I do not have bed bugs! Jeff and I were out at Ikea when someone from the building called the room and told Rebs that our mattresses are brand new. After I blogged about the situation last Sunday night, I did an even more intense Google search after which I stripped and flipped my mattress to check for the little monsters. All clear! Jeff now believes that I had those itchy bites on my arm because a Pigeon flew through the window in the middle of the night and bit me. He’s also the one who told me I had bed bug bites. Hmm.
Our trip to Ikea last Monday was extremely successful and resulted in a bright yellow chair, some pretty cardboard cases for our books, kitchen utensils and cooking tools, as well as several other items to make our room look more aesthetically pleasing. I also ate their Swedish meatballs. It’s a long walk through that showroom at Ikea, so I needed an energy boost! For dinner Monday night I made a vegetable stir-fry with whole wheat spaghetti, that Marks and Spencer chopped vegetable mix that I love so much, chicken and black bean sauce. After dinner I started freaking out about classes and tried to distract myself by looking up the Royal Family on Wikipedia for several hours. It worked.
I woke up Tuesday morning at 7:30a.m. so that I could fully prepare myself for what was to come. I hadn’t sat in a classroom in over four months and I really wanted to feel studious. As I prepared my whole wheat sandwich with Swiss cheese, humus and sliced chicken, I went over Royal Family trivia in my head. Maybe one of my teachers was going to quiz us on Her Majesty the Queen?
After prepping my lunch and eating my breakfast, I went downstairs to meet Jeff so that we could head over to Foundation House where all of our classes take place. We walked up a couple flights of stairs before entering a classroom that reeked of chemicals. Foundation House is under a bit of exterior construction right now, so if you’ve got a classroom above ground-level you’re likely to see a man in a hard hat and yellow vest working on something directly outside your window. I don’t mind the men, but I do mind that smell. Our Media in Britain professor walked in at exactly 9a.m. to tell us that he needed to make copies of the syllabus and that we had the next 20 minutes to ourselves. We walked outside to catch some much-needed fresh air, and then headed back into the classroom after the 20 minutes were up. Our professor is an extremely funny man. Before I came to London I would watch these movies or television shows with British actors in them thinking to myself, “People can’t actually speak like this!” Well, it turns out that they do. I am probably going to need a dictionary for all the adjectives that he uses as he speaks, but for now I am just going to enjoy his flamboyant speech. The class seems seriously interesting as we are going to explore different mediums by which the public are reached in Britain. I’ve learned about the BBC in classes at AU, but I know very little about other British television networks. During the break, I went up to the professor to speak with him about our final paper. We had to choose our topic that day and I’m interested in writing my final paper on the influence of British celebrity chefs in British media. We somehow got into a conversation about chefs which led to him telling me that he has interviewed both the Julia Child and Nigella Lawson. After I passed out and wept, I took my seat for the remainder of the class. Monday night he e-mailed me with a list of chefs that I should read up on while I’m here. I have a feeling I’m going to like this class very much.
After a one-hour break, Jeff and I met up with Rebs for our British Life and Cultures class. Our professor was born in England but grew up in California. He therefore has an accent that is semi-British, semi-Frasier Crane, but entirely American once he laughs or speaks for a long period of time. The class involves all sorts of trips around London including a tour of Parliament and the Globe. We discussed the importance of accent (ha!) in the United Kingdom, and how one can be discriminated against just for opening his or her mouth. I guess I get that too considering I’m from Long Island (“Do you seriously call them ah-ran-ges?”), but the stereotypes based on accent are much harsher here. Once class was over, I went back to the dorms to rest for a little before taking a yoga class with Jeff. The class was amazing and I can’t wait until the one coming up this Tuesday! After a quick shower, I met up with Jeff, Rebs, Emily and Brian for Indian food at this place named, wait for it, Little India. We got naan bread and pilau rice for the table, and I had a delicious vegetable samosa followed by chicken curry for dinner. Yum.
Jeff and I loved the yoga class so much that we decided to take another one Wednesday morning. Unfortunately I read the calendar wrong and it was a Pilates class that we really did not enjoy. We got a light lunch at Whole Foods and then went back to the dorms to get ready for our 5p.m. class. I had been freaking Jeff out about this class all week as he has not yet taken a theatre class in college and according to my experience, theatre teachers can be very eccentric. This is something that I love, but something that could definitely turn someone off who isn’t prepared. So, I did my best to give him every possible scenario of what our teacher could be like. We have the crazy scarf woman who wears eight scarves and moves them around as she speaks, we have the soul-searcher who has his students write in a journal each week to find his or her true inner meaning, and of course there is always the theatre teacher who uses complicated words that mean literally nothing once you’ve written them down in your notebook only to read them later on and think to yourself, “What the hell is this?” Now, being whacky does not make a person a bad professor, it just makes the class more interesting. Our professor is just the right sort of eccentric, I think. I’m not sure if he’s trying to be funny or if I’m just American and I love the way some of the people here speak. Now that I think of it it’s probably the latter, but it still interests me. Anyway, he’s the sort of teacher who will stand with one hand on his hip and the other cupping his chin, while both nodding his head and walking around while saying, “Yes, yes, mm, mm, mm, quite right, quite right, mm,” as a student makes a comment in class. We started the class off by going over how theatre is run in Britain, and by lightly discussing Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. Now I happen to know some things about these people and their works solely because I’ve been taking theatre classes throughout college. So as I’m raising my hand Jeff is staring at me as if to say, “Are you kidding me?” He showed me his notes during our break, which read, “Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’ George Bernard Shaw, Who The Fuck Cares?” At least I like the class. Once the session ended at 8p.m., Jeff and I walked over to Waitrose to buy a fully-cooked garlic-roasted chicken and some raw vegetables. I sautéed red, green and yellow peppers together with a sweet onion as a side, and we at the chicken (almost) in its entirety.
As you’ve probably noticed, Jeff and I have all three of our classes together. We do not have class on Monday or Friday (four day weekend, anyone?), but we do have a full day of classes on Tuesday followed by one three-hour session of Contemporary British Theatre each on Wednesday late afternoon and Thursday afternoon. Jeff and I went to the gym for yet another yoga class Thursday morning after which we walked to Foundation House for our second session of theatre. Jeff enjoyed this class much better than the first as we watched clips from “The Importance of Being Ernest” and “Pygmalion.” One huge bonus to taking this theatre class is that we will get to see plays at different venues from around the city for which I am very excited.
Every student in the program was given a ticket to see a West End show for Thursday night. The West End is the Broadway equivalent in London so we were all super-excited to go. I rushed to both make pasta (with sautéed butternut squash and spinach) and to get dressed with less than an hour to spare. It somehow all worked out and we made it to the Phoenix Theatre with enough time for me to by gummies. They were delicious. “Blood Brothers” was an interesting show, both extremely funny and, for some people, extremely sad. I’m not sure whether or not this was the intent of the director, but my friends and I found some of the parts that were supposed to be sad and ominous pretty darn funny. I later read online that the part of Mrs. Johnstone will be played by Melanie C, AKA Sporty Spice, starting in October. Bummer. Since we were already in Piccadilly and some of us do not have a Friday class, we decided that we should go out and explore this very touristy area of the city for the night. We were somehow lured into this tourist den called Sound. It was a horrible club that was only good for its bathroom and the back wall that kept changing colors. We left within 10-minutes and walked around a bit more before finally deciding on O’Neil’s.
O’Neil’s is a three-floor pub that has something for everyone. The place features food, drinks, music booming from the stereo and live music on the top floor. We grabbed a few drinks before my friend Lauren could get whisked away by three Irishmen, and headed upstairs just in time for the band to start. They played everything from Lynyrd Skynyrd to The Fray, and we all had an unbelievable time jumping and dancing around with some locals as well as fellow Americans.
Once my feet were too tired to dance anymore (as some guy said to me, “It moust be ‘ard to walk in ‘dem ‘eels.”), I took a seat at the bar until everyone was ready to go. Then things got ugly. The only thing that I want to do after a night out is eat. The group of people I was with felt the same. Unfortunately, the restaurateurs of Piccadilly Circus are very smart and have established this little thing called a minimum amount, which is displayed in a teeny-tiny font at the bottom of their restaurant’s menus. After checking out a couple of these places someone suggested that we go to KFC. “OMG KFC SOUNDS SO GOOD RIGHT NOW!” Really, Melissa? I will try to forget that this experience ever happened. It is in the past, I have let go. Namaste.
Friday was a lazy day. I walked to the pub across the street wearing my pajamas and flip-flops so that I could get change for the laundry machine. Despite the embarrassment I successfully washed two loads of laundry. I ate our leftover pasta for lunch, watched a bunch of TV (I’m taking a media class so I’m pretty sure that just counts as homework…) and went to the gym around 6p.m. Once I got back, I went to this amazing burger restaurant named Byron with Brian, Rebs and Jeff. I literally had not had a burger in about two years before Friday night, but I’m so happy that I waited! This burger was perfection as were the fries and milkshakes. Let’s just forget the fact that I somehow managed to eat a chocolate cupcake shortly after our enormous dinner. Emily met up with us later on, and I suggested that we stay in and watch “The Holiday” since we had to wake up early the next morning. That movie just gets better and better every time, but it now has new meaning since we are in England. I think we just might plan a trip to Surrey.
It was an early rise Saturday morning as Jeff, Rebs and I were off to Buckingham Palace! We arrived early to get a good spot for the changing of the guards. It was a beautiful ceremony, and it’s crazy to think that these men and women participate in it every-other day or every day depending on the time of year.
We rushed to get lunch at this restaurant called BBar (I had a salad with BBQ chicken, blistered tomatoes, avocado, mixed greens and an avocado-mayonnaise dressing), so that we could be back for our 1p.m. tour of the Palace’s 19 state rooms. After going through security, we were each given a little remote and a pair of headphones through which we could hear a lovely British woman describe what we were seeing as we saw it. Naturally, the interior of the Palace was stunning and is in unbelievable shape considering its ripe age. According to that British voice, little renovation has been done in terms of the wall colors and original moldings and furniture, and as I noticed small chips here and there I sort of appreciated how they have kept things the same.
My favorite part of the tour was the room where the Queen’s dresses from her various tours throughout the Commonwealth of Nations were displayed. The room also included gifts received by the Queen during these tours. The gifts were grand, mundane, extravagant, or dull, but as the little voice told me, “The Queen appreciates all of the gifts she receives and finds a home for them all.” Another highlight of the tour was a room through which the Queen can enter via a secret door. There was a large mirror and cabinet blocking the door, and as the voice told me, the items on top of the cabinet have been secured so that they will not fall over as she enters or exits the room. The rooms were generally deep red with gold detailing in the ceiling, but I especially enjoyed walking through this one room that was a striking turquoise. Unfortunately, we were unable to take pictures while walking throughout the state rooms, but we did take pictures in the garden behind the Palace. The exit out of Buckingham Palace conveniently led into a gift shop where one could buy royal things such as pens and magnets. Our final part of the tour was a walk through the garden past a plethora of trees and plants as well as a pond or two. The path led us to some street exit, and while we tried to figure out where we were we decided that we were hungry. We stopped into a small café for a Belgian waffle with nutella. Yum. Although very tired, we knew that we had to take advantage of the beautiful weather and we headed toward the River Thames. While we had seen the sights around this area already on our bus tour, the buildings were much more beautiful without the bus’s glass window in the way. We took a bunch of pictures of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Brian Haw’s Peace Camp, the London Eye and the River Thames.
Whew! When we were too tired to go on, we headed back to the dorms for a much-needed nap.
Two hours later I woke up extremely nauseous, so I decided not to go out to dinner with Rebs and Jeff. They went to an Italian restaurant down the block and brought me back some garlic bread which I graciously ate in one fell swoop as I was miraculously cured from my nausea due to the smell of garlic… clearly. We then met up with Emily and went over to the Imperial Bar that was open until 1a.m. because it was the final evening of the Proms. We sat outside and had a great time enjoying the company and excellent weather. I came back only to eat some delicious Cadbury confection out of the vending machine on the first floor of our building, and fell asleep after many unsuccessful attempts to buffer an episode of “The Rachel Zoe Project.”
I had a hard time waking up this morning due to a sequence of very strange, but short dreams that I had. One of them involved some sort of family function where everyone in my family was dressed crazy with big hair and way too much blush. Odd. Once I finally woke up, Jeff and I went to the gym for a while and then walked over to Whole Foods for lunch. I came back extremely motivated to write this very, very long blog entry (my apologies!), but I did stop somewhere in the middle to go to the very fabulous Gay Pride Festival in SoHo and then out for dinner at Chiquito in Leicester Square. I am currently in a food comma after sharing a platter of Mexican food with Emily and I’m not entirely sure how I am even writing coherently now. I think I’m going to rest a bit and do some reading for Tuesday.