Hello, people of the “Inter Net.” I finally have a few moments to update you all, particularly those on the other side of the Atlantic, about my first week here in England. Here’s some of what I’ve observed or been up to:
- One of the interesting things in any foreign country is the food, and the UK is no different. London is filled with lots of little sandwich shops (which is nice) except that the sandwiches tend to come pre-made in plastic bags (not so nice). There are approximately 14 trillion “Pret A Manger” locations in the city, which is a French phrase that means “Ubiquitous Sandwiches.” I have also sampled some Indian food, which is one of my favorite types of food, and hope to get more over the next few months. I’ve also visited several pubs, largely for the purpose of eating though also for the purpose of relaxing after much walking. (Europeans are very fond of hard cider and there seems to be a nice selection here.) Of course I have also eaten some traditional British food: beef and ale pie, traditional English breakfast, English breakfast tea, a cornish pasty, etc. And there’s a can of custard in my cupboard waiting for the opportune moment to be cooked.
Here’s Sunday’s breakfast.
- Eating is not the only thing they do in Britain, though! This country is also very fond of history—as am I—and they sure do have a lot of it. Much of Thursday through Saturday was spent exploring, including a walk from my location near Victoria Station in SW London to UCL’s campus in Bloomsbury (about three miles). Among the sights seen so far: Buckingham Palace (no Queen, though), Trafalgar Square, the West End, Westminster Abbey (from the outside only), Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the Eye, the Globe Theatre, the Millennium Bridge, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
I went to Big Ben. Ever heard of it?
- Transportation has been heavily by foot, but I have also made many journeys on the Tube (a necessity to get up to UCL’s campus). The Tube is great and ought to make NYCers even more ashamed of the MTA—it comes every two minutes, is clean and functional, lacks rats, and seems to be everywhere. The only downside is that it is not 24/7 (I would characterize it as more of an 18/7) which is a bit of a nuisance. I’ve also been on buses and the Southern train service, both of which were excellent.
St. Paul’s Cathedral at dusk (3:45 pm)
- As for the actual school I’m attending, I’m quite excited. The main difference here seems to be that there’s a lot less class time and a lot more focus on independent reading and writing, which is perfectly fine by me. I get the sense that some of the other Americans are finding the whole thing a bit baffling, though. As well they might—it’s a lot tougher to construct your schedule because of a bevy of restrictions. (The university is more decentralized, so each department has a lot more control over their students and courses.) I’m excited about my classes, where hopefully I’ll be able to learn a lot while relatively unpressured (each class is assessed by two papers, no sit down finals, and we have a luxurious amount of time to write each one—all of my “classes” are actually done on March 22, then we have a month of break before Term 3, which is just preparing for exams or writing papers). I’m taking:
- Europe in the Early Middle Ages (400-1000), Mon 9-10 lecture and Tues 10-11 seminar
- International Development and Public Policy, Mon 2-3 lecture and 3-4 seminar
- London Architecture, which is taught at buildings around the city, Tues 2-4 and
- History of Parliament, Wed 9-11. So, four-day weekends!
UCL—feels a lot like Low Library!
- Finally, I was excited to see my Aunt Joan yesterday, who lives in Sutton just south of the city. She seems to be quite happy and healthy for an 88 year old, and it was good to learn a bit about my family history. She attended UCL during the War and spent much of that time in Wales, a fate I hope to avoid in these travels… Visits to Chiswick in West London, where my grandfather was born, and to Norwich on the Anglian coast, where Stephen and Frances Andrews (my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents) were married in 1745, will come in due time.
Anyway, that’s all for now from me, I think. Time to make dinner, do some reading, and get some sleep (which has been in incredibly short supply). Hopefully the sun comes out tomorrow, though I’m learning not to be optimistic on that count.
Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below! I promise I will read it. Also my mailing address and e-mails are available under the “About” tab at the top of this web zone.