Three weeks left

Hey howdy hey! Hard to believe that I’m heading back to the United States in less than three weeks. It’s been a while since the last post — these last couple weeks have been a little low-key but there are now a few updates worth posting on this here blag. (Remember, you can click on pictures to embiggen them!)

A good day to cricket

A good day to cricket

  • It’s hard to believe but I do sometimes have to do actual schoolwork here at school. Last weekend, I wrote a pair of papers on Parliament, and I have one more left before I can go home — political patronage in the early Middle Ages. (You might know this time period as “the Dark Ages” but it turns out that historians do not like this name very much.)

It is tough to write papers when the days look like this

It is tough to write papers when the days look like this

  • I had a great plan all set up for last Thursday: I was going to take the train to Norwich, a part of England where my long-deceased ancestors used to live, and hang out there for the day. Unfortunately, Transport for London let me down for the first time — delays and congestion in the Underground turned a 25 minute journey to Liverpool Street Station into a 55 minute one, and I missed my train. However, I am not one for letting plans collapse (particularly at 9:30 am, when it is my policy to usually be fast asleep), so I walked over to the Tower of London. It was a warm and cloudless day, and I listened to some entertaining (if probably inaccurate) tales from a Beefeater, took a look at some Crown Jewels, etc etc.

This seems like a rather sanitized version of the gruesome head-chopping-off process

This seems like a rather sanitized version of the gruesome head-chopping-off process

The White Tower

The White Tower

  • The next destination on this improvisational, jazz-esque afternoon was the Borough Market, another short walk over Tower Bridge and past the Belfast. Tasty porkbelly, crackle, and applesauce sandwich… nom. From there, I bicycled back to my dorm, about three miles, and was nearly hit by a car only twice!!

London old & new

London old & new

I am sure this is what William the Conquerer envisioned in 1066

I am sure this is what William the Conquerer envisioned in 1066

  • Joking aside, I’ve been experimenting with biking around and the results have been improving — in the sense that I no longer feel like my death is imminent every time I hop on. I’m not a bad biker, but I don’t have a ton of experience in urban settings and on top of that the British have all sorts of weird squiggly lines on the roads and by the way THEY DRIVE ON THE WRONG FREAKING SIDE WHICH IS CONFUSING. I did bike from school back to home yesterday without any complications which was certainly a victory.

Sometimes you know the weather is going to get bad very quickly

Sometimes you know the weather is going to get bad very quickly

  • The final excitement recently is that I walked over to Hyde Park for the first time, which is about fifteen minutes from Goldsmid House. It turns out that it is quite a nice place, particularly on an afternoon where the weather is nice. The weather here has been improving steadily — 60s and 70s, sunny, and sunset around 8:30 pm — which has in turn increased my capacity to walk, run, and bike around the city.

I was looking for FDR the whole time but didn't find him

I was looking for FDR the whole time but didn’t find him

So, what’s next? On Sunday, my mother is making the trans-atlantic hop and visiting London for the week, which will be a good chance to show off the few things I’ve learned about Britain during my time here. After she leaves on Monday (the 13th), I’ll be on my way to Barcelona on the 14th for three days to visit Nate, enjoy some warm Mediterranean sunshine, and embarrass myself with my limited ability to speak Spanish. Then it’s one day to wrap up my life here and head back to Delaware on the 19th.


Baroness Thatcher’s Funeral

Dominating the headlines in Britain today was the funeral of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Her coffin processed from Parliament to the funeral in St. Paul’s this morning. So naturally I woke up and walked over to Parliament c. 9:50 am. All a bit anticlimactic as the hearse zoomed down Whitehall at 10:02.

Having nothing else to do, I took the tube over to St. Pauls where there was quite a crowd. However, I had a very weird angle — saw the Queen’s car drive up and heard the general singing of “God Save the Queen” but did not see the Queen actually getting out of her car. After the band played her coffin into the cathedral I left because really not much point of standing around.

Thatcher is a controversial figure — but to my eyes there was not much evidence of protest… though, not much evidence of love either. Everyone just seemed to be interested in what was going on. The whole thing is a minor controversy — it’s the most expensive funeral since Churchill’s and she received full military honors despite her divisive figure on the national stage. People are blaming the very unpopular Cameron gov’t for playing it up to boost Tory morale. At least, that’s my very rudimentary take on the current political situation.
So, just a short update on an interesting event I saw today. The weather here has been beautiful all week with the exception of the three hours of the funeral today, culminating with this great nightscape from my evening walk tonight. Pictures from the second half of my trip coming tomorrow!

Back in Britain and Trip Photos (Part I)

Hello there! Rome and Paris were fantastic but I have not the energy to do a blog on them at the moment. This morning I hopped on the Eurostar and was back in London before I knew it, where the weather has been… spastic. But everyone speaks English so that is a step in the right direction.

And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.

“And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

I’ve put pictures from the first half of the trip up on facebook — even if you’re not a member, you should be able to view the pictures by clicking on this link. Please alert me if it doesn’t work for you! Rest assured that these photos have been curated and captionized so you get the highlights.

I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss...

“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss…”

Over the weekend I’ll throw up a post on Rome and Paris and post pictures from the rest of the trip. But now it is time to relax a bit.

The last few days, Memento-style

Hi — quick update time!

Working backwards: I made it to Rome today via a hyper fast train from Florence. Loved Florence. The David sculpture is incredible and well worth the price of admission. Visited the uffizi gallery and cathedral as well, randomly met some other UCL folks in my hostel which was a nice surprise.

Highlight of Venice (the previous two nights) was a Vivaldi concert though the whole city is very unique if a bit of a tourist trap. Train via Munich was quite long but worth it for the view of the alps and the chance to say that I have been to Austria. Edelweiss!

Didn’t mention in the last blog but Munich highlight (if you can call it that) was Dachau — the most haunting and painful place I have ever visited. Took me a while to recover.

Now, four nights in Rome and two in Paris before England calls me back on Friday in the morning. Any Rome tips or suggestions from the peanut gallery?



The defenestration of Prague

Guten tag! I made it to Munich in southern Germany yesterday afternoon after a trip on the “Expressbus” from Prague. Much more comfortable than the Megabus — plus, there’s a stewardess on board who sells you snacks and things. New modes of travel abound; in Prague, it was an extensive tram network that took Nate and I around. (Low-quality wifi in the hostel delayed this post from coming online.)

So, about Prague. An extremely beautiful and picturesque city, Prague is defined by a river that bends like a lower-case r — most of the old and new towns are on the southern portion, while the north and west banks hold the castle and numerous excellent vantage points.

The journey was uneventful if you don’t count me battling food poisoning in the morning, a shortage of seats on the train for the first two hours, and Nate slicing his thumb open on the razor in his bag as we got off the train. As a result, Friday night was a rest night — collectively we probably slept for 25 hours or so. I was pleased to learn that Prague I an incredibly inexpensive city. One dollar buys you 21ish koruna, and I was able to get through three days on 2000 koruna (or crowns).

We explored most of the city on Saturday, walking along the northern park where we were staying towards the Prague Castle, which houses both the Czech seat of government and the ancient St. Vitus Cathedral. On the way in, we ran into a guy who was in my 12-person writing class freshman year. Small, small world.

Afterwards, we headed over the Charles Bridge towards the Old Town (see the video in previous post for a sense of it). This is also where Nate and I sampled a variety of Czech street delicacies on Sunday, most of which can be described as “meat and/or fat.” Prague is really a great walking city and we were able to cover most of the highlights in the two days (including the Jewish Quarter and the lengthy Wenceslas Square — yes, of “good king” fame).

As for the language… we were not so good at it. The only word or phrase I figured out was (roughly) “mluvlite unglitsky” — do you speak English?

That’s about all for now. Train to Venice tomorrow via Austria…