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.