Thursday, December 9, 2010

Roller Disco

Today being the last day of classes for the term, some of us PGEU students (PGEU=Politics and Government of the European Union) of course wanted to celebrate being free.  In a more southern part of central London, by the Vauxhall tube stop, there is a roller disco.  That's right, I said roller disco.  And at least on Thursday nights it is awesome!  The entrance fee is only 5 quid and it includes roller skates and wrist guards.

I haven't roller skated since elementary school parties at Skate King.  It's kind of like riding a bicycle though.  The only scary part was remembering how to stop.

All in all, we had a great time and I hope we go again!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas treats!

Tonight, my department had a little holiday get together.  It's really put me in the Christmas spirit!(particularly while I sit here blogging to Christmas music with snow falling outside.)
There were two traditional British things I tried for the first time tonight:

Mulled Wine
So yummy! This is the alcoholic's answer to spiced cider.  The difference between spiced cider and apple juice is like that of mulled wine to regular red wine.  It just tastes like the holidays.  I love it!  And I plan to attempt to brew some of my own when I go home for Christmas!  (in just a couple of weeks!)

Minced Pies
I am not particularly a fan of these little pastries.  They are little pies, with very rich crust, filled with spiced (and perhaps rum soaked) raisins and maybe currants too.  In theory this would tasty, however I'm not much a fan of raisins.

If you have the opportunity, I would definitely recommend having a glass of Mulled Wine.  And for the raisin fan, a Minced Pie.

On Friday, once I turn in my last essay, I will blog about my trip to Greenwich!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What I'm up to

So it has been a very long time since my last post...I do apologize and will try to be better about keeping you updated.

The truth is though, since school has picked up, I haven't done anything that is really blog worthy.


Halloween is not as big of a deal here as it is in the US, you can't find good candy in the store, and kids don't go trick-or-treating.  That being said, young adults still dress up and go out, so I had to find a costume.  Myself and a few girls, plus one gentleman came up with the idea of being Jack the Ripper and his victims.  My dorm is on one of the stops for the Jack the Ripper tour, so it was an especially good idea.  Implementing it was a bit tricky though.  A trip to the Capitol Hill Value Village would have been perfect place to find horrible prom or bridesmaid dresses we could have altered to look more like mangled 19th century prostitutes.  The only second hand store we could find was pretty lame.  We ended up in Camden at a Gothic shop.  Our costumes look more like Madonna circa 1983 though than 1883 London.

This is Jacob aka Jack 

Here are Nina, Myself, and Despina, aka the victims (notice our bloody throats).

One of the more interesting costumes of the night!
(I have no idea who was in it though)


Things at school have become very busy.  I have either an essay to write or a presentation to give every week until I come home for Christmas.  All of the things I'm reading and writing about are very interesting, but because they are assigned, it makes them tedious to do.

One cool thing to note about school is I discovered the study room for my department.  Because there is only one library at school, it gets really full and difficult to find a place to work.  The study room has hardly any people in it and has super comfy chairs with large desks.  The best part is that we can eat and drink in there.  We have to leave the library if we need to eat a snack...very annoying.  Sometimes I find myself alone and I crank up the tunes while I work on my essays.

Other London Things

Yesterday was the Mayor of London Day.  There was a big parade and fireworks show pretty close to my dorm.  The reason though, that I was out and about and discovered this was because St. Paul's Cathedral was free all day and they had free performances of Peter and the Wolf.  The organ was very cool and it was fun to see and hear all of the British children.  The novelty of adult English accents has kind of worn off.  Kids however are still super cute!

Today was Remembrance Day Sunday.  By Trafalgar Square, there is a big procession with the royal armed forces and the Queen, along with other VIP's lay wreaths around a war memorial in honor of Veteran's Day (Remembrance Day in British English).  Unfortunately  I did not get there early enough to find a good place to stand.  There were about 5 rows of people in front of me, with most people much taller than I.  All I could see of the whole event was the tops of the black bear hats the guards wear.  I was though probably within 200 yards of the Queen.  Unfortunately no photos to show.

Domestic Stuff

Most of you know that I really like to cook and bake.  It has been challenging to do so though in my dorm, with my limited resources in terms of kitchen supplies.  I did attempt to make my mom's famous oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  Despite vanilla flavoring instead of extract and butter instead of Crisco, they actually turned out alright, not quite like mom's but close.

Notice, my mixing bowl was a big pot and the absence of an electric mixer.
I got a workout in mixing them by hand with a wooden spoon. 

I hate my oven a little bit, but they turned out alright!

A couple of months ago, I promised to post pictures of my room once it was decorated and clean.  It feels more like home, or at least my home away from home.  Well, here you go...(I cleaned really well one day, in order to put off essay writing.)

 It's got a little bit more personality and color than the before photos.

 Some cool decals I found at a store. 
The best I could do with such a large white wall I was not allowed to paint.

Next week's agenda:  A trip to Greenwich!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Update and Walking Tour

So I've officially been in London for 4 weeks now and I love it!  I'm finally beginning to have a rhythm and feel like I fit in (although I still can't remember my class schedule by heart).

School is going well.  I know my way around campus and have found my favorite spot in the library and the cheap place to have a cup of tea.  This term I am taking History and Theory of the EU (very boring), European Defense and Security (interesting, with a very good professor), and EU in the World (the professor is from the US and conducts her class the same way).

Just as I've gotten caught up on most of my reading, the deluge of essays begins.  Next week I have my first essay due, and pretty much one every week after that until Christmas.  The thing I find most difficult to deal with though is that all of the essays are formative...meaning I'm not graded on them.  I still need to put in a lot of effort, because I will receive written feedback and they help to prepare for the Exams in June.  That's the other thing I'm adjusting to about the British (and perhaps European in general) system: the classes I take this fall, I won't be tested on until June.  That is quite an ample amount of time to forget most all that I have learned.

Besides school, (when I have free time), I've been enjoying a bit of the London night life.  On Thursdays, about 30 of the students from my program all go out and have a beer or two at one of the pubs on campus (George IV).  We only have class Monday-Thursday, so we begin our weekend celebration before we all go home.  In addition, I've been going out with a few of the people from my dorm, exploring bars close to where I live, as well as an area called Shoreditch, which is about a mile walk.  Close proximity is very important as the Tube stops running around 12:30.  One weird thing is that a lot of bars close around 11:00 or 12:00, even on the weekend.  If you stay out later (usually at a more loungy/club type of place) there are night busses that run, but they aren't as easy to figure out.

This Sunday was another very nice day, so I went with a friend from school on a walking tour.  It was great because it was FREE, I just was suggested to tip the tour guide at the end (which I happily did).  See the photos below!

I know none of these people, but I wanted to take a picture of the Duke of Wellington Arch.  The tour met at the Corner of Hyde Park.

This was my first experience in "nature" since I've been in London. I had to take a picture of the trees, because they do exist in the city.  It I could finally tell it is autumn, because the leaves are beginning to change their color.

This is the gate to Buckingham palace.  Notice the red road.  All the main roads that lead to the palace are red. So the Queen is always on a red carpet.  Our tour guide was filled with cool and useless facts like this.

This is me in front of Buckingham Palace.  (Sorry the photo is so dark.  I accidentally messed with one of the settings on my camera.)

A brighter photo of Buckingham.  Frankly, I find Schoenbrun to be cooler.  You can't even go inside.
Our tour guide told a really funny story about how someone broke into Buckingham Palace in 1982.  Read about it here.

A guard.
Unfortunately it wasn't one of the guys in the red jackets and big bear skinned hats (which last for 100 years, the hats, not the guards).  Apparently the different services rotate guard duty.

This is in Trafalgar Square.  Its a really big ship build inside a really large bottle.  (A model of the ship Lord Nelson commanded at the Battle at Trafalgar.)

Here is Trafalgar Square.
(It is geographically in the center of London.  Another did you know...there are very few pigeons in the square.  This is very odd because it was known for being completely overrun with the feathered rats.  There are laws prohibiting the feeding of the birds, but contraceptive is also mixed in with their regular feed.  Not sure if I believe that one.  The tour guide might have been pulling our legs with that factoid.)

This building, laden with moss and vines is (or was) one of the buildings for MI6 (or MI5). (I can't remember)

The tour finished with the story about Guy Fawkes and his attempt to blow up parliament.
Overall:  I got to see and learn (cool facts) about my new city!

Tower of London

This is very long overdue...

A couple of weeks ago, I went and took the tour of the Tower of London.  I think it was one of the first sunny days I experienced.  There have been several more since then, so London doesn't seem quite so gray and gloomy.

The Tower and all its glory are only about a mile south of where I live.  Can you believe that?

From the outside, where you buy the tickets. 

The Tower refers to the whole structure.  It is formally called:  Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress.  It is one big tourist trap now though.

This was my Beefeater.  He was very funny and put on a great show.  I learned all kinds of things about Henry the VIII and his many wives, as well as other historical things, like how much the English hate the French.  The story about Anne Boleyn was the most interesting though.

White Tower.

This was where the Medieval Kings and their families and court lived.  Now it holds a large display of royal armour.

Tower Green

This was the infamous site where Anne Boleyn had her head chopped off.  The buildings behind it were built for her to stay in before she was coronated.  Ironically, she stayed there again before she was beheaded.

One other very cool thing I saw in the tower (but I was not allowed to take photos of) were some of the Royal Jewels.  Unfortunately they put you on moving walkways so you are only allowed to look at them for a very small amount of time.  How great it would be to be Queen and be laden with jewels.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time here and would recommend it to anyone visiting London who likes this kind of history stuff.  For those who aren't there is a cool pub by the name of Hung, Drawn, and Quartered where you can sample another part of British history and culture:  Ale and Fish and Chips!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Talk about cultural diversity

I've said it before to some people individually, but one of my favorite things about LSE and London in general is how international people are.  I live next to a guy from Azerbaijan and I just met a girl in my program from Kosovo.  Two very new countries.  I believe there are residents from every country of Europe (including Luxembourg) in my program.  Also on my floor in my dorm are people from India, Columbia, Germany and Philadelphia.  I never imagined in such short amount of time I'd meet people from all over the world.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What I've been up to

So here are a few highlight of what I've been up to the last week:

The Globe:
Dad and I took a trip to the Globe Theater and saw Henry IV part 2.  It was really cool.  The middle of the theater is open to the elements and that night it happened to be pouring.  The whole standing crowd were in ponchos, drenched, but having a really good time.  Dad and I sat around the outside of the circle under cover.  Unfortunately the seats were a bit uncomfortable.  If I see another play there, I will have to pick a dry night so I can stand in the crowd.


Last weekend Dad and I went to Brighton out on the Channel.  It was quite a nice city.  Not a whole lot that we discovered to do.  We walked down to the pebble beach and down the pier.

One interesting thing we ran into while we were there was a VW camper show.  All along the lane by the beach, as far as the eye could see were VW buses and bugs.  There had to have been 1000 vehicles.

The VW's went on just as far to the right as well.
One other really neat thing about Brighton were the lanes in the middle of the city.  They were little pedestrian only lanes with lots of shops.  It kind of reminded of me of Post Alley by Pike Place, only much more extensive.

Cuba Libre:
Dad and I found an amazing Cuban Restaurant in the Angel Neighborhood.  The place itself had was very eclectic and the food was to die for.  I had a pulled beef dish with plantains and rice and beans.  Dad had some sort of seafood dish with pineapple that was served in a hollowed out pineapple.  If I have any visitors in London, this is a place I would definitely consider taking them too.

My dorm is slowly becoming more and more bearable.  I've pretty much finished decorating my room (pictures to follow) and I have food in my small cupboard and can make meals for myself now.  I also have met most of the people in my hallway and we all commiserate with each other about our individual dungeons.  In my hall there is someone from Azerbaijan, Germany, Columbia, India, and Philadelphia.  Quite the amalgamation of cultures.  I need to find a better place to study than my room.  School is a little bit far away and I tend to just want to take naps all the time in my room.  For those of you who are interested in google mapping where I live, my Address is:

Room DLA7, Lillian Knowles Residence
50 Crispin Street
E1 6HQ

School Stuff:
So school began on Monday.  I finished most of the orienting process.  It was pretty painless.  I finally registered for classes. This term I am taking History and Theory of European Integration, European Defense and Security, and the EU in the World.  The latter two I think will be more interesting.  History and Theory are is a requirement, so I will just have to get through it.

At LSE all (graduate) students are given an advisor to check in on them every few weeks to see how they are adjusting.  They are there if we are having any problems academically, but mostly they are there for pastoral purposes.  It is really a neat thing, particularly coming from UW where everyone in my Major (around 250) all had the same worthless advisor.

I have two ten week terms.  The one I am currently in and one after the holidays and one in the summer, during which I have to write my dissertation.  I have a feeling it will be an enormous amount of work.  Reading is on average 500-600 pages a week.  The one thing that is very different about universities in the UK (and maybe outside of the US in general) is that all exams are done during June, even if I had the class in the fall.  And 100% of our grades in the classes depend on the 2-3 hour exam.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.

On that note...I should get back to all of my reading.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Sorry, this one is a bit over due.

Last weekend, my dad and I took a 1 hour train ride outside of the City to the white cliffs of Dover.  It was very cool to see what England is like outside of London.  There are lots of green fields and sheep and breathtaking coast line.  This also happened to be one of our only sunny days in the past week and a half.  (oh how the weather feels like Seattle)

There they are...the white cliffs.

The view from the top of the hill.  You can't see it in the picture, but France is just on the other side of the horizon.
At the top of the hill is this incredible castle.  It is very unique because it is one large history book in itself.  I was a huge fan of this trip because I am a big history nerd.

You can find the ruins of a large Roman light house tower.  Next to the tower is a church originally built by the Saxons.  The existing building was reconstructed and restored during the 19th century.

The Roman light house is on the right and the Saxon Church on the left.

 The main castle itself was built during the middle ages by Henry II (father to Richard the Lionhearted and prince John from the story of Robin Hood).  The curators in charge of the castle decorated it in the style Henry himself would have had it.  There were also actors playing bit medieval roles!

Dad at the one of the entrances to the interior of the castle.

Entryway of the Castle

Great room inside the castle with an actor regaling us with stories about Kind Henry II.

Dining Room

The Moat
The other really interesting thing about the castle are the intricate tunnel systems carved into the cliffs.  There are a few Medieval portions.  However, most of the construction took place during the Napoleonic Wars and just prior to and during WWII.  This building was done by the British Army to house troops on the coast incase Napoleon attacked and by the British Airforce and Navy as a secret headquarters from which to conduct operations.  Dad was especially interested in this part of the outing.

We went on a guided tour through some of the tunnels.  They are very extensive and could contain several thousand people at one time.  They had an emergency hospital and large radar and communication centers.  Unfortunately I did not take any photos of this section.  I will share some of my dad's if he passes them along.

I would highly recommend Dover to anyone visiting London, who has an extra day to spend outside of the city.  We spent at least 4 hours up in the whole castle/tunnel area and could have spent even more time.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I'm Here!!

I've been in London for more than a week now and finally have regular internet access.  Here's an update as to what has happened this week:

Getting acclimated:  I've done a lot of walking around, trying to get my barings of this city.  The Tube is AWESOME!  I so wish Seattle had a Subway.  I've had the chance to try a ton of places to eat (some more notable than others) of both English and International cuisines.  My over all impression of English food:  yummy comfort food, but definately not for every day.  I can only eat so many potatoes.  They serve french fries, mashed potatoes and roasted potatoes with just about everything.

Playing the tourist:  I haven't done a whole lot of tourist stuff...yet.  My dad has been with me and has done and seen most of the famous sites.  We toured around St. Pauls Cathedral, saw a play in the West End (Deathtrap, a comedy about a playwrite willing to literally kill for material), went to Dover on a day trip (see below) and toured around the Churchill war rooms, which are very cool.  Up next is seeing Henry IV at the Globe.

A couple of sites from my first day walking around.

Being oriented by school:  I've had to go to a bunch of orientation events.  Most of this is pretty standard stuff.  I've met a few people from my program.  Classes start on Monday.  Hopefully then I'll feel more settled and recognize some faces around campus.  I'll expand upon this more after I finish the orientation process this week.

Moving into my dorm:  Unfortunately this has been a really dissappointing experience.  The photos of my dorm online are of the best rooms in the residence hall, and I did not recieve keys to one of these better rooms.  It was a pretty stinky room and had not been cleaned by the vacating tenant.  It doesn't have much light as it is in the bottom floor looking into the foundation of the neighboring building 18'' away. 

All of that being said, some elbow grease, a trip to Ikea and some creativity, and it is starting to look like a place I can live for the next year.  Once I finish organizing I will show some after shots.

Overall:  London is very cool and I'm looking foward to this next year!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm off...

I will be leaving for the airport shortly to embark on a great new adventure.  Everything worth taking to London fit in 3 and a half suitcases and 3 carry ons.  I'm quite happy my dad is accompanying me to London because there is no way I would be able to carry all of this myself.  Wish me luck!