Sick Days in the UK

Sadly the migraine from the night before continued into this morning. I knew I had my exam so I at least had to power through that. After some last minute studying during the last four presentations of the term it was time. The exam ended up going pretty well and at this point I was just happy that it was over with, I knew I would end up doing fine in the class (GPA boost here I come!!). After the exam I got back to my room and basically collapsed into bed. I laid down feeling miserable for about an hour and a half before changing into pajamas and continuing the misery.

I slept from around 1:00 PM straight through until 5:00 PM when I realized that I could now sit up and look at a screen without feeling like my head was going to explode- walking was a bit more difficult though. I mustered up the motivation to finish hand editing my essay and decided to finish putting the edits onto my typed copy in a couple hours.

I opted instead to watch a movie on Mattflix. After going through the latest additions I settled on La La Land starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. I had heard great things about the film (and the soundtrack!), so I was looking forward to experiencing it for myself. As someone who would much rather- and had a better attention span- for sitting down and reading a book opposed to watching a movie, I was enthralled by the film and was sad when it came to an end. During the movie I had also ordered a bowl of tomato soup, since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. After the movie I knew it was time to get some work done.

I finished writing my essay and sent it to my mom to edit before sending it over to my professor. When she returned it to me later that night I pressed send, officially ending my winter courses in London. As exciting as this was, I was quickly reminded of how soon Spring courses would begin as I found a course syllabus waiting for me on Sakai.

The remainder of the night was spent making sure I had finished packing as much as possible, setting five trillion alarms to ensure I woke-up the next morning, and Face-Timing with my grandparents and then Peter.

As sad as I was to be leaving the City of Symphonies I knew more great adventures were in store for me when I arrived home.

Empty Wallet, Full Heart

I woke-up early today, slightly nervous for my presentation. I say slightly because I know I’m a good public speaker so I know I would be absolutely fine, but I was used to being graded quite strictly when it came to speeches and my preparation was far less than what I had done for COMM350 back in Delaware. That being said, I woke up with enough time to go over my speech once and that definitely helped calm my nerves.

Class was fine as I was transported back to intermediate school, trying to sneakily read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone under my desk while boring presentations went on around me. Soon enough it was my turn to present. Prezi amazed my professor as he had never seen anyone use it before and it was my go-to for presentations. The whole thing went very smoothly and the only questions I received was “what got me so interested in World War 2,” a question I was thrilled to answer.

(The reason I find WW2 so fascinating is because of my Aunt Clara and how inspired I am by her and all she overcame as a young Jewish girl under the Nazi reign.)

Let me not get ahead of myself though. At the beginning of the semester we were assigned to think about the question “Why London? Think about and explore what sets London apart from other cities and allows them to support five classical orchestras.” I decided to take a historical approach to the question. My conclusion was that the people kept the classical music scene in London alive and to prove this I looked at three major organizations or groups during WW2. One of the easiest ways to determine the success of anything is to see how it survives through adversity. With WW2 being one of the greatest challenges our world has had to face it only seemed fitting to use that as my example. If you want to read my paper just let me know and maybe I’ll post it on my blog as one final London “hurrah.”

After reading my way through another three presentations class was over and I headed back to the hotel room to figure out what to do next. Since I was hungry and feeling adventurous I decided to try the little Indian place down the street from our hotel. It did not look like much from the outside, but inside the place was gorgeous and relatively fancy looking- a trend that I’ve noticed in London is that restaurants typically like to give the appearance of being fancier than they really are. I ordered some chicken thing with rice that wasn’t spicy at all (thank goodness!) and very delicious!

When I finished eating and paying I walked straight past the hotel and over to the British Museum. I had spent four and a half weeks in London and had to been to countless museums besides the one that was literally RIGHT NEXT DOOR. Since I’m ridiculous and feel the need to read every single thing in museums I ended up spending two hours there and only getting through the Ancient Egypt exhibits. I was able to see all of the mummies though and the Rosetta Stone, which was pretty cool.

Gross Fact: When they went to mummify people and they couldn’t cut them open to get their organs out, they would dissolve the organs and then take them out your butt.

After I left the museum I stopped at Starbucks and tried their Butterscotch latte that was actually pretty good. When I got back to the hotel I FaceTimed Peter until he had to leave for work and then I called my grandparents. When I got off the phone I decided to head over to Oxford Street to do some shopping because I hadn’t spent enough money already this trip (that was sarcasm). I first went into Accessorize and bought a shawl thing and a hat, and then I went to Top Shop, H&M, and a couple other stores for before deciding to head back before I was completely broke. All in all I would say that it was a very successful shopping trip.
I had planned on going to DF Mexico and getting tacos or something, but when I had almost made it there I saw another healthy fast-food type place called Leon, so I decided to go there instead. I ordered a Moroccan Meatball Box and a Coke and then headed back to the hotel room to eat it. Everything was surprisingly really good. Over dinner I talked to Jackie and showed her all of my new purchases.

When we got off the phone I did some laundry and showered before trying to go to sleep. After getting into bed I developed a horrible migraine and had to take both my prescription medication and sleeping medicine in order to fall asleep.

Sunday in the City

I woke-up around 9:00 AM this morning and got up and got dressed relatively quickly. Instead of Hillsong Church being around the corner at the Dominion Theater it was moved to the Apollo Victoria today, which was about a thirty minute bus ride away. I decided to be more productive with my Sunday than usual and attend the 11:00 AM service.

It was weird being back at the Apollo Victoria because that’s also where I had seen Wicked a couple of weeks earlier. I did not love the theater for church as much because there were less seats in the stalls and being up in the circle kind of made me feel removed. The service was fine, although the speaker was not as good as they had been the past couple weeks. I still enjoyed it and felt blessed that I had such an up-lifting church community here in London for the past four weeks.

After church I headed back to the hotel, packed my bag with my laptop, and then headed to TY to get some work done. I had my final presentation the following day, so I mostly just worked on creating my Prezi, so then later all I had to do was create my presentation notes and practice. The place was more crowded than it normally was when I arrived because I got there a little later in the day than usual, but I was still able to find a space to work. I ordered a bowl of their Minestrone soup and ended up getting two Chai lattes. I had finished the presentation by the time I left.

When I got to the hotel I just hung around for a while, the original plan being to go and get dinner out towards the Barbican and then just meet the class at the center for our movie that night with a live orchestral performance. I ended up being too lazy to go out to the Barbican early, mostly because it was raining pretty hard. Instead I ran across and down the street to a little Fish and Chips place. It was incredibly delicious (even though I still claim to not be a fish person) and they had amazing desserts. I ordered the Tiramisu and ended up basically inhaling it.

Before I left for the Barbican I talked to Peter for a bit. When I arrived at the Barbican our professor told us that even though we originally had a movie review for The Visitors our professor essentially told us he was too lazy to grade it so it was optional and for our The Lodger movie reviews, we all got high As. Although I was kind of annoyed that he wasn’t doing his job fully, at least I did not have to do any extra work. The movie was very interesting, but I kept on falling asleep and did not really have the attention span to keep up with it. After the movie I went back to the hotel room, did some pre-packing prep and then went to sleep.

Late Night Adventures

UPDATE: When you’re doing one billion things a day and fall behind on blogging it’s REALLY hard to remember what you did four three days ago, so let’s see how this goes.

This morning I woke up determined to finish reading The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher, so that’s exactly what I did. I actually finished it over breakfast at Café Salt and Pepper that was down the road from our hotel. I wanted a “real breakfast” and I woke up too late to go down to the hotel breakfast, so I ended up getting a cheese and spinach omelette and a smoothie. It was very refreshing!

When I got back to the room I wasn’t feeling great so I decided to just use the day to rest again and take a nap. I could tell I was getting towards the end of the trip because I was having less and less energy as time went on. I wasn’t getting stressed out about it though because I knew I had done a lot during the trip already and it was okay to take a couple rest days in order to finish the trip strong.

I woke up around 5:00 PM and tried to get myself organized before meeting with my youth leader over Skype to talk about some service opportunities I had been planning. The plan was to meet at 6:00 PM, but 6:00 came and went and around 6:25 PM I finally gave up and decided to go and get a quick bite to eat before meeting up with Ana-Maria. Of course the second I left I got a text message about the meeting, but we ended up just post-poning until I got home.

I went back to the cafe around the corner- Pomme de Pain and just ordered a chai latte and grabbed a yogurt with granola. When I got back to the room I ate my yogurt while talking to Peter for a little bit on Skype. Around 7:30 PM I left the hotel to go and meet Ana-Maria by the tube station at Harrods. This became difficult because the exit I went out of closed at 8:00 PM and that was the time we were supposed to meet. I did not see her at that exit and there was about three others, but I did not want to leave incase she showed up. When it hit 8:15 PM I decided to start walking towards the other exit in hopes of running into her. I ended up being successful and we met up and headed back towards Harrods.

We wandered around until they closed at 9:00 PM and spent most of our time in the toys sections- the only place we could be without feeling too poor and too out-of-place. After we left we walked over to Birmingham Palace to see it all lit up at night. We got kind of lost and cut through a dark park, but in the end we made it there safely. After visiting the Queen we headed towards Big Ben and the London Eye. Both were absolutely stunning lit up and it was cool to have been able to see them both during the day and at night.

When we finished taking photos it was already 10:00 PM and my phone had just died. Ana-Maria wanted to go get food (people in Western Europe eat so late!!!), but I was exhausted and concerned about my phone so I decided to head back. After exiting my tube station I opted to run across the street and get some Burger King quickly before going back to the hotel room, eating it, showering, and heading to sleep.

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!)