the Tower of London next weekend, so I'll keep you posted on that.

Shout out to all my family members reading from home, I hear mom sent ya the link. Hope you're all enjoying my adventures and pictures!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sweet Intoxication

No, I'm not talking about the drug kind. Unless you consider my Phantom obsession an addiction. Cause it might be. Anyway, that's a part of Music of the Night. Please forgive the dorkiness of this post and bear with me. I have great pics at the end!

I literally had the most wonderful day here as I accompanied Andrea, Sarah and Liz to see a performance of The Phantom of the Opera.Liz has never seen it live, Sarah had seen a horrible understudy and Andrea fell asleep when she went, so it was like a fresh new show for each of them. Mind you, I've seen more times than I can count via youtube and bootlegs, plus I've seen it live here, but my expectations were high.

Disaster almost struck as John Owen Jones, the main Phantom, was ill yesterday (I'm not a stalker, I follow him on twitter because he updates when he'll be out of the show) and I was really worried he wouldn't be on tonight. Considering I have already seen and was not wholly impressed by standby Scott Davies, this concerned me greatly. But my fears were assuaged as I walked by the theatre to see the cast list posted, John Owen Jones was the first name up there. Relief!

We had much better seats in the Grand Circle than I had the first time I went. I even got a few pics.

I won't bore you with details, but let me just say that they were amazing. Sofia Escobar has an amazing voice. She blew me away. I did hear her mess up the lyrics of Think of Me, but she covered well and I was just ecstatic to see her. Will Barrat, who I was alright with, really was fantastic tonight, really chivalrous and caring and crazy in love like Raoul should be. And John Owen Jones. Oh. My. God. Favourite Phantom. No question. He's crazy. He's psycho. He's vulnerable. He's pitiful. He's everything the Phantom should be acting wise. And his voice. Oh my god. Incredible.

Funny moments from the show (featuring some pics from my collection):
The mirror scene. There's this cool trick with lighting that allows the Phantom to be seen behind the mirror in Christine's dressing room. As this happened, Sarah grabbed my arm and said "wow" because it is so. cool.

We did see one of the ballerinas fall in one of the dances, but Andrea thought it was part of the show so she didn't notice.

At the end of Act 1, the Phantom appears on a statue hanging over the stage because he has been eavesdropping on Raoul and Christine. The way its set up is the statue lowers a bit, Raoul and Christine sing All I Ask of You  and leave, the statue then lowers and the Phantom appears. Apparently a ton of people in the audience don't know this happens, because when the Phantom appeared there were gasps and murmurs throughout the theatre. Liz turned to me and said "How did they not see that coming?"
He is up on the angel like so. It is suspended above the stage and doesn't look very stable!

The murmur also happened during the graveyard scene. Christine sings Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again and then the Phantom steps out from inside the cross and sings. Lots of gasps at the fireballs too.

Lots of whimpering at the end, because really, who wouldn't? If the Phantom is good, he will keep you enthralled till the end. John Owen Jones is that good. I cried.

As an avid Phantom goer, you must know that I also frequent the stage door to meet the actors. I had the great luck of meeting all three tonight. First Will Barratt, then Sofia Escobar came out pretty promptly. I was actually bold enough to approach Sofia first. Will saw us standing there with our programmes and walked right up and said hello. They were super sweet and took pics with us and everything. Then we played the waiting game. The Phantom does have a lot of makeup, so we figured it would take a while. Luckily, I was on such a high that I didn't mind anything. I just hoped and hoped that he hadn't left some other way. Finally, after a good half an hour to 45 minutes, John Owen Jones appeared, looking very different from the man in the mask. He looked pretty incredulous when he walked out to a good half dozen people still waiting. He said "Oh wow, I didn't expect anyone to still be waiting!" Which either means he hoped nobody would be waiting or he felt bad that he was slow cause he didn't think people would wait that long. I'm hoping the latter. I would have waited till the tube closed man.

Anyway, it was amazing, and I'm super excited to go again in 2 weeks with Cesca. Awesomeness!

Pictures!!!! (Not just from Phantom, but because I've been slacking)

I found a Tim Horton's. What!?!?!?

Found a cool souvenir shop too

With an awesome greeter

Our seats for Phantom

Photo of the stage I'm wasn't supposed to take during the interval. I'm a rebel

She made her own costume

Will Barrat signing autographs

Sofia Escobar signing autographs

Mission Accomplished. I met them all

John Owen Jones- a jolly guy in real life. He didn't expect us to be waiting

Sofia Escobar. So sweet and beautiful. Probably the best Christine I've seen. And I have seen a lot

Will Barratt. He was super nice and friendly and made fun of Liz for spelling her name L-I-Z instead of L-I-Zed. Oh brits and their humour. He also remarked about my name being Christina cause he personalized each autograph. I'm in heaven.

Happily, I also wasn't speechless when meeting all of them. I did only manage a "You guys were amazing" and some other little comments, but its better than my normal speechlessness.

Friday, February 11, 2011

We are getting desperate

So. Since our washer is broken it is affecting the sink, which won't drain. As the dishes piled up, we began to worry. When there was no more room in the sink and no more dishes in our cupboard, we began to get desperate. Then we took matters into our own hands:

We moved our dishes to the bathtub

Andrea was the washer

I'm the rinser. Mission accomplished.


So, this week has been a lot of ups and downs. The up started on Monday when we got our heat and hot water back. Thank the stars, because I was not looking forward to another round of 'Let's stick my head under the ice cold water so that I can wash my hair!' 

So yeah, major up. Then on Tuesday, after actually staying awake and aware during my Women in Britain class, I got to Skype with Ronnie at home. It was so nice to talk to a friend from home and hear all about life across the pond (not that talking to my parents isn't lovely, but we talk about different things). I set up a Skype date with Lauren for Saturday, so I'm super stoked about that.

That night, my flatmates and I headed out for a night on the town. Not really, we actually headed to the Ambassador's Theatre to see Showstopper, in improvised musical. Despite the fact that we had to ask for directions like 4 times and most people gave us pretty bad ones, we found the theatre and sat back and relaxed. Now this show is pretty basic to understand. There's a writer on the phone with his producer and he says he has a musical ready and prepared to put on. He doesn't really, so he needs the audience's help in making a show stopping musical that his producer will love. Ours ended up being about an opera house in the Amazon that is made out of a tree with a moat of magical piranhas that was protected by natives. The musical number choices that we had yelled out included a Glee number, a flamenco dance, a Mozart themed number and something akin to We Will Rock You. You could tell they were just having a great time, and we did too. It was also a short show, which is a nice break from the 2 hour plus shows I normally see.

Speaking of shows, my tickets to Phantom for next week arrived in the mail, and I also printed out my tickets for when Cesca visits. We are seeing Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies. I know, I'm surprised at myself too. Partially because I swore I never would see it, and partially because I am really curious and kind of excited. At least Cesca and I can share the misery together while seeing Ramin Karimloo, who I would have preferred to see as the Phantom (the real one). Whatever, it will be a good time and I kind of need to see it anyway. It's like how I watch all of the stupid movie adaptations just to see how they are. 

Now the downs. Our washer is broken again. I have barely gotten to wash like anything here because I'm not home when people do laundry (and it will be running when I get home since the washer takes forever) or it has been broken. Well, it filled up with water again and now our sink isn't draining properly. This sucks. Seriously, almost anything that can go wrong has here. Stupid flat. 

I'm also not sure about my internship. My boss still isn't back from Australia and I'm not really sure what I'm learning, besides how many different types of birthday cards there are in the world. I'm going to talk to my internship coordinator next week and see what she thinks. If I have to stick it out, I will. The people I work with are nice and I keep meeting people from Phantom (though I try and contain my obsessiveness and act cool) so it isn't so bad.

Anyway, that's about all. Here are some pics to brighten your day!

This is what we do when we are bored and have no heat or hot water. Andrea gets on Casey's shoulders!

Liz is making sure they don't die

But they all almost died

This one is for my dad. He kept telling me about Mousestrap before I came. So we walked by it on the way to the show and I had to snap a pic!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Baby it's cold... inside?

So. As I hear, back home in the states ya'll are getting pounded with snow and freezing temperatures that will be talked about for years to come.

Well, I have to say, that stinks. But you know what? I'm almost in no better a position here. This weekend, on a lovely Friday morning, we woke up to no hot water. And no heat. We cleaned the flat, hoping it was temporary. So far, it hasn't been. After a call to our landlord, we waited, hoping the hot water guy would come like he was supposed to.

Now here is the problem with London and Europe in general. Everyone is very laid back. Which is nice for things like being late to work because they really don't care. Not so nice when you need a repairman ASAP and he is in no rush to get to you. Fun. Times.

As luck would have it, Sarah and I were the only ones available to sit around waiting all day yesterday for the guy since he didn't come friday. Liz had a date with a British boy she met at a club and Casey and Andrea had a rugby match to attend for their Sports and the UK class. Which mean Sarah and I got 'wait for the repairman duty.' again.

He decided to show up at around 3 yesterday, and he's really nice, but he told us the problem wasn't the water as it was last time. It was that there was no gas. No gas = no hot water or heat. And it isn't his problem to fix it. Great. So our landlord (who is kind of a jerk when you need something done, when you're paying him he's nice... go figure) supposedly called the gas guy who still hasn't contacted us.

So, since we had no hot water this weekend, we ventured over to our friend Ian's flat (luckily his flatmates were in Amsterdam this weekend) and used their shower Friday. But man, we miss ours. Guys flats just aren't, well, the same. We may have to repeat that process tonight if we want to be clean for Monday. Ugh. This. Sucks.

In other news, we went on a Beatles walk around Piccadilly today and concluded with a stop at Trafalgar Square to watch the Chinese New Year Celebration. Happy Year of the Rabbit! It was pretty sweet but wwwaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy  crowded. I did score a cute headband that will have no use other than for the Chinese New Year, but hey, it made me pretty popular. I had at least 3 strange people take pics of me (and believe me, they weren't discreet) and it got me quite a few looks on the tub, but it was a great time!

So now I'm finishing some homework while freezing as the lingering heat is diminishing and it's getting chilly in here. I really hope the repair guy comes today...

Ready to celebrate!

They found a statue to be creepers on

The stage for the ceremony

Dance of the Lions

That was a dragon

My cool new headband and a chicken dumpling for lunch!

Andrea's dragon eating Liz on the tube