Lost in a Bookstore

This morning I woke up early again and started to go over my final notes and the songs we needed to learn again when my phone buzzed and a classmate texted saying our final was moved to Tuesday. I was excited, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time I kind of just wanted to get it over with because that was now just one more thing I needed to worry about over the weekend.

Class brought along with it another great guest speaker, Rebecca Gilliver. Rebecca is the principle cello player for the London Symphony Orchestra and it was a privilege to have her come in and speak to our class. Following James Shearman the day before, the main thing I noticed was how down to earth they both were. Despite claiming she was a horrid public speaker and hated it, Rebecca spent the two hours telling us stories about her time with the orchestra. At times it felt as though she wasn’t even talking to us anymore, just reliving the memories. She was incredibly honest with us and talked to us about the sexism still present in the orchestra as well as how being a principle player impacted her married life. The one thing I did not respect about Rebecca Gilliver was that she KILLED DOBBY. Her cello solo ended the life of the best house-elf in the history of all house-elves!!!! Other than that she was great though.

After we wrapped up asking Rebecca questions, I went back to the hotel room and quickly did some laundry and figure out where I wanted to go the rest of the day. I ended up traveling over to Waterstones Piccadilly- the largest bookstore in Europe. Since I had sent two books home with my aunt the day before I decided I could buy a couple more (ignoring the fact that I had bought two at the Imperial War Rooms the day before). I ended up purchasing one of Carrie Fisher’s memoirs called The Princess Diarist (I already finished reading it, whoops!), Jaycee Dugard’s second memoir called Freedom (I read her first novel Stolen, so I just haaaad to get the second), and Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone.

Okay, so I’m going to justify my purchase of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone in a separate paragraph before I a text saying how I don’t need to be spending any more money on Harry Potter. Let me start from the beginning. Before I left for  London I told Peter that he had to read all of the Harry Potter books ASAP because he never had before and I kind of lived off of them. About half-way through my trip I decided it was about time I read them again and since I am a slightly competitive person I told Peter I was going to finish reading them before him (he’s on the fourth book currently). I hadn’t PLANNED on buying any of the books here, but I also knew I wanted to start collecting all of the different cover art versions of the series. So when I got into Waterstones and saw the display I decided it was worth it because (1) I could get a head start and beat Peter, (2) this was the real version because it was PHILOSOPHERS stone, not sorcerers stone, and (3) I was going to buy them all again anyways.

Once I finally dragged myself out of the bookstore following my three purchases I headed down the road to Hamleys Toy Store- one of the oldest and largest toy stores in the world. It was overwhelming to say the least. I just went right to the Star Wars and Harry Potter sections and then after deciding everything I wanted to buy was too large to get back to the United States I headed back to the first floor. I got a belgian waffle with bananas and drizzled chocolate before heading back to the hotel.

When I got back I hung around and read for a little bit before heading out again to meet my roommate at the Sky Garden. The Sky Garden was a free attraction that you had to book ahead of time though because it was generally pretty busy. It was essentially a little garden at the top of this super tall, glass building in London with a great view. In the gardens was a little outside area where you could go out onto and take pictures (Dad would have hated it) and then they had a little café set up and some fancy restaurants upstairs. I thought it was just going to be me and roommate, but apparently she invited two of the other guys in our class. It wasn’t a problem, but it would have been nice to know before I showed up there.

After we were there I headed back to the hotel for another short period of time before going back the direction I had come to go out to dinner with Ana Maria. My friend Ana Maria lives in Bulgaria and we actually met at a program at George Washington University two summers before. She had family friends in London, so she came to stay with them for the weekend and visit me!! We ended up meeting at a little Turkish restaurant called Kilikya’s that my roommate recommended. I ordered the lamb and chicken kabobs (ironic because my friend is a vegetarian) and a cider. We caught up over dinner and then ended up getting the Baklava for dessert along with complimentary Turkish tea. Originally after we finished dinner we were going to go and walk around, but it was already 9:30 PM and I was absolutely exhausted so we decided we would just meet up the following day.

When I got back to the hotel I read for a bit, talked to my roommate, and then fell asleep, not setting an alarm.

War Rooms and Dinner Dates

This morning I woke up early to finish reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time so I could send it home with my aunt and uncle and then have an excuse to buy more books. When I finished reading I met them downstairs with a packed duffle bag of all the stuff I brought with me or bought here that I probably didn’t actually need. Breakfast was good and then I said good-bye to them and headed over to class.

During class we had conductor and orchestrator James Shearman come in to talk to us about what it was like to work on a film score. He was absolutely amazing and incredibly down-to-earth, telling us about how at times he would turn down jobs if he did not believe in them or did not think it would be an uplifting environment. His most recent movie he worked on was Beauty and the Beast and he’s also done Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. So only two of my favorite movies. He ALSO lives down the street from Emma Watson, that’s just entirely not fair.

After we finished asking him questions and he gave us advice, our professor ended class early for the day. I decided to finally go over to the Winston Churchill Imperial War Rooms for a couple hours before getting some work done. They were absolutely incredible and I was able to add to my collection of knowledge about World War II. I ended up buying two books in the gift shop, but it’s okay because they just replace the ones I sent home this morning. Although the average time to spend in the war rooms is about a hour and a half to two hours, I was there over two and a half. When I finally reached the end of my self-guided tour I came up the stairs and re-entered into the real world of papers and exams.

Back at the hotel I tried to focus, but ended up just Face-Timing my family and procrastinating. I decided to go around the corner to Pomme de Pain and there I ordered a snack and a drink. I got a yogurt with granola because I figured that would hold me over until dinner and an apple and elderberry juice that was delicious. After I finished my juice I gave in and ordered a chai latte.

Around 5:30 PM Peter texted me saying he was leaving his Five Guys. Since we hadn’t seen each other in almost a month we decided to have a “date” and we both got Five Guys and had it together over Skype. It worked out well because it was lunchtime for him and dinnertime for me.

Following the date I tried to get some work done in the hotel room and then when my roommate got back from dinner we went to the diner down the road because they were 24-hour and had good milkshakes. I got a milkshake followed by a passionfruit and apple cider while I did my best to learn terms and a list of composers and movies that I could identify by their songs. When I felt I had sufficiently learned all that I could, I headed back to the hotel, hoping to get to sleep at a reasonable time.

My roommate and I stayed up talking for a while though so by the time I got ready for bed it was about 12:30 AM. That still allowed me to get eight hours of sleep though, so I wasn’t too worried.

Solving Problems with Pasta

This morning I planned to sleep until I woke up and get the sleep I needed, but I had so many things I had to do that I still ended up waking up around 9:00 AM. I probably could have gone to get breakfast in the lobby, but instead just did some laundry and procrastinated in my room.

When I was too hungry to do anything else I headed back to TY Seven Dials in hopes of getting some work done considering I had such a productive day there the day before. The plan for the day was to do work until around 3:00 PM then head to the Churchill Imperial War Rooms before meeting my aunt and uncle to go to dinner. After trying to get work done until around 2:00 PM, but not getting anything done and just feeling frustrated I gave up and headed back to the hotel.

Being back in the hotel did not help anything and I had zero motivation to do anything. Because of that, I ended up doing absolutely nothing and just getting more overwhelmed by the time I was wasting.

Finally around twenty minutes to six I got changed for our symphony concert that night and then headed to the bus stop to catch a bus to Royal Festival Hall, where I was meeting my aunt and uncle for dinner. We ended up going to an Italian place that’s name was some year. The restaurant was conveniently located right across the walkway from the entrance to the Hall where I had to meet my class at 7:00 PM for the concert at 7:30 PM. I ordered bow-tie pasta with zucchini in it and it was exactly what I needed.

When dinner was finished I decided I needed dessert for my soul. We ordered some toffee cake with lemon ice cream, but it had still not arrived at 7:06 PM. I refused to stay over at the hall without first eating my dessert so I ran across to my professor, grabbed my ticket, and then came back to the restaurant to wait for my dessert. When it arrived I inhaled it. Needless to say, it was absolutely delicious even when being shoveled down.

The concert was one of the easier ones to make it through since the longest piece was only forty-four minutes. Anything longer than forty-five minutes seemed to outlast my classical musical attention span. Following the concert I got back to the hotel in record time and was able to call Bernadette and catch-up with her for a hour or so. After hanging up, I showered and went to sleep hopeful that the following day would be better.

(UPDATE: Today is SO much better and I’m looking forward to writing about it tomorrow! No worries!)

The Final Stretch

This morning I actually woke up even earlier than usual and was out of bed by 8:15 AM. I decided to blog first thing in the morning again so I had that done and could use the rest of my day to write my paper that was due at midnight. The paper was just a draft, but I knew it would be beneficial in the long run to have a solid draft and then not have to do as much editing.

During class we watched The Lodger by Alfred Hitchcock with Nitin Sawhney’s original score that was created in 2012. It was interesting to see just a modern film score paired with such an old silent film. It was hard to focus at times, but the movie was engaging for the most part and it was definitely better than just listening to another lecture.

After class I headed over to Portabello Road and stopped in at a cafe called Farm Girl that my roommate had gone to the day before and recommended. It was a vegan cafe, so for lunch I ordered a Coconut BLT where the bacon was made from coconut. It was actually pretty good, but I would not say that it would adequately replace bacon. I was seated at a long table upstairs which worked pretty nicely until this overly loud couple came upstairs and sat near me. This was when I realized I had forgotten to bring my headphones with me. I had no choice but to power through though.

I ended up finishing about three pages of my paper, which was close to being half-way done. At that point I could not concentrate for any longer though so I left and decided to go and walk through the market. I walked all the way down looking at the antiques and vendors that were along the road. I found one table that was covered in old cameras- it was really cool! I didn’t end up buying anything and decided to head back to the hotel because I had half of a sandwich in my backpack.

When I got back I tried to work on my paper some more, but ended up not really doing much and soon giving up to go shopping. I went over to Primark, which is kind of like a Forever 21, but cheaper. I tried on about eight items, but settled on just buying an oversized cardigan sweater that had a maroon and gray pattern on it- shocking color choices, I know. Back in the room again I was able to finish writing the paper before Aunt Nik texted me saying that they were back from their tour and ready for dinner.

We took after my grandparents and didn’t get to dinner until close to 9:00 PM. We went to a pub called Dog & Duck. I ordered a burger and it was alright, but nothing special. After finishing our food we were going to order the dessert trio, but it was already 9:50 PM and the kitchen closed ten minutes earlier. Disappointed, we headed back to the hotel.

I called Peter and talked to him for a little while simultaneously creating my works cited page for my essay. When that was done I sent it in to my professor, showered, and then went to bed, knowing that I could sleep in because we did not have class the next day.

Work, Work, SHOP

This morning I woke up at 8:15 AM and was working on my blog by 8:30 AM. I knew the next week was going to be absolutely crazy, but blogging was still a priority for me, so doing it in the morning when I would normally be sleeping seemed like the most time efficient option. After I finished writing I got dressed and then headed down for breakfast. Instead of my normal breakfast I decided to change things up and get bacon instead of sausage and strawberry yogurt in addition to my normal fruits.

Class was kind of frustrating because my professor talks about how he doesn’t want to waste our time, time that we could be in the city, but then he just talks to us about our thoughts on the concerts and everything for thirty minutes at the beginning of class. I understand that the feedback is good, but it’s still kind of frustrating at times. The rest of class went by fine, except for the fact that we had one assignment due the following morning and three that night, with more assignments coming in every night for us to edit.

After class I ran back to the hotel room, did a little bit of laundry, and then headed out to a cafe. Doing laundry this time has been interesting because I’ve just been doing a couple of pieces at a time and then when one piece of clothing dries, I’ll wash something else. When I had successfully re-filled the desk and laundry board with clothes, I grabbed my bags and went back to TY Seven Dials, my go-to cafe when I’m in this area.

I was at TY for at least three and a half hours, but I was actually pretty productive. By the time I left around 5:00 PM I had written one of my assignments that just had to be edited, and re-did two assignments that my professor gave us the option to fix. All I had left to do was my essay draft that was not due until the end of the day tomorrow. I also had time to do my Bible study during my work break. I left feeling pretty good about where I was at and knowing that I would get everything done.

When I got back to the hotel I was there only fifteen or twenty minutes before my aunt texted me that she was ready to go out to dinner. We ended up going back to the fish and chips place I had gone the other day called Gigs. It was just as delicious the second time around and we also ordered some amazing humus because besides being a fish and chips place, the restaurant also featured a variety of Greek dishes.

After dinner Uncle Steve headed back to the hotel while Aunt Nik and I went to go and explore Harrods. It was most definitely overwhelming, but we had a fun time walking through the entire toy/Disney section after picking up some presents for the family. We had to stop at Lillywhites before we got back to the hotel because Aunt Nik needed to pick up some soccer- or should I say football- stuff for one of her friends. I was absolutely exhausted when we got back to the hotel and I didn’t stay up that much later after making it back to the hotel room.

Back to the City of Symphonies

This morning I did not have to wake up until 10:00 AM, which was absolutely amazing and incredibly needed. When I was finally woken up I got ready for the day and packed up my duffle bag to head back to London. On our walk to the metro station we stopped at a place where I could get a crepe because if you’re going to go to Paris you HAVE to get a crepe. It was really good, but I think I may have inhaled it slightly too fast.

The ride to the train station was relatively painless and after getting a Chai latte from Starbucks I went up the escalator to check into the train. When the train departed I ended up getting two seats all to myself, even after switching with a couple who wanted to be sitting closer to their four rambunctious children. The train ride was great as I was able to do more of my Bible studies and blog a little bit.

Soon enough we arrived back into St. Pancras International train station and I hopped on a bus and headed back to the hotel as quickly as possible. When I got back to my room it was about 2:30 PM and I had one billion things to do and not enough time. I did some of my laundry because I was running out of clean clothes and then after leaving that out to dry I grabbed my bags and headed to church because I desperately needed to de-stress. I also stopped and grabbed lunch at the Pomme De Pain cafe where I scarfed down a cheese, bacon, and tomato sandwich with a raspberry-apple juice.

Church at Hillsong was once again amazing as people from all over Europe came together to praise the same God. I am pretty sure the guy next to be became a believer at the end of the service, so that was super cool, he just had a different way about him when we were leaving than when we first arrived. The message was talking about how we ARE strong because the joy of the Lord is our strength and just broke down exactly what that meant. It was a great service and I was excited to go back one last time next weekend before leaving the following Wednesday morning.

After church I had twenty minutes at the hotel to try to get more of what I needed done, but I was not as successful as I would have liked to have been. That’s okay though, because I know it will all get done as long as I prioritize and stay focused. The concert tonight was at the Royal Festival Hall and we were seeing the Philharmonia Orchestra, who were incredible. I finally felt myself starting to understand the pieces more now and I was able to stay focused for all of the thirty-minute Mozart piece and about forty-five minutes of the hour long Brukner piece.

Following the concert our professor actually was able to get us to go backstage and meet conductor Andris Nelsons, who is actually currently with the Boston Symphony Orchestra over on our side of the pond. We got our picture taken and it was a really awesome opportunity that we received just because we asked.

After getting back to the hotel around 10:30 PM I did absolutely nothing for about two hours before finally going to bed and preparing for class the following day.

Climbing the Eiffel Tower with Mickey

Waking up this morning was incredibly difficult because of the lack of sleep I got the night before. I just ate a croissant that my aunt brought my for breakfast and then got dressed and packed my purse for the day. We headed out onto the metro to go over to our tour that started out of their office that was near the Louvre.

Our tour began at 9:30 AM with a walk over to the Louvre. I’m not really into art, but our tour guide did a great job of giving us a taste of the artwork shown without boring us all to death. We got to see the Mona Lisa as well as a variety of other works and statues. The pyramids that distinguished the Louvre were really interesting to look at and I really enjoyed seeing them from various different angles. After about an hour and a half at the Lourve we left.

The next stop was going to lunch at the Eiffel tower, but we had a boat ride down the Seine River to get there. The views were amazing, but I ended up seeing about 80% of the boat ride through my eyelids because I probably wouldn’t make it through the day without at least a couple of cat naps. When we arrived I looked up the Eiffel tower and it really was an architecturally amazing with its supports and it’s bronze color. The line was long and the air was cold, but luckily we got to go in the express line to get our food. I just kept telling myself that waiting in line now was practice for Disney later that day. Our lunch took place on the first platform of the tower where I had dessert first (I like Paris!!) which was a panna cotta with some mango-passionfruit mix inside of it followed by pasta with Halibut fish in it. It was really good and when we had finish eating and warming up we ventured back into the cold. We looked out over the city and then headed down to the bottom to try to walk a ways away and get a good picture. The steps down to the bottom were kind of terrifying the way they were set up, but it was cool to look at the supports of the tower and see the views on the way down. After getting a couple of good pictures, we headed back to the boat to meet up with our tour guide.

After another boat ride back the way we came we ended up at Notre Dame Cathedral. The inside of the cathedral was stunning with all of the colors in the stained glass  windows and the amazing architecture. Around 4:00 PM, although the tour wasn’t over, Aunt Nik and I gave our bags to Uncle Steve and then headed towards the metro because it was at least an hour trip to Disney and they closed at 8:00 PM.

The trip there was eventful. When we got to the metro we opted to not buy tickets out to Disney quite yet because there was a long line and we figured we could buy them at the transfer station. We were wrong and ended up actually going through our next ticket check- that our old tickets allowed us to get through- before finding a place to buy tickets for the next leg. Since there wasn’t much else to do we decided to just keep going and hope for the best. The forty minute metro ride flew by because I was asleep for almost all of it (second cat nap of the day). Alas, there was no ticket booth on our side at the next metro stop either so we stood there not knowing what to do. Hopefully the Paris metro police doesn’t read my blog, because the next thing we did was just run behind the handicap doors behind a woman with a stroller. Either way, we got out and we made it to Disney.

Disney World Paris was kind of a let down. We were only there for about an hour and a half and it was absolutely freezing, so that probably took away from the whole vibe, but still. There were fewer rides and just fewer buildings set up in an already smaller space. One of the things I noticed was that there wasn’t a gift shop after every single ride, which was kind of upsetting because I couldn’t easily find a bunch of souvenirs for one character. We ended up going on the Ratatouille Ride (typical “4-D” experience ride, but it was actually in all English), followed by Rock n’ Rollercoaster (VERY similar to Florida’s), and ending with Crush’s Coaster (my favorite and not just because it was Nemo)!

Next came the shopping!

That was also a let-down. There was four Disney themed store and a Lego store, but the selections were not as good as Disney and everything was not as well-organized. I ended up finding everything I wanted to get for people, but it was not as easy as I had expected it to be. The Disney Gallery store was probably the coolest of the night and there I was able to find some really interesting prints. I ended up buying one that was part of a Disney city Mickey collection that I cannot seem to find the actual name of on Google.

When we finally finished shopping we were going to get dinner somewhere in the Disney Village, but it was already 9:00 PM and all of the lines were out the door. We decided to just go back- with actual, purchased tickets this time- and get tacos from the place around the corner from our hotel. The tacos were not your normal tacos, but they were absolutely delicious and although the place looked like a shack, it was absolutely packed. We brought our tacos back to the room and ate them there before going to sleep.