Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Good Day

I know I haven't written in a while... (Why is that how I always start my posts...) but there hasn't been too much to report on. We've been having classes and tea, and tea and classes.

Last weekend we stayed in the Crouch End area, until we went to the aquarium on Sunday. It was a lovely day for it, well lovely in the grey/foggy/silvery/misty way that only London can have. The aquarium was really fun, a good 90 minutes and we saw lots of interesting animals, including penguins.

Last week we had more classes and sadly I got fairly sick starting on Wednesday. On Thursday I made it through classes, and actually we went on a tour of the BBC for my Media in Britain class and that was very interesting. If I hadn't been focusing on staying upright and not dying, it might have been even more interesting ;) On Friday I mostly didn't do anything, just tried to get better. Yesterday I was feeling better so I went out to get tea and cakes with some friends. After that we walked around a large park, then we went to the Highgate Cemetery. A cemetery might not seem like the most interesting place, but it was actually rather beautiful. It's set in quiet bit of town with lots of trees and paths and such. It also has the graves of some famous people such as Karl Marx, George Elliot, and Douglas Adams. Douglas Adams' grave was interesting to me because I'm a big fan of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.  For all you Hitchhikers fans, in front of Adams' grave was a pot full of ballpoint pens. I added one of mine to it. After this I went out to dinner with Katie, Rachael, and Katie's family who are in London this week. We went to a favorite tapas restaurant and had a lovely time.

Today was a beautiful day! 70 degrees and perfectly sunny. I know, you lot must be terribly jealous. It was such a beautiful day that I decided I must take a walk in it. So about 1, Tali and I took a walk to the nearby Alexandra Palace. It's about 30 minutes from where I live and totally worth the walk. The view from the palace (Which has since been converted to a recreational center) is simply marvelous. It shows the whole cityscape, and is surrounded by acres of green, green grass. Tali and I got some lemonade and sat in the wonderful sunshine and slight breeze. Back now from the walk, sitting in my room with the window open.

It's been a good day.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The amazing adventures of Megan, Katie, and Rachael (and other short stories)

Hello all! I'm terribly sorry it's been so long since I've written, we had a busy first week of classes and then last week when I was going to write, I found out that my converter refused to charge my laptop anymore, so I've been unable to put anything up for a while... But it's working now, so here I go!

Our first week of classes was pleasant. I managed to take the tube into my first class on Monday and not get lost, and I even had time to get some coffee from Cafe Nero. Cafe Nero for all my coffee loving people, is rather like Starbucks in the states (although they still have plenty of Starbucks' here) although I'd actually say they make better coffee than the average Starbucks...

I have class Monday, Tuesday and Thursday here. Each class is three hours, which is why I only have one class of each a week. It's a bit wearying to sit in one class for three hours, but sometimes we have tea and cakes half-way through, and that does brighten ones perspective.

On Monday I have Contemporary Britain which is essentially a poli-sci class on... contemporary Britain. Yeah. It's quite interesting and the prof is amusing and interesting. On Tuesday I have  Medieval History (Of Britain) with Katie and Rachael. That one is also interesting, and a class I really need since I've recently added a history minor to my degree. On Thursday I have Shakespeare in the morning, then Media in Britain in the afternoon. My comm class is great so far and Shakespeare... well is Shakespeare. I'm not sure how much I'm enjoying the prof in that class. She's young, barely older than we are and I'm not sure how much teaching experience she actually has. But, we shall see. The great thing about the Shakespeare course is that we get to go see performances (which, in my opinion, is the only way people should really experience Shakespeare...) We had our first performance that first week, on Thursday. It was a performance of Henry V with Jude Law playing Henry. It was really good, and I've decided that I can enjoy Shakespeare if I can see it performed. It was a packed theater in West End (The theater district in London) but we all really enjoyed it.

So, that was our first week of classes.

Last weekend we had a group trip to Bath which was fabulous. The non-fabulous part was our frantic flight to get to the train station. Katie, Rachael and I left with what we thought was plenty of time to get where we were going. However as we were walking there Rachael says, "Are you sure it's the Waterloo station?" We checked and saw that she was indeed correct, we were meeting at Paddington, not Waterloo. We felt a flutter of nervousness, but it was okay, we still had time. After huffing and puffing our way to our tube station we arrived to find it closed. We looked at each other in dismay, but a kind gentleman told us we could catch the bus to the next tube station, "Just over there" he says, motioning toward a gentle incline behind us. We start up this incline. This sweet little hill that was actually Mount Everest in disguise. We gasped our way up this mountain, dragging our suitcases behind us and wondering if we shouldn't just give up and flop down in defeat. We didn't however, and we finally made it to the top after at least four minutes of terrible exertion. We found the bus. Well, we found a bus. Which we thought was our bus, but we weren't terribly sure. We got on it anyway and ended up finding the next tube station. We were seated comfortably on the tube, but as we looked at the map, despair started eating at our hearts. There was no way we were going to make it in time. We were waiting at one of the stops, almost ready to move again when Rachael says, "GET OUT HERE." We dash of the tube, barely making it past the doors sliding shut behind us. Rachael says, "We can go another way." So, after getting through a terrible maze of signs and stairs we find the correct tube line. We get on it, jiggling our heels and glancing with agony at our watches (Well, cell phones...). We make it to Paddington station, squeeze into the lift and dash out. We can't find anyone. Our group is nowhere to be seen. At this point I was ready to get a coffee and sob bitter tears into it. Rachael however, had more presence of mind and decided to call a friend. Thankfully she answered and we found our group. Our relief was palpable. However that relief turned to annoyance/frustration/life isn't fair/irony when our group leader told us we needn't have hurried.

Our train was late. 

 After this traumatic experience we arrived in Bath! We saw the ancient Roman baths that have been there for 1,000 (?) years. We saw a bunch of signs claiming Jane Austen fame (which actually annoyed me because Austen hated Bath, but, whatever ;) ) and we saw the Royal Crescent (Very expensive houses arranged in a crescent shape overlooking a large garden) and the cathedral in the city. It was nice to see everything, and to get out of London. The next day we went to Longleat House, the home of  the Marquis of... something. It was a lovely house, surrounded by acres and acres of grass and trees. That in itself was refreshing to me. After nothing but city and buildings and concrete it refreshed my soul to see green hills and blue sky. We spent the afternoon in Wells, a cute little town which is actually a city, but only because it has a huge cathedral. We saw the cathedral, wandered around the town, and went into the Bishop's Palace. The gardens around this place were breathtaking. At one point we came upon an acre of land that was completely carpeted in purple crocuses, white snowdrops and violets. It was magical. We left for London that evening, weary, but happy.

This last week was fairly similar to the previous one. Classes, tube rides and runs. Katie and I have been continuing to go running, although sometimes my legs feel like concrete and I want to just lay down and have people run over me.

Yesterday Katie, Rachael and I went to Oxford! It was beautiful. We started out going to the Ashemolean Museum and then went to the Eagle and the Child for lunch. For those of you who aren't as nerdy as me, the Eagle and Child is the pub where the Inklings met. For those of you who didn't gasp in amazement, the Inklings were a group of Oxford professors which included Tolkien, Lewis, and other amazing authors. It was there that the first pages of Lord of the Rings and Narnia were read and discussed. Wow. I felt so inspired sitting there (we actually got to sit in the room where the Inklings sat.) Now I know a lot of you would get excited to see a famous celebrity or something, but for me, sitting in a room where writers who shaped literature in the 20th century sat, was a whole lot cooler. After my definite geek-out moment (which Katie and Rachael tolerated with much grace and good humor) we went to the Botanic garden (the oldest in England) which was lovely. We wandered the streets for a bit, trying to find Christ's Church. We did find it, but it was terribly expensive to get in, so instead we wandered more, walking along a canal and enjoying the breeze and sunshine of an early spring day. We had a delicious cream tea afterward and then wended our way home. It was lovely to walk toward our train station as a silvery-blue twilight fell over beautiful Oxford. It was really amazing to be walking in a place of so much learning and knowledge and beauty.

For those of you who've actually read this whole epic, I applaud you. You either really love me, or are terribly bored. For those of you who are bored, go read a book, or better yet, some poetry. I recommend Seamus Heaney's District and Circle.

I'll try to update more frequently, especially now that I've got my computer working.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

I'm Bad at Titles

It's been a fairly relaxed couple of days. Thursday the tube strike was still on, so we slept in and then Katie and I went running! Our plan is to run every other day, and even though we got covered in mud and rain, it was a good time. And I didn't die from my asthma, which made it an even better time! We mostly did nothing that day, just hung out. We did get absolutely delicious margarita pizza for dinner that we watched being cooked in a wood fire oven. It was expensive, but very worth it.

Friday we had a tour of London on a bus. We saw Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London. It was really nice. The only bad bit was the coffee I got which was disgusting. Sadly, I can't drink bad coffee 'cause I've not had the experience before... Such are the trials of a Keurig owner...

Yesterday we went to Notting Hill! Now, as many of you probably know, one of my favorite movies is Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. So I dragged Katie and Rachael with me and we went to see the market that runs all the way through it, on Portobello Road. The market was cool, but so terribly crowded with people that it was hard to see anything. Once we moved a bit past the crush of people we wandered around for a bit looking for a place to eat (sadly everything was full) and we happened to bump into the bookstore featured in the movie. I had a moment of sheer excitement and dashed inside. It was "surreal, but nice." If you don't know why I said that, go watch the movie. It was really cool to see the inside of the store. After tearing myself out of the bookstore we went home and did nothing for the rest of the day.

Today I woke up and had muesli for breakfast.  Muesli, for you that don't know, is magic. It's like they combined oatmeal and granola into one magical warm or cold cereal. I was fairly unreasonably excited to eat it. After that, I had a lovely long devotional time and missed worshiping with my dear WBC family. Then we made a trek to a candy shop, which we've spent a fairly substantial time looking for. I got something called Sour Fizz Balls. Not normal. Warheads have nothing on these candies. They are the most sour candies I have ever eaten in my life. They are delicious, but sadly one can't eat more than three without their tongue starting to bleed, so they also have an edge of danger in them that I quite appreciate.

Nothing else planned for today. Tomorrow is the first day of classes (Contemporary Britan). I'm excited to start something more substantial. I'm looking forward to having stuff to do again. I probably will regret those words once I have a ten page paper to do.

I'm enjoying London, but missing home. It's weird to wake up and not sit at the breakfast table with my mom, drinking coffee and chatting (well I drink the coffee, she the tea). I miss it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Of tube rides and scones

In the four days that I've been here, everyone has talked to me about the weather.

The director of the London program, our American advisor, our tour guide, Dilys, Steve, Gwyneth, Katie and Rachael's homestay people, and well, really anyone British who I've had more than a five second interaction with. "It's flooding in the West's been raining for days... worst weather we've had in ages... we've broken all the records for rain... worst rain in a hundred years..."

I'm not quite sure what to say other than, "Oh... I'm... sorry?"

We've figured out the fastest route from our house to the school, and I've nearly perfected the "I'm a stoic Greek statue" face that most people on the tube have perfected. It's rather fun to practice. Also, the tube is a fabulous place to eavesdrop ( I know that half of you just heard Sam Gamgee in your head...). Yesterday I listened to this fascinating conversation between an Irish girl and a very embarrassed/slightly annoyed/wanting to be helpful British woman. The Irish girl was trying to choose between her head and her heart. I'm not quite sure if she was an actor wanting to be a lawyer, or a lawyer wanting to be an actor... but best wishes for her, and it made for an interesting ride.

Yesterday we went to school terribly early (I had to be up at 815) and had some more orientation stuff. Talked about travel, and then went on a tour around our Bloomsbury (Where our school is). It seems that there was a famous author that lived on every street, or so the plaques say. We saw Dickens' house, and also the pub that housed the famous literary, Bloomsbury Group. It was quite a lovely walk. After that we did a quick tour of the British Museum. I thought the DC museums were big... This was so huge we could fit my whole college campus inside the building. Sadly, my phone died just after we got in, so I only got a few pictures, but we plan on going back often. While there we did get to see the Rosetta Stone (But, unlike the computer program, it did not ask me to recite verbs back at it..), the Elgin Marbles (Bought from the Turks in Greece, by the British, but now the Greeks want them back and there's a big controversy) we also saw some other... Greek things that Tali hyperventilated over, but which I can't remember the name of anymore... they were interesting anyway.

After the British museum we got some coffee and waited around to have a buffet dinner with our profs... well, I would not call it "Dinner" as it was really just some appetizers. Went home after that and slept soundly for many hours.

Today, due to the tube strike (don't ask, something silly about ticket offices...), we had no orientation (or tomorrow) so we slept in, had a leisurely breakfast and then Katie, Rachael and I, walked around Crouch End. I got some yummy scones at a bakery, we had lunch in a nice little cafe, and then got some much needed groceries. We've spent the afternoon trying to figure out where to go for spring break... haven't decided yet, but I'll let you all know once I do, and you guys can tell me how you're eaten up with envy because of it... ;) 

My fingers are really cold because they don't really use heat here. Well they do a bit, but because fuel is so expensive, they don't use it much.

Hope you lot are all safe, don't get hit by any trees in that ice storm(Well, the Maryland-ers). I'll post again in a few days, perhaps after I've gone to the Notting Hill market... then you really should be envious, because it shall be fabulous!

Monday, February 3, 2014

My first day...

Well it was rather miserable. Everyone was lovely and helpful, and my homestay family were so kind and welcoming. But all I wanted to do was sleep. And I knew I couldn't sleep. All anyone told me to do was not sleep, and all that made me do was think about sleeping. There was one point where I was being shown Crouch End (Where I'm living) and I could have fallen asleep with my legs still moving. At about four when I finally got a bit of time alone in my room, I burst into tears and started hating everything about London, only wanting to return home. But, before you guys start awwing me and encouraging me to continue on, let me finish my story ;)

After the irrational tear bit I decided I HAD to take a nap. I did, for about 90 minutes and felt much better once I got up. I skyped my family which also made me feel much more cheerful. I then went downstairs to have dinner with my host family, and that was quite nice. It was me, Steve, Dilys, and Dily's mum Gwyneth. We talked for quite a while, and I had my first taste of Yorkshire pudding, which is not pudding at all, but rather a small... pancake like, round thing. It was tasty. I stayed awake till about 830 and my host family said they were quite impressed with my ability to hold a legible conversation. We discussed Seamus Heaney and Steve and Dily's argued over whether she was Scottish or not. It was most amusing. I then went almost immediately to bed and slept for 12 hours.

I woke up with an incredibly improved aspect. As I was getting tea and munching on toast this morning I decided that London wasn't so bad after all. I met Katie and Rachael (who live three doors down from me) and we walked to the tube station. It's a bit of a walk, about 20 minutes, but it's a rather nice walk and so easy that even I could find it by myself. Our tube trip is about 15 minutes, and then another ten minute walk to school, so all in all, a good commute.We had orientation for a few hours, fairly boring stuff, but not too terrible. After that we returned to our homestays for a bit, and then went back into central London to celebrate Tali's 21st birthday. We ate at a little pub called Prince Authur's, which was quite nice.

Now, I'm home. Sitting in my violently magenta room. The cat seems to like my room the best, which is unfortunate, but other than that it's quite a nice room. Today has greatly improved my aspect and I am now quite sure that this shall be a pleasant few months, even though I still miss everyone back home.

I hope everyone in Maryland enjoys their snow.

It was 50 degrees and sunny here today.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Daughter of the Bard

Well these are my last days at home for several months. I have managed to condense all of my belongings into a large suitcase, a smaller (yet, seemingly magically large) carry-on, and a laptop bag. I have clothes enough for 3 and a half months (I hope!) and only seven books.
 Seven books.
I have never been so book-less in my life. When I was younger and we'd go on vacation for a week I'd take a duffel bag full of at least 30 different books. Now, I am down to seven, 'tis a tragedy. In addition to my books, I shall have to leave behind my wonderful collection of tea and tea pots and not carry any of my favorite mugs for my coffee.

Well, so much for sadness, onto the adventure! Where, you might ask, am I going? I am traveling to England to spend a semester in London. While most of my knowledge of England has been gained from Downton Abbey and Jane Austen novels, I cannot wait to see what living in Europe is actually like! My past abroad experience comes from a two week trip to Ireland last year and I treasure that trip as one of the loveliest experiences of my life. Most of that trip was spent in a haze of green hills, watching the sea pass by, and drinking many pots of warm tea. I plan on my trip to London also consisting of much drinking of tea and eating of scones (my favorite thing) and going on as many adventures as I can find. In addition to living in London I plan to explore many other places: Ireland, Paris, Scotland, and Wales. We'll see how many I can get to.

I plan on going to Oxford (and sitting in the pub where the Inklings met!), seeing Chatsworth House (Where they filmed Pemberley, from the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice!), visiting Highclere Castle and as many other spots in England that I can fit into my trip.

So, you might ask, is this just one grand vacation? Well, no, not exactly. While abroad I shall be taking classes at Hollins' London Abroad program, housed in the University of London. I will be taking classes on Shakespeare, Media, Contemporary Britain, and a History of London. These classes will be on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, leaving me long weekends to travel and explore the city.

I will be living with a English family while in England, in a northern suburb of London. Thankfully, I will have my two dear friends from school, Katie and Rachael, on the same street as I am, just a few doors down. This is great because I will get to see them often, and also great because they will help me to not get lost, an excellent thing as I do not have a stellar sense of direction.

And now, you ask, why is my blog called Daughter of the Bard? To me, this seemed an apt name, as my last name -Ward- means Son (or daughter) of the Bard. A bard, for those unfamiliar with the term, was a person who traveled around the world collecting stories, songs and wisdom, and passing their knowledge onto others. This is what I mean to do while abroad. I want to learn the stories, be taught the songs, and hopefully take in the wisdom of those around me. I want to see and experience all that Europe has to offer me, and this blog is a small way that I can tell those experiences to all my dear ones who shall be so far from me. 

Now, as Bilbo so aptly puts it, "I'm going on an adventure!"