Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Quick random update

Classes are going well. Internship is going great. Next week they're taking me to a conference... here (this is mostly for Kim's benefit, but, hey, everyone else might be interested too).

This weekend is the Stratford-upon-Avon trip and I'm very excited because we get to stay in bed and breakfasts. This is not as exciting to my counterparts from quaint New York and Massachusetts towns, but, in New Jersey, where we've only got big scary hotels or sketchy small motels, it's a nice change of pace. We got the gang (as I've decided to henceforth refer to it) staying in one with 3 rooms, so that will be awesome. We leave Friday morning and get back Saturday night.

Then... Sunday night... it's off the Super Bowl Party, which is apparently a big deal, but would be way cooler if kickoff wasn't at something like 11:30. You know what, time difference? Bite me. Hopefully we get the U.S. satellite feed and I get to see the commercials. I can be such an IMC geek.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Turning 21 and playing with swans and mummies

Yesterday I turned 21 :-) Good times. To start off the day, we went to Hyde Park and got tea at this place called the Orangery. It was absolutely adorable:

We got tea and croissants (or scones, for Greg and Tim, who weren't allowed to have actual breakfast menus) and it was so wonderful. Then we went to play with swans in the park because they are huge and somewhat scary:

Then we hung around for awhile, and I discovered that the USPS is evil and does not want me to get any birthday presents. Le sigh. We went out to dinner at a really authentic Italian restaurant in central London and then went to a club near our flat. Alice and I looked awesome (as usual) and the club/bar was really nice. By nice I mean classy. Oh, and by classy I mean $13 (6 pounds, 50 pence) per drink.

Today I finally got to check out the British Museum, once we found it, because London's streets shuffle much like the staircases in Harry Potter. It was amazing - we got to see the Rosetta Stone and mummies and x-rays of mummies. And I got to stare down a totem pole bird, which totally blinked first.

Then we went on a quest for Trafalgar Square, which I was promised was near the British Museum, but is, in fact, more than a mile away. Eventually, we found it, as well as the Thames, both of which look awesome at night.

Tomorrow it's back to actually doing work... internship, classes, internship, class, then it's Friday and off to Straford-upon-Avon!

For more 21st birthday pictures... visit here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The quirks of London

As promised, here is a quite incomplete lists of the quirks of London:

Hot and Cold Water
We have one faucet for both hot and cold water in our kitchen and our bathroom. However, you have two choices - hot or cold water. You can't get warm water, because the cold water comes out of the front half of the faucet and the hot comes out of the back. You sort of have to mix the water together in your hands to make a half hot/half cold combination in order not to scald or freeze yourself. Why? I have no idea.

Russian Mob
In Bayswater (where I live), the Russian mob owns everything. Our renting agency, the Internet cafe, the liquor store, the supermarket, and we're sure there's more. It turns out that this makes our area one of the safest in London because, seriously, who's going to mess with the Russian mob? It does make for a scary Internet cafe experience when a big Russian guy is staring you down, demanding a pound an hour for insanely slow Internet access (which we no longer have to put up with! Score!)

The Damn @ Key
Which I now cannot find on American keyboards OR British ones, so my typing speed has slowed to the point where you can actually see my fingers while I'm typing. British keyboards have the @ key where the double apostrophe key is and the double apostrophe key over the 2. I'll now allow you all 5 seconds to look at your keyboards and see what I'm talking about.

Ready? Good. So I was doing data entry on my first day at my internship, and this consisted mainly of inputing e-mail addresses, which became infinitley frustrating when I couldn't find the @ key. Now I'm sort of used to both methods, which is just making me sad, so moving on...

The Circle Line
I'm sure I've moaned (British term they use instead of complained/ranted... see? You're learning!) about this before, but the Circle Line is SO slow. Someone sneezes, and they have to shut the Circle Line down for emergency antibacterial repairs. Unfortunately, this is how we get everywhere, but it lets us take a lot of adventurous side trips around - like today, when we took 3 lines to get home. Fortunately, they are shutting the Circle Line down this weekend for repairs, which I'm hoping is code for update to the 20th century (I'm not even wishing for the 21st). I found out today that the first underground train ride in London was in 1863, and that was on the Circle Line as it exists today (the second half, not so true).

The Obsession with the Left
Everyone drives and walks on the left. This is just wrong, and we'll leave it at that.

Too Many Cash Denominations
We have: 1 pence, 2 p, 5 p, 10 p, 20 p, 50 p, 1 pound, 2 pounds...

And those are just the coins. Then we have bills for 5, 10, 20... and I'm sure more but I've never had that much money to my name.

Basically, our wallets/trousers (don't say pants here... that's just underwear and you'll sound silly) weigh a ton and we spend 4 hours everytime we check out somewhere trying to figure out what's what.

I think that's it unless I have any input from my fellow Londoners! Let me know!

Let the Internet era begin

For a so-called civilized (civilised?) country, it sure is hard to get Internet here. Allow me to avail you with the tale of attempting to get Internet at 21 Queens Court. Let me take you back to a time, a time 10 days ago...

We're sitting in our rental agent's office, attempting to turn on our phone line. Our phone line, like everything else in Britain, is owned by BT, who is like God, only slower. It probably would have taken BT about 4 billion years to make Earth, instead of the week or so it took God. While on the phone with the friendly BT person (I say friendly because he had a British accent, which clearly makes anyone friendly), he alerts me that, because I am American, my credit card is worthless to BT. Something about the Revolution and the War of 1812 and Capital One. I think.

Luckily, our jolly landlord, who is in love with me (we're pretty sure) was there and he ever so graciously allowed us to use his debit card to pay the initial fee for the phone line. That got turned on in a day (speed like this has never been seen by BT), and we began the second stage of our quest - actually getting Internet.

The basic Internet here is provided by BT (of course). However, you have to sign a 12 month contract and they charge you some insane amount to turn it on. Somehow Greg found an actual alternative to BT - this service called Be which lets you cancel your account provided you give them 3 months notice. We attempted to sign up for that once our phone line got turned on and got told (dramatic music plays) that BT has not told them our phone line is on yet. Not to mention that I am calling them from my BT phone! Zzzzz...

2 days later, we finally get them to start the Internet turning on process. 7 days later? Actual Internet! Life is good.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Feeling very oriented

Today I had orientation at my internship. Actually, they called it being inducted, but, to me, that sounds like being inducted into an honors society or something. Anyway, it was an awesome day. I got to meet a bunch of other people that work at the galleries and for the foundation and do teambuilding and other stuff with them. We did tours of the galleries, a scavenger hunt, and got to go up on the roof of the museum. From the roof you can see the Thames, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul's Cathedral. It was absolutely gorgeous. And! One of the galleries features Impressionist art - Degas, Monet, Matisse - I was in paradise!

I had fun being the only American in a group of 15. The buiding was built in 1775 and features a statue of King George III, so I had several witty comments concerning that. I also got teased for my American accent and spelling, but in a friendly way. Everyone there is so nice and I'm having an absolute blast. It's making me think a lot more seriously about graduate school for public history.

Fun story from today: one of the galleries features a collection donated by an American - some real estate mongul. One of the women that was in the orientation group asked me if I knew him, and when I said no, she seemed surprised. Apparently all Americans know each other, or so it would seem.

I've been sort of sick lately, but I'm hoping to get over that by Saturday (the big 2-1!), so it's off to bed for me!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Working for a living

Well, not really, seeing as I don't get paid at my internship. But, hey, it's pretty much my dream job. Just add a salary.

I'm working for a foundation that runs three galleries here in London in their marketing department. After some stress about whether or not I would actually have this internship, I started today and I am sooo happy. It's almost making me forget that I can't breathe out my nose. Almost.

(Side note: Europe + lots of smokers + me with a cold = sadness)

Anyway! I get to the office this morning in central London and take the lift up to the marketing department's office. There my advisor shows me to my own personal (!) desk next to a window that overlooks the Thames. If the door across the hall is open, which it usually is, I also have a clear view out over the courtyard to the other half of the building. It's absolutely gorgeous.

I love my internship coordinators who I share the office with. I think I might end up being their resident tech guru (how unusual!), but for today I stuck with data entry and website archiving. Wednesday I get to go on a huge orientation for anyone hired at the foundation in the last 2 months. It's pretty intense - 9-5 with a few breaks for lunch and tea (of course) to learn all about the history of the foundation, the galleries, etc. I can't wait! I also get a security pass that not only gets me into the galleries and up to my office, but it gives me free access into every museum and gallery in London!

The foundation also covers my lunch when I'm working as well as my tube costs to get to and from central London, which is awesome. Plus I love what I'm doing - and it was just the first day!

I was going to do a long post about the idiocyncracies of London, but I am currently too mad at the Internet. My wireless modem is somewhere in the British Isles. I think. Also pictures from clubbing this weekend to come - I caved to the whole leggings/miniskirt craze (I think Europe is having an effect on me). Previews of idiosyncracies to be described at a later date: hot/cold water, the Russian mob, the Circle line, and that damn @ key.

Tomorrow I've got 2 classes - and one's at the National Portrait Gallery! I'm definitley going to get back to IC in August and suffer culture shock from actually having to sit in a classroom.

I think that's all for now. In closing, I would like to point out that Danielle is in Singapore and Laurel is in India and the one that can't get on the internet is in London. That is all.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Now I see where that tornado came from...

In case any of you missed it, a few weeks before I arrived here there was a tornado in London. Now I thought that was silly, because who ever heard of a tornado in Great Britain?

Today, I found out I was wrong.

According to news reports, there were wind gusts in excess of 99 MPH in and around London. These were winds that, like Ithaca winds, always seem to be blowing in your face. I wasn't too concerned until I attempted to leave the ICLC today to take the tube home. Unfortunately, I have to take the Circle line home, which, for you non-Londoners, is a tube line that actually started running in 1775. Or something like that. So of course, with the wind, it wasn't running. Not to worry, because it's only a half hour walk from the ICLC to my flat. So I head up the road to Hyde Park, my cut through to get home.

Wrong again!

Little did I know that London closes its parks in case of wind...I'm the kid that was on the beach during hurricanes when I was little, so this seemed a little extreme to me. Anyway. I have no idea how to get around this massive park to get home, but I figure, hey, it's a straight line home, I can do it.

Not so. London, as we have discovered, does not have straight lines. I walked straight in the direction that should have led to my flat, instead, I ended up much father west of it looking at a street sign that said my area was a mile back in the other direction. Thank goodness Andrew was in the flat with our multitude of maps and was able to get me back home.

I did see some cool shopping and pubs in the area I was wandering around in. I should be able to find it again if I try to get home without using the tube or Hyde Park.

Fortunately, I was only carrying my big black bag of doom, which weighs easily 100 pounds (4,245 kg or something), so now my back hurts.

Only one way to fix this... off to the pub!


Everything's pretty much falling into place now. I got my internship at a foundation that runs 3 galleries, working in their marketing department on a rebranding project. For those of you that know what it is, pretty cool, huh?

My last class, Victorian Art and Society, seems very cool. Every class is held at a gallery or a museum, which is exactly what I wanted in an art history class over here in London.

Tonight we're hitting up a pub with live music. Tomorrow I think we're going to the British Museum and then a walk of the International Students' House at night (free beer, or so I'm told). Saturday is a walk around some other touristy parts of London I missed (more photos!) and Sunday there is apparently a walk around London's East End Markets. And next weekend, a very anticlimactic 21st birthday! (The drinking age here is 18 - sort of a letdown after 21 years of buildup in the states!)


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

First day of classes

Today was my first day of classes (Monday will usually be an internship day... I hope!) I had 2... each for almost 3 hours - Sport Marketing and Modern British History.

Sport Marketing
This class is team taught by a sports lawyer and a guy that works for MLB. We met one of our profs today (the sports lawyer) and proceeded to be completely confused by the syllabus, which was written up by the guy that works for MLB. There are overlapping projects, random papers, and some sort of group project that I really really hope we get to pick our groups for. The MLB prof is also trying to get us tickets to the London Super Bowl party, which, if he is successful, will be mandatory, with a critque and case study due afterwards. This means I will have to go to a Sunday night game starting at 11 or 12 my time, getting home around 4 am, and going to work at 9 the next morning. I'll keep you all posted on that little adventure.

I did, however, get to match wits with some boys about sports trivia, which was fun. That class seems like it could be really cool, just because sport marketing is so different from any other type of marketing. Plus half of my classes are taught at MLB with a bunch of guest lecturers. Sweet.

Modern British History
This class features some people I've had class with who I really like and some people I've encountered that I really... don't like. Unfortunately, the latter may drive me insane. However, the professor is really cool and very smart - a great lecturer. Plus, every three weeks or so we meet for class at a museum. Awesome? I think so. It seems sort of work intensive as well, so much for a slacker semester abroad! (Not that I was counting on one - but it's nice to dream)

I also signed up for a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon for Feburary 2nd and 3rd. The 4th will be spent sleeping in preparation for the Super Bowl. Busy busy!

That's all for now... attempt number 1,835 to get Internet commences tomorrow morning!

Monday, January 15, 2007

They have some huge swans in London

Greg and I walked to the ICLC through Hyde Park today (about a half hour walk) and discovered an interesting fact, well, 2 actually:
1. They have some massive swans here
2. Everything (EVERYTHING) is dedicated to Diana, Princess of Wales. We are not kidding. We include the swans in this assumption.

This morning I had my internship interview. I had been told that you were virtually guaranteed to get your internship and that the interview was merely a formality. However, that's just not so, at least in my case. My interview is for a highly competitive internship (or so I was told), and I will be getting a call later in the week.

Unfortunately, this leaves me in a precarious position, as my internship is the main reason I'm here and a good portion of my credits for this semester. I'll keep you posted, but wish me luck!

On the way back I got to play with a British baby. That was fun :-) I was sitting on the Tube and he was next to me in a stroller, separated from me by a thick piece of clear glass (because London said so). I would put my hand up against the glass and he would put his on mine... it was quite possibly one of the cutest things in the world.

Attempting to get Internet for the flat today, but it requres a phantom land line phone number that we don't have. We're headed over to the realtor soon to see if they can help us out.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Hey everyone! Some photos from Friday because Facebook is being mean to me... hopefully getting the Internet thing sorted out by next week some time. Until then, here's some lovely pictures:

Me and my pal Big Ben:

Me and a statue and the House of Parliament:

Andrew presenting a statue to me:

Alice and me and the ladies of WWII:

The boys (from left: Greg, Keighl, Andrew, and Tim)

Steps away from royalty:

We locked ourselves out again!

Lots of fotos... but more to come later!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

No wireless!

Hey everyone... I've got some bad news. Appears as though we won't be getting wireless in the flat and it's impossible to mooch it off our neighbors, who have all figured out the wonders of password protection. So, I'll be online as much as possible at the ICLC, which closes at 5:30 most of your times. Right now I'm online from the internet cafe next to my flat.

Yesterday we did all the touristy stuff in London - pictures to come Monday!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Home sweet home

Warning: I'm going to be very photo-happy in this post... I'm sorry for any long load times!

We signed the lease on our new flat today and, as I've said before, it's amazing. Plenty of room, a great neighborhood, everything we could want. However, we were very unaware of the number of things left behind by previous tenants, such as:

The clock with only the number four:

The unicorn pillows (wonderfully modeled by Keighl and Greg):

Items in the front hallway, including an exercise bike, hutch (aka bar, I would think), big mirror, and ugly green couch; a hair dryer (score!), books, random furniture, and more! Complete photos here.

Tonight is orientation and tomorrow many more photos after we hit up all the touristy areas! (Come on, we have to try to catch a glimpse of the Queen!)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Day One/Two

Okay.. so I already wrote this post once and Blogger was mean to me, so I’m going to do it again. If I leave anything out, forgive me, because this is the second time through.

Yesterday was probably the most stressful and tiring day I’ll spend in London this semester, but it was completely worth it. The way the Ithaca College London Program works is they give you 3 days when you first arrive to find a flat. They give you contact numbers, some listed properties, and a few maps… oh, and a good luck wish. It turns out that this is the best possible thing they could do – there is no way I could have acclimated to this country to the point I am now. We rode on the Tube, got lost, fixed it, and moved on. We called estate agents and arranged tours of flats and figured out how to get there (that was very impressive – I asked for directions twice and didn’t feel too embarrassed).

We checked out a total of 6 flats (I think – 30 hours of being awake plus jet lag does not equal a good memory). The first one was in Hammersmith, within walking distance of the Ithaca College London Center (ICLC). It was 2 stories, with a kitchen, bathroom, and common room on the first floor and a bedroom on the 3rd floor. I did take a few pictures of the really nice area it was in – here are my roommates:

Keighl and Andrew


So with the four of us, one bedroom was really not going to work. We got back on the Tube and made our way through this strange loop the Tube makes to get to Bayswater. Bayswater is a really diverse, sort of touristy area north of Hyde Park, near a lot of colleges. It’s in Zone 1, which is still Central London, a very safe area with tons of pubs, nightlife, and shopping. We went to an estate agency first – the college recommended several. They showed us 2 flats next door to each other that each had one bedroom. However, each bedroom had only one bed - not exactly the situation we were looking for! It was also very out of our price range (400 pounds a week total). We called several more agencies and went to see another flat. This one had 2 bedrooms, but the rent was 475, so we would have had to find a 5th person. The flat was not in the best shape, but it still remained a prospect.

By this point, we’re (I should elaborate – Andrew, Keighl, Greg, and me) all really tired, but I find the listing of an agent that’s on our way back to the Tube. We decided to stop by and continue the search the next day. The agent told us he has 2 flats available and sends us to go see them with his assistant. She took us into a building on the main road in town (Queensway) that has marble flooring and an actual working lift! The first flat had 2 double bedrooms, an enormous living room, and a nice kitchen. Then she took us to the second flat, and that’s when fate stepped in. It was next door to London’s only bowling alley, which, if you know me, is a sign of destiny. It’s on the 5th floor (but has a lift) and has a kitchen with actual wood cabinets, single bedroom (for me!) and a huge 2nd bedroom that will easily fit all 3 boys and has an amazing view. The common room is absolutely huge – it has a dining table and leather seating and 2 TVs. I can get Internet set up for an extra fee, but that’s totally worth it so I can keep you all informed! We decided to take the flat for exactly what we had laid out in our budget and we sign the lease tomorrow!

Last night we went to a pub to celebrate. I got fish and chips (I know! Me eating fish!) and a Newcastle (which was absolutely huge). After that, I pretty much came back and fell asleep immediately. This morning we had a big English breakfast, complete with really good bacon, tasty cereal, and oranges soaked in the most sour fizzy... syrup… on earth. They had eggs, too, but after Colin cooked for me all semester, they didn’t seem that good.

Today, Andrew, Greg and I went to the Museum of Natural History right down the street from our hotel. It was really big:

And I got into a fight with a bear:

So, overall, it was a very productive few days!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

First day

Don't have much time to post right now... three hours of restless sleep on an airplane plus the dire need to find a flat is weighing on my mind. But... I have made it to London safe and sound. I've already been over to the London Center, our hotel is gorgeous (Alice and I have the honeymoon suite), and we're spending this afternoon trying to find a flat. Wish me luck!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Tomorrow's the big day!

Just a quick post before i take off for the wilds (well.. not really) of London. My flight leaves at 6:30 tomorrow night, and it's a 7 hour flight, so that gets me into London at about 6:30 London time. I have a few hours at our hotel and then orientation in from 9 to noon. After that... it's a mad rat race to find a flat... we have the rest of the day on Tuesday, most of Wednesday, and almost all of Thursday except for an ice cream social and pizza (!).

I have to say, I love how the orientation at the London Center isn't taking up all our time and letting us explore the city on our own. Tuesday night, one of my friends from IC, a London native, is going to show me the ropes of the London nightlife. Anyway, we have to find a flat in those few days, which is very intimidating, as we only have a hotel stay through Friday. I'm hoping we can find something in the first few days to reduce the pressure.

I'll post as soon as I can... from LONDON!