Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Making an 18th Century Building Look Old

Today was the best day I've had at my internship so far this semester. A film crew came in today to start setting up for a shoot tomorrow for a pretty major movie that will be coming out next winter. One of my bosses took me to the location, which was being set up to look like a 19th century street (granted, the building I work in was built in the 18th century, but we've added lights since then).

It was such an amazing experience. False walls were being put up, barrels of... something... were being carried around, and there was a dead rat in a windowsill (I'm pretty sure it was fake, but there are some live chickens and a dog coming in tomorrow). The propmaster was paying attention to even the smallest detail - they're not even filming on the second story, but it was being redone as well in case of crane shots. I even invited myself to the actual shoot tomorrow, with the potential of meeting some actual stars (I'm sworn to secrecy, but I promise that it is cool that I get to meet them).

Just as an aside - I think what the museum is doing is a great idea for several reasons. First, the studio is paying a ton of money to use the museum as a set, which is so important to non-profits. Second, the museum gets film credit for it, as well as word-of-mouth promoting it as a cultural destination as well as a potential place to film. Unfortunately, with the logistics required for a shoot like this (and my boss was running around all day), it becomes too much of a hassle. I'm hoping they can work that out, though, because it really is incredible to see what the museum can be used for.

More tomorrow after the big filming day (and right before spring break!)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Just your usual spring break...

Well, not really. Spring break starts this Friday, and we're off on what I think is a pretty cool trip:

Leave London (Heathrow!) at 7:55 am (that will be a fun trip out to the airport) and land in Athens at 1:35 pm. Make our way over to our Hostel by reading signs that will probably be in Greek. Spend Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday touristing around Athens (where it's in the mid-60s right now. Be jealous!) and attempting to find some kind of Greek food that I'll eat.

Take a bus from Athens to Patras (about 3 hours across southern Greece and the coast) and hop a ferry from Patras to Ancona, Italy. It's a 21 hour ferry ride and we're staying on the "deck", which I'm assuming means we'll literally be sleeping on the deck of a ferry. It's going to be a very... unique... experience!

Land in Ancona and take a train across Italy to Florence (Firenze). Spend 3 days in Tuscany, meeting up with the plethora of Ithaca people that are going to be there while we are (it seems everyone's spring break trips were similar). Most importantly, meet up with Meg and co. on Wednesday and take a train to Rome Wednesday night.

Bum around Rome (you know how it is), doing the various touristy things: drinking wine and eating pasta, riding a scooter and saying "Ciao", etc. Then Friday, fly home around noon and catch up on sleep because Colin's coming to visit the next day!

If you want a postcard from any of the places I'm going, let me know!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Chinese Myth Dragons

So I'm just sitting in my flat, procrastinating the 2 papers I have to write, when I hear something that sounds like a car dragging a trash can behind it or some really loud construction. Then I begin to tap my foot and realize... hey... this is some pretty rhythmic hammering. I get up to see what all the commotion's about, and, strangely enough, there are Chinese Myth Dragons afoot, complete with a set of 5 drummers. They're dancing about in front of one of the many Chinese restaurants we have, so, of course, we head down to check it out:

After a few minutes of dancing around, the Myth Dragons paraded down the street past our flat:

Just another day in Bayswater, I guess! Happy Year of the Pig!

Adventures in Chinatown (Happy New Year!)

I figured I should start this post with the word "adventures" as I'm clearly not creative.

Anyway! Last night was the celebration of the Chinese New Year, so we headed down to Chinatown in Soho:

We went to a few bars, stopped in at a club, and watched Andrew repeatedly try to steal lanterns that were way out of reach. I've put all the photos online here.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Adventures in Socialized Medicine

Today I decided it was high time for me to experience socialized medicine. Actually, my foot decided by swelling up hugely last night after walking around Soho. My first interaction with this wonderful innovation of healthcare was calling the National Health Service (NHS) hotline at 1 am. They took down my details and asked me what was injured (foot) and proceeded to ask me some awesome questions like:

1. Are you in a safe place?
2. Have you been hit by a speeding object, like a speeding bullet?
3. Have you fallen from a distance greater than your height?
4. Have you been stabbed with a knife?

I somehow think that if the answer to any of these questions was yes, there would be a very different reaction on the phone instead of a bored girl in pain. But... red tape is red tape. They decided I wasn't in a sketchy alley being shot at by gang members after being stabbed and falling off a building, so they decided they could call me back. An hour later, an actual doctor, nurse, or someone with good fake medical knowledge called me back and decided that, yes, my foot did hurt and, yes, I couldn't walk. So insightful. She found me a hospital online that I could go to a 9 am.

This morning we set off to find the hospital, which was a convenient 20 minute walk away. That's awesome in London terms, but not so much if your foot is 'sploding. The receptionist took my name (Elyssa) and told me to sit. After a short wait (comparatively to the U.S.) I was shown into a curtained area and a nurse (?) examined my foot by basically pushing it and asking if it hurt. She also told me it wasn't swollen (as I had iced it on and off all last night) but that she believed me when I said it was. In the meantime, I overhear this monologue:

Random man: I was here last week, after a car collided with me. I had a broken leg and you sent me to St. Mary's because I had a swollen knee and an abrasion. And they did nothing for the abrasion.... and I'd like crutches please.

(Just an aside... WHY am I at the hospital that can't give a man with a BROKEN LEG crutches?!)

The nurse then tells me that my foot is not broken because I can walk (but by now I have no faith in her) and to... ice it and elevate it. And then she sends me on my merry way. X-ray-less, crutch-less, and, oh, even ace-bandage-less.

To conclude.... ow.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Adventures in Haircutting

For all those that have asked me, yes, I did get my hair cut yesterday and, yes, it was definitley an interesting experience. First, I know you're all interested in the results:

The hairdresser was a great guy, except he kept referring to me as the "Jersey woman" (ahem. Jersey girl thank you very much) or the "typical American". And if I asked him to change something he was doing (like cut off more hair.. short does not translate well from American to English) he would get really mad and tell me he was giving me a "fantastic look" (which is true, but I just wanted a shorter fantastic look).

So, all in all, I am pretty happy. The hair place was just around the corner from my flat, next to the GELATO place that just opened. I tried to check that out last night, but it closed before 8. I'm not quite sure why (it's surrounded by places open until midnight, which is when the rest of London closes), but I was very depressed. Alas, today is another day.

The hair cut is mostly in anticipation for spring break, which we finally... finalized... this week. We head out to Greece on March 3rd and spend a few days in Athens before taking a ferry to Ancona, Italy. Not ferry like Staten Island Ferry, but an acutal ferry that takes 24-hours. That's the adventure portion of our trip. Then I'm going to take a train to Florence (Firenze... that was fun to figure out that those are the same... I'm a silly American) and spend a few days there using my 2 words of Italian to find my way around the Tuscany area. After that I take a quick train ride to Rome, spend 2 days there, and fly home! (The short hair is needed because I won't have time to do anything to it that whole trip. And it will be warm. And... I wanted to. So there.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Of course I'm French! Why do you think I have this outrageous accent?!" (Part Deux)

Saturday (jeez, was it only Saturday? Time passes slowly in France... it ate too many croissants) we attempted to wake up for breakfast, failed, and grabbed a few croissants on our own. We headed to the Musée d'Orsay, which is a museum for Impressionist art. Yay! I also got tortilla chips (nearby, so this clearly belongs in the same paragraph), which are very hard to find here in London, so I was extra happy. There were a lot of Degas exhibits, including pastels, paintings, and sculptures, so I was quite the happy girl.

After a few hours of being a serious art student in the d'Orsay, it was time to go make fun of stuff in the Louvre. The Louvre is awesome because it takes itself so seriously as a tourist destination, and so the average layout of a room would be: Statue/Sign pointing to the Mona Lisa/Statue/Person trying to find Mona Lisa. I did not in fact go to see the Mona Lisa, although I caught a glimpse of her because she's in a central room in the central part of the central building. Surrounded by some art that is also awesome, by the way. And she's really small. And Winged Victory, another all-star has no arms or head, but she does have a hand displayed separately that is totally a man hand (think Seinfeld).

Hammurabi's Code was cool, but the British Museum totally has the Louvre beat in the "awesome mummies with sweet x-rays" department.

After the Louvre I realized that my foot may be broken or sprained (we'll see... I may get it checked out on Thursday and see how good socialized health care really is) so I started moping and dragging, so I took a nap. Then dinner and more sleep. France makes me le tired. BUT! I almost forgot. We also got dessert... andrew got an amazing eclair with chocolate mousse and I got a pie that had caramel and nuts on it. Mmmmmmm.

The next day we slept in past breakfast again and decided to check out a nearby farmers' market, where I got more quiche and more croissant. We took the Metro up to Sacré-Coeur and got to see another amazing view of the city:

Then we wandered for a bit, got food, and headed home.

Or at least tried to.

The comment in the previous entry about how the French will be French applies to our experience at Charles De Gaulle. Now, landing there, we realized that their signs were somewhat misleading. However, we didn't expect to get off the train and be confronted with a complete lack of signs. Except for one for a coffee shop. Apparently the way to escape Paris is to be intuitive enough to know that you need to climb these mythical stairs to get on an imaginary bus that takes you to a fantastical terminal. And, voila! You are not where you need to check in! So you check in and score! You are not where you need to check your bags! You find your way over there and sweet! You have no idea which gate you're at, but if you go through security for the wrong ones, you're in trouble. Then your flight number is wrong and you have to take a bus to the plane.

I, at some point, did consider walking through the Chunnel.

But we made it back and found that, while we were gone, France had conquered London and translated all the Tube signs into French (part of this is made up, part is not), an eerie reminder that when someone tells you that "you don't have to learn a foreign language, everyone speaks English", you should tell them to go to Charles De Gaulle. I mean Hell. Right. Hell.

Anyway, it was an overall awesome weekend and I can't wait to travel again. But I did end up homesick for London and I am incredibly glad to be back home.

"Well, what can you say, they're French" (Part 1)

The above quote came from my boss at work. And it is SO true.

We left for our long weekend in Paris at around 4:30 and headed for Heathrow airport. After being detained and x-rayed at security (that was all me.. I'm very threatening) we got to go to our... not gate. Apparenlty in Europe, you don't get assigned a gate until right before you board, so you have to sort of guess and position yourself wisely. We got on the plane, and after a 1 hour delay caused by a threat of maybe some snow at some point, took off for Paris. 2 minutes later we landed (I swear it felt like that).

Something to note about Paris here: they speak French. Which, I may add, is NOT a language I speak. All of the signs are in French, even in the airport, and they have vague arrows pointing everywhere and nowhere at once. So, it took us about 45 minutes to actually find a train that went into Paris, but we figured it out eventually.

The hostel we stayed at was called the "Young and Happy Hostel" and was in a very... French... area with lots of markets and other... French things (like cheese stores):

We attempted to find food, but the exchange rate is evil, so we just went to bed.

The next morning we partook in the free breakfast at our hostel (note: breakfast in French means bread) and attempted to meet up with Greg at Gare de Lyon (literally... Train of Lion. Maybe). We got to go through the Jardin de Plantes (or something.. it means Garden of Plants. They're very original in France.) We found the train station and Greg and Kayleigh and we were off for some non-English speaking fun. I got some quiche which is amazing, but I only got it because I am very good at one thing - making Tim and Kayleigh translate for me. Oh, and I learned how to point very specifically.

We first went to Notre Dame (and there are a TON of pictures, see the link at the bottom of this post), where we played on see-saws:

And went inside and climbed to the top. Up a million and a half stairs. But it was worth it, because the gargoyles were awesome:

After a dizzying flight back down, we wandered over to the Louvre, but more for its bathrooms than the museum (that we saved for later). Then we got on the metro and attempted to find our way to the Eiffel Tower (again, thank god for people knowing French). We eventually stumbled upon it:

And I decided to take the coolest picture of Andrew in the history of the world:

We went to the top... I guess it was okay:

And we explored the two carousels next to the tower. Paris, I've decided, should change its name to the City of Carousels. There is seriously one at every tourist destination.

By the time we'd done all this climbing and picture-taking and queueing, we were famished. We headed back to the area near the hostel for a real French dinner. I got French Onion soup (not any better than it is anywhere else, to my disappointment), chicken covered in mushroom cream sauce (I liked the mushrooms, which scares me) and a pear covered in ice cream and chocolate sauce. And a chocolate caramel candy bar. Mmmmmm French people might not do signs well, but they make nice desserts. After dinner we went to the bar across the street where I got a glass of wine and the bartender told Alice and me that he "loves you baby!"

More pictures here. More stories soon... including: the fabulously unimpressive Mona Lisa, me being a Degas Dork (official title) and adventures at Charles De Gaulle airport.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Where for art thou? Stratford, of course!

We left London early Friday morning on a bus trip with, and I'm just estimating here, 8034 other ICLC students. Our first stop was Warwick Castle, which is located either north, west, or south of London. Whever it is, it is the most awesome place on earth because that's where they filmed most of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It also has some other history dating back to 1400, but, honestly, who cares? Run awaayyyyyyyy!

so... castle!

The castle is actually owned by Madame Tussaud's after some bad money-handling by the... Duke? Sure. This is awesome, however, because you get some killer wax statues that you can fight with:

We also climbed Ghost Tower, which is poorly named, as there were no ghosts to be found. There was a lot of wind at the top, so I'm thinking Gust Tower instead (I am so witty. Honestly.):

We went into the town (hamlet/village/small place) of Warwick for lunch and stumbled upon a place called "The Coffee Shop". It was amazing... fantastic tea (I'm an addict) and great sandwiches that were actually affordable. PLUS we got nagged by the owner, who was this adorable lady who teased me for not finishing my salad. So cute.

After that we headed up to Stratford, where the 8000+ (okay it was more like 90, but it felt that big) of us were spread out across a bunch of Bed and Breakfasts. Alice and I got to room together, and, because we're girls, we got the pink room, as modeled by Alice:

We got some pub food for dinner and went to see the Royal Shakespeare Company's performance of Richard III. Andrew and I sat next to each other in row J while almost everyone else at Ithaca College was in rows A and B. I think I might give off an "I'm not too impressed by Shakespeare" vibe. The play was okay - the performaces were good and the battle scenes were awesome - but some of the scenes dragged on and on and the play was over 3 hours and I was sleepy. Actually, this sounds like why I don't like Les Misérables. But I digress.

The next day we got free time to wander around Stratford. I attempted to see Shakespeare's tomb but it was a). boring and b). crowded by 8000 ICLC students. We left there and walked along the river Avon (hence Stratford-upon-Avon) and found an amazing farmers' market. I got soup and bread and cheeeeese and pears and it was wonderful.

That afternoon we left Stratford and went to Oxford, where we just wandered aimlessly for a few hours and took pretty pictures. We also found an amazingly educational sign:

Go figure. We left Oxford and got back here around 7. I don't think I'll do any of the group trips again. There are just too many people on an itinerary in a small area, and it really kills the experience. But, hey, live and learn.

Last night we found this amazing Thai restaurant (on Keighl's recommendation) called Tuk Tuk and went to a cute pub near the flat. Tonight is the Super Bowl Party (yay?) and a busy week ahead, but PARIS on Thursday!

By the way... more pictures here