30 November 2010

Christmas in the mitten

Now that it is official I feel like I can say it out in the open: I will be back in Michigan for my Christmas break! I truly was not expecting to come home...I was going to hang out here in London with a couple of my friends. But in the end, my family convinced me that coming home was the best thing to do this year - so to the mitten I will go. I'll be home for about three should be a nice break. I absolutely adore London, but Christmas wouldn't have been the same without my family. The one thing that was kind of holding me back was my wanting to be here for New Years, but I'm just trying to keep in mind that I will hopefully be here for next year's festivities with my friends!

Either way, I am very excited to be able to see my family, my friends, my dogs...and of course eat delicious home cooked meals, Christmas cookies, go to my favorite restaurants, and so forth. It's just crazy because it all came about so quickly, but I'm already getting very excited.

In other news, there are a few things going on that, as a student of international politics, I'm extremely interested in and thought I would pass along some pertinent articles for those who wish to peruse them.

First, we have this huge Wikileaks mess going on. For pretty good coverage of everything, go to either the Guardian page, or the NY Times page. I'll refrain from getting too far into it, but I must say that I think it is completely socially irresponsible for this organization to release hundreds of thousands of confidential documents for the sake of "governmental transparency." While there is obviously a need for transparency in many facets of the political world, international security does not always allow for it - and for the safety and protection of our citizens, we must accept a certain degree of non transparency.

Second, there is a major uproar going on here in the UK about the possibility of student fees rising pretty significantly. As a result, students at many universities (including mine, which this particular article is about) are posing occupations in university buildings to show their distaste for such raises. This particular occupation is taking place in a room next to the main library on campus, and they've now been there for a week. The article gives a little insight into what it's like inside of the occupation, and I just found it to be pretty interesting.

So, I'll leave you with that. Less than three weeks, Michigan!

29 November 2010

I'm alive, I swear!

I've been extremely busy for the past week, which is good but tiring. I'll give a brief recap of what I've been up to for the past seven days or so...

Well, Monday and Tuesday of last week I was pretty sick. I thought that I had just lost my voice due to my amazing birthday celebrations, but alas - I was actually ill. I went to the doctor on Monday and got started on antibiotics, and Tuesday was mainly spent in bed resting.

By Wednesday, I was feeling a lot better. Good thing, because Kellen and I did a full day tour of Windsor, Oxford, and Stonehenge. We had a great time - lots of cool things to see, and the bus rides and our tour guide were pretty amusing. It was a long day (from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.), but we really enjoyed most of the things we did. We both thought Windsor Castle and Stonehenge were extremely worthwhile, but the hour and a half bus ride to Oxford (from Stonehenge), and then the two hour bus ride back to London didn't really seem worth the hour that we actually spent in Oxford. Sure, the town is neat, and the architecture is stunning...but we both felt a little underwhelmed with it. Anyways, when we got back into town, we headed over to Covent Garden simply because Kel hadn't really seen it at all on her trip. We ended up eating dinner at Wagamama (shocking, I know, but hey - when your guest wants something, you listen!) and then came back home to relax.

On Thursday, we played super tourists and went to the Tower of London, Borough Market, and St. Paul's Cathedral. I actually never went to the Tower or St. Paul's last year, so I was really excited to go to both. They both have such an amazing really makes you stop and think about how young our country truly is. It was so strange to see etchings in the walls at the Tower, done by prisoners from the 1400s and earlier. History truly is a fascinating subject, especially in a country like this.

Kel's trip eventually had to come to an end, and she left very early Friday morning to catch her flight back to Chicago. All in all, I think it was a great trip - I hope she feels the same way! I look forward to her coming back in the not so distant future, along with the rest of my family.

Friday night was our second official IPAS event - pub golf. The girls and I, clad in our argyle knee socks, shorts, and polos, went out and took charge of the event. I think it turned out very nice, and the people that went had a lot of fun. We had a manageable number of people, which is definitely a plus when you're moving from bar to bar nine times throughout the night!

Saturday was Thanksgiving in London! Charlotte, Katelyn, Abbey and I all met up in the afternoon to go food shopping, then we headed back to Abbey's to cook our amazing feast. We had turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean salad, brown sugar glazed carrots, salad, homemade rolls, cranberry sauce, portobello caps, tons of wine, and (most importantly) three types of dessert: pumpkin pie, apple crisp, and pecan honey bars. So delicious! Most importantly, we were able to introduce a holiday that is very important to us as Americans, to our friends of different nationalities - including English, French, and our not so distant neighbor, the Canadian (clearly, we didn't introduce Thanksgiving to him, but you get the idea...). :)

Yesterday was mainly spent catching up on sleep. My body has been craving so much of it lately...I think due to me being sick. I finally rallied in the afternoon and went to see the new Harry Potter film with Charlotte and her brother in Islington. Amazing! I definitely was not disappointed. After the movie, we went to Wagamama (yep, third time in two weeks - say something) and stuffed ourselves silly. I love Charlotte. I'm not quite sure why that last sentence was necessary, was. So there.

Today has been a productive day - I went to class, cleaned my room completely, organized all of my schoolwork, printed off my articles for the week, searched for flights home for Christmas, and did some reading. Now it's time to work on an essay that is due next week, run to grab some food, and then do a little reading for enjoyment (the Economist and InStyle UK). Take care, all.

22 November 2010

A few more birthday photos!

Just some more goofy pictures from the weekend.

Kel and I at UCLU-

Abbey, Katelyn, and I at UCLU-

Katelyn and I being oh so gangster at the Rocket-

Just being silly-

Me, Abbey, Katelyn at UCLU-

Harry and I at UCLU-

Tequila! Me, Katelyn, Charlotte, Abbey at the Rocket-

Annnnd more tequila. Paloma, Abbey, Harry, Katelyn, and I at the Rocket-

My girlfrand Katelyn and I at Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen (Saturday night)-

Emmy, Charlotte, Katelyn, me, and Kellen at Hoxton Square-

Birthday kisses from Char and Katelyn-

My sissy and I-

More birthday love from my girls-

Just an overall fantastic weekend...well worth the fact that I am sick now! Not to worry, I've been to the doctor and am now on antibiotics. I'll surely be ready for pub golf (our second official IPAS event) on Friday, and our Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday! :)

21 November 2010

Birthday=major success!

Wow! It has been a whirlwind of a week. Amazing, but crazy. I must again apologize for the lack of updates on my part, but I've been ridiculously busy with my sister, traveling, school, and everything else that's going on in my life right now. Today is the first day that I've been able to just sit here in my room for hours on end and do nothing...and it feels glorious. Well, the hangover hasn't been amazing, but that's beside the point.

So, where to being?

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were spent in beautiful Dublin, Ireland. I had classes until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, so immediately following my last class, Kel and I hopped on the tube to catch our shuttle to Gatwick for our flight at 6:00. We arrived at our hostel in Ireland at about 8:00, and immediately went to the nearest pub/restaurant for some delicious traditional Irish dinner. I'm a BIG fan of Irish food, I must say.  After dinner and a couple drinks at the pub, we decided to head in for the night since we were exhausted and we had plans for the morning.

On Wednesday, we woke up and headed to meet our tour guide for our bike tour! It was amazing! We rode all over Dublin for three hours, and he was very knowledgable about the history as well. The weather was beautiful - sunny all day and about fifty degrees. It was just lovely. After our tour, we did some shopping, some eating, some drinking...the usuals.

On our last day, we took the train out to the coast to Howth Peninsula, which is about eight miles out of the city. It was GORGEOUS. Absolutely stunning. I have a few pictures from that that I will share, but unfortunately the rest of the trip was documented on Kel's camera - so those will have to wait until she gets back home!

It was truly breathtaking. It was supposed to rain basically the entire time we were in Dublin, and it only rained late one night, which didn't affect us whatsoever. Someone was looking down on us for that trip!

So we got back to London Town late Thursday night. I had classes Friday, but after those, we went for a quick bite to eat at Benito's Hat, which conveniently has 2-for-1 margarita specials from 5-7:00 daily. Awesome. After that, we hit the union bar for a bit, and then went to the Rocket to dance our little butts off. It was a blast.

Abbey and I at the union bar-

Charlotte and I at the Rocket-

Kellen and I at Benito's-

Yesterday was amazing as well. We woke up (a little hungover, yes) and then headed to Borough Market with Charlotte. It was phenomenal, as always. Kellen bought a few goodies, and we got our usual veggie burgers. After that, we did a little shopping at our new favorite mall by St. Paul's, and then headed home to skype with our parents and dogs. That was great and a really perfect birthday present. I also opened my presents from Kellen, my brother, and my parents. My parents got me diamond earrings!! I was SHOCKED. They are stunning, and I absolutely love them to pieces. Kellen got me a little handheld video recorder, which will be awesome to have for more traveling and sightseeing. She also brought me some other things, like a Banana Republic top, caramel corn from Rose's, pumpkin butter, and oh...our trip to Dublin. I know, what an awful sister, right?? Brett got me seasons one and two of 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' - soo perfect, because I miss t.v. I can't wait to start them! Thank you to my wonderful family, I love you guys so much.

After talking with our parents, we showered, got ready, and then went to pick up some dinner to take to Charlotte's. We definitely ate the best chips in London for dinner. Just a biiiig heaping plate of chips. Perfect. We also drank a little bit of wine from Portugal that Abbey brought Charlotte from her trip - it was quite great! Then we met up with Katelyn and Harry, and headed over to Shoreditch, which is a really cool little area in London. We went to the Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen - and it was SO much fun. We danced, we drank, we was great. Just a perfect birthday. Have I said perfect enough? Because it was.

I have now completely lost my voice, have a massive headache, and have spent the entire day lying in my bed with my curtains drawn and window open. I think that shows just how much of a success my birthday weekend truly was. Thank you everyone for making it amazing. I really have the best family and friends that a girl could ask for.

15 November 2010

My sister is here!

She arrived Saturday afternoon, and it has been a bit of a whirlwind since then!

Charlotte and I decided to go out on Friday night, so I woke up on Saturday at about 10:00 and left by 11:00 to head to Heathrow to pick Kellen up. Once we got back to my place, we were both we ventured out, got a bite to eat, and then headed back here to get ready for the evening. On the agenda was the Lord Mayor's fireworks show down in Waterloo, which is on the Thames. It ended up being Kellen, Charlotte, Katelyn, Dylan, Paul, Charlotte's brother William, and I. We got on the tube around 4:30, and caught the end of the fireworks at about 5:00. After that, we went to Wagamama, which has the best Japanese noodle dishes, for dinner.

Once we were sufficiently stuffed, we decided to take Kellen on a scenic walk through London to get back to good old Bloomsbury. We walked along the Victoria Embankment for a bit, so she could see Parliament, Big Ben, and the Eye all lit up. Then we walked down Whitehall, through Trafalgar Square, through Leicester Square, down Charing Cross Road, down Tottenham, and then we were back! She got to see a few iconic London neighborhoods, and we got a good walk in on a beautiful night. We all ended back up at Charlotte's flat for a while, drinking wine and chatting the night away. At the end of the night, we all went out for some amazing London chips (fries to the Americans reading!) close by. I'd say it was a successful first day in my town.

Yesterday ended up being a rainy, nasty day. Kel and I slept in a bit, then went and got some tea at a coffee shop nearby. After that, she did a little excursion to the British Library, which she loved...while I did schoolwork. Boo. We met up again a little later and headed out for some dinner with Charlotte at Benito's Hat, which has yummy and somewhat healthy Mexican food. Last night ended up being a relaxing night, with both of us reading. We won't mention the fact (or maybe we will...) that she was reading the new Dan Brown novel while I was reading about the strategies of terrorism.

So that brings us to today. I unfortunately had classes this morning, so while I was busy learning about human rights regimes and qualitative ethnographic studies, Kellen went for a run in Regent's Park and then wandered around Bloomsbury a bit. After I was done with class at 1:00, we decided to head north to Hampstead, and I'm so glad we did! It was beautiful! The neighborhoods are quaint and interesting, with lots of little shops and bakeries and very cool looking houses. We went to Hampstead Heath, which is a big park, and checked out the view from Parliament Hill (which is supposed to be one of the best in London). It was a beautiful day, about 47 degrees and that definitely helped. After wandering around for a while, we wound up in a pub for some wine and tea and a late lunch/early dinner. In classic British style, we made quick friends with a table full of English people next to us, and even made a connection with one. Her goddaughter actually happens to live in Windsor, Ontario - about an hour from our hometown. What a coincidence! All in all, it was a great little afternoon adventure, and was something new to both of us.

I'm getting VERY excited for tomorrow - aside from the fact that I have two classes. But after class, we are leaving for Dublin! We will spend two nights there. We should be getting in at about 8:30 p.m. or so tomorrow evening, so we figure we'll grab a late dinner, maybe a drink, and get to our hostel. On Wednesday, we are doing a three hour long bike tour of the city, which we are both really excited for. After that, I'm sure we'll do more of our own well as hitting the pubs in true Irish style! Thursday should be another pretty full day - our flight out isn't until 8:00 p.m. so we'll have most of the day to explore. I'm just too excited for this.

I'll update again when I can! Love from London!

11 November 2010

2 days!!

I can not believe that Kellen will be arriving at Heathrow in a little less than 48 hours! It honestly does not feel like I was saying goodbye to her two months ago. How time flies! I'm really, really excited for her visit...partly because she's never been to this amazing city before, but mainly because I miss her! When I get the rare free moments in between writing my essays, doing the readings, and a million other things, I have been trying to jot down various things that I think we should try to do while she's here.

There is the obvious list, including:

  • Parliament and Big Ben
  • Westminster Abbey
  • The Eye
  • St. Paul's
  • Tate Modern
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Covent Garden
  • Tower of London
  • Tower Bridge
  • Leicester Square
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • Oxford Street
  • Regent's and Hyde Parks
  • British Museum
  • Stonehenge/Bath/Oxford/Windsor Palace

...among others. But I'd also like to take her to some of the less touristy places around town, some that my friends and I hang out in, and some that I've just received recommendations for. On Saturday night, we're going to go down to the Thames for the fireworks, and then out for a bite with Charlotte and whoever else goes with us. I'm sure it will be an early night, since she'll be jetlagged. 

Basically, I'm just going to play it all by ear! We've already booked our trip to Dublin for the 16th-18th, as well as a bike tour on the 17th. I'm pretty excited for that. The only other real cemented plans we have are for Thanksgiving - I believe the girls and I are going to plan a little mini Thanksgiving for us and some of our friends. I'm really excited for her to meet my friends here...we've decided we're just going to treat her as an honorary SPP member for her trip, because that includes fun Friday nights, complete randomness, yummy baking, and a million other attributes, hah. 

Aside from those things, we're pretty much completely free to do as we please! The city is ours. Well, mostly Kellen's...since she'll probably be doing a decent amount of solo wandering and running around sightseeing while I'm stuck in class and the library. Boo, but such is life. 

46.5 hours and counting!

08 November 2010

Winter has arrived! (?)

Once again, I have to apologize for my lack of updates. It probably goes without saying, but life in London sure does move quickly. I've had a million things going on in the past week or so, but I quite like the hustle and bustle of it all. I'm sure the school stress will eventually eat away at me a little, but I think that's to be expected in graduate school.

I'm pretty sure that winter has arrived in London. Although, the weather changes so frequently here that one can never really know. Today is nasty, cold, windy, and rainy. Yesterday was cold, but nice and sunny. I guess we'll see.

Since I last wrote, I haven't done anything too out of the ordinary. Last week consisted of a lot of school work, mainly due to a presentation I had in my International Peace and Security class. Though, I did get a nice break midweek on Thursday, when I went on a date with a guy from my school. Without giving too much away, it was a very, very lovely date. :)

Once we got through the week, it was time for our weekly ritual of going to the union for some drinks with our classmates, which is always a good time! Actually, on Friday night we were planning on going to Clapham Common to watch the fireworks for Guy Fawkes day. However, once Friday rolled around, mother nature had other plans. Go figure, it was absolutely gorgeous on both Thursday and Saturday, but Friday was positively awful. Rainy, stormy, cold, windy...not ideal for firework watching. So, we ended up just staying at the bar where it was warm and dry!

On Saturday Charlotte, Abbey, and I headed back over to Borough Market. I told you it was my new favorite place! We had lots of samples, I bought some blackcurrant jam (YUM), and of course we got our veggie burgers. After that, we did a little walking along the Thames and in the City, and somehow ended up shopping. I really have no idea...but I had no part in making the decision to shop. ;)

Saturday night was completely chill...I was exhausted from Friday. I stayed in, caught up on my Grey's, did some reading, and just enjoyed the night. It was definitely needed.

So that pretty much brings us to today. This week is reading week here at UCL, which means we have no lectures or seminars all week. It is essentially meant to allow students to catch up on anything they've been behind in for the past five weeks, as well as get started on essays (not every class has them though) that are due in the next couple of weeks. For me, reading week will consist of a TON of work. I have my essay for IPS due next week, and Kellen gets here on Saturday! So, I 'm going to try and get ahead of the curve and get some reading done early so I'll be able to be around more for her. I'm so excited for her to come and see my city, meet my friends, and experience my life over here. She's never been, so this is a big deal!

The next couple of weeks should definitely be fun, though. My birthday is next weekend, and the girls and I are planning a Thanksgiving feast the week after that. So, lots of good things to look forward to just work on balancing all of that with this insane school work. I'm trying!