Posts Tagged ‘London’

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Luke: Royal Wedding

May 25, 2011

I arrived in Hyde Park the morning of the wedding to watch from the giant screens set up on the grass, but I realized I wanted to see it in person. No, I did not receive an invitation to Westminster Abbey, so I did the next-best thing: stand on the Mall in front of Clarence House (Prince of Wales’ residence) and watch everyone process past before and after the wedding. Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Charles, the Queen and Prince Philip, etc all rode by. I didn’t catch any pictures of that because I was too busy making sure I could see for myself the historic day, but I did catch the Buckingham Palace balcony appearance and Royal Air Force flyover. Some of the planes in the flyover are from WWII, a reference to Britain’s indomitable spirit and successful resistance. The green boxes in front of the Palace and the media bleachers in front of the Abbey are not permanent; yes, there really was that much media hype for the event. 

Not everyone can go to Europe and say they saw the Pope and the Queen of England, but I can.

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Kadie: The final countdown

May 16, 2011

I have less than two weeks left. 

This [somewhat] sudden realization means about a billion and one things to me right now, but, the most important of which is that my return to the states is now “imminent” in status. So frighteningly close that I’m afraid if I blink I might miss out on the time I have left.

And that feeling has me reminiscing…I still remember my two-week countdown before LEAVING. I remember how stressed I was, trying to get everything done and fit everyone in to my schedule…I was leaving my home, my family, and all things familiar, for the complete unknown…and now, I’m back in those same shoes. I’m not ready to leave my “family” or my “home” here, and I’m not sure things back in Wisconsin will be as familiar to me now-or rather, in two weeks when I arrive-as they used to be. It’s an interesting concept, realizing that I’ve finally come full circle. Should make for quite the re-adjustment period? Good thing I’m getting so good at taking on any challenges life throws at me.

Luckily, I haven’t had much time to dwell on what will or will not be or come to pass in my very near future—I’ve been way too busy! Our academic schedules at ALIF are keeping on the go just as much as ever, and the amount of work looming between me and the end of my semester is enough to give me nightmares, but…somehow I’ve found a way to throw some fun in there too!

Last week, or…maybe it was the week before, ALIF put on a wonderful little Gnawa music concert for us all! Gnawa is a mix of sub-Saharan, Berber (Amazigh) and Sufi religious songs and rhythms—it combines dancing, in all its traditional forms, with a whole lot of head swinging and jumping about…sort of like acrobatics. The beats are strong and steady, and SO fun to dance to! We had a grand ol’ time! (Feel free to YouTube Gnawa music and you’ll get more of a feel for what I’m talking about, I took some video…but my computer and I are having a little bit of a tiff right now about uploading.)

And then, last week, one of the students from our program, Eric, had to leave and return back to the states a couple weeks early. THIS meant, of course, that we had to have a HUGE going away-fancy-dress-up Thai dinner. So we did. The food was AMAZING, but the company was even better…and it was sad to see one of us go so soon, and it made even more apparent how difficult it’s going to be when the rest of us need to say our goodbyes.


And then the very next day, my friend Liz and I were off to LONDON! (Yes, that’s right, I flew to London for the weekend…still completely astonishing how that’s possible). And after only a slight mishap with our tickets, we made it. Our first encounter after leaving the airport was with this wonderful Panamanian? Panamese? What ARE people from Panama called anyway? Either way, he was an Opera singer, and absolutely FASCINATING. It was such a random meeting, and quite late (our flight didn’t get in until almost midnight), and so refreshing. I’ve missed being completely comfortable in my language abilities. All the signs were in ENGLISH. All the menus were in ENGLISH. And everyone tried to speak to us in ENGLISH. It was kind of a nice little breath of not-so-clean, but familiar air. 


One of my favorite signs we found on the University of London campus. 🙂

But anywho, after chatting up the Opera star from Panama, and, consequentially, learning he would be performing on British national television next month, we made it to our hostel. Let me just go ahead and give a shout out to No. 8 Hostel in London. If you do decide to visit, you MUST stay there. They were so great, and I can’t give a high enough review. But more on that later.

For now, let me just say that our time in London was splendid, a perfect little vacation, and made me realize that I’ll HAVE to be going back. We did all the “touristy” things. Although finding Big Ben did take us longer than it should have…he can be quite the sneaky fellow. But, mainly, I just got really over-excited whenever I recognized something from the Harry Potter books and/or movies. (I went all the way to Kings Cross station JUST because of Harry Potter) Ha-ha, what can I say? I was loving the idea of being the same city that acts as the setting for bits and pieces of my favorite fantasy world.




Me! In front of St. Paul’s Cathedral!


The “Towers Bridge” and the Thames…breathtaking much?


Liz and I! We found him!


Liz and I, and small boy, in front of Buckingham Palace!


I get really excited about jumping pictures…so, naturally, I had to take one in front of the royal palace.

The weather was as to be expected, cold rainy, generally very grey. And, while this was upsetting to me at first, I realized that that’s exactly how London is SUPPOSED to be, and therefore I should be grateful that I get to experience it for what it truly is. And it certainly didn’t stop us from having a fantastic time. My ONLY complaint from the weekend was not getting a picture with those wonderfully colorful beefeater guards and their furry hats. Alas..next time. But, I stuck to my budget, had some perfectly-chilled (oh, how I miss ice…) pints, and met some quite fascinating people. (That would be why hostels are my fav way to travel!) There were the three French men that lived in the hostel full-time, whose accents were completely irresistible, and we had the best of conversations, about everything from musicians to economics, to Obama, to Napoleon. Then of course we met a, usually always in a slight state of drunkenness, red-haired Scottish man, who had a thick accent and kept referring to me as “lassie.” And one of my favorite new friends, Tony, the very old, yet somehow very, very-hip Malaysian man, who seemed to be one of the wisest people I’ve ever known. We got to know this little crowd, and leaving them after our short, four-day stay was a little bit sad. They really helped to make our weekend. 

But, ultimately, as I guess is the morale of this post’s story, all good things must come to an end. And, returning to Fes, in all its humidity and lack-of-traffic-rules glory did feel good. But now, it’s off to finish the homework I desperately tried to neglect all weekend, and this week is our LAST FULL WEEK OF CLASSES!!!!! Which, unfortunately, means all of my finals are next week already? And…I’m not anticipating them to be in any way easy. Wish me luck?

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Luke: Westminster Cathedral/Houses of Parliament

March 9, 2011

I visited both these buildings for my Architecture in London class. One of them is built in Gothic style and the other in Byzantine style. See if you can figure out which building is in which style. I got a great view of London for the tower of Westminster Cathedral when I went inside. Enjoy the photos

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Luke: Tower of London

January 28, 2011

I visited the Tower of London last week. Even though I had been there three years ago, it was well worth a second visit. It was actually getting a facelift so as to be sparkly clean for the Olympics, so a giant drawing covered the canvas draping over one side of the White Tower, showing scenes from the Tower of London’s bloody history. The chapel was actual conducting a service since it was Sunday, and Beefeaters really do live at the Tower of London with their families. Who are the Beefeaters? Well, today they are retired members of the British military who still wish to serve their country. Tourists know them mainly as their guides for visits to the Tower, though. Also housed in the Tower of London are the Crown Jewels, including Queen Victoria’s famous “mini-crown” and the crown that George VI wore to India. Many of the items there dated to the year 1661 or shortly after. This is because Oliver Cromwell and the Parliament destroyed many objects owned by the monarch or that were symbolic of the monarchy, which was restored under Charles II in, you guessed it, 1661. Some interesting traditional items were the Coronation Spoon, which is 800 years old and is now used to put oil on the new monarch during Coronation, and the Sovereign’s Orb, which is placed in the new monarch’s right hand during Coronation and represents the monarch’s role as Defender of the Faith of the Church of England. I also saw crowns containing diamonds cut from the Great Star of Africa, one of the largest diamonds ever found.

Outside, I walked on the green upon which many people were executed, including Queen Anne Boleyn, who demanded a particular style of execution, forcing King Henry VIII to get an executioner from France to come over to do the job. The oldest and tallest part of the Tower of London is the White Tower, which was built over 800 years ago under William the Conqueror. Nearby are remains from the original Roman wall which is 2000 years old. Inside is a great collection of armour and weapons from all periods of English history.

I also visited several buildings that are part of the Tower of London that have housed many famous prisoners. Sir Walter Raleigh was held at the Tower, the same one who tried to establish a colony on Roanoke Island and who, while inprisoned, wrote The History of the World. The best story about the Tower of London in my opinion is about the Princes in the Tower. The two brothers were the sons of King Edward VI and were living in the Tower of London (which was actually once a royal residence). The older one (Prince Edward, aged 13) was soon to be crowned king in 1483 after his father’s death, but that summer both he and his brother disappeared from the Tower of London, never to be seen again. Their uncle, Richard III, became king and is suspected of having the princes killed. Another suspect is Henry VII, who followed Richard III as king. He seems to have had a motive to get rid of the two boys, who were in front of him in the succession to the throne. Then again, we don’t necessarily even know that the princes were killed at all. I’d put my money on Richard III as the culprit, since the princes’ deaths directly cleared his path to immediately assume the throne.

Unfortunately this website can’t upload my pictures at the moment, so I can’t show you any. Hopefully they’ll get it fixed soon.

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Luke: Mile End/ Whitechapel/ City of London/ Canary Wharf

January 19, 2011

Vibrant is an overused word, but for Mile End Road and Whitechapel Road it stirs all the right connotations. Mile End and Whitechapel are filled with all sorts of nationalitites, especially Bangladeshi and Pakistani. As you walk west from campus, the street is lined with myriad small shops, many advertising SIM cards and phone unlocking. There are all sorts of restaurants, ranging from curry houses to a place called Stepney Fried Chicken. Many of the restaurants have signs in front saying “halal,” which is roughly the Muslim equivalent of kosher. There is also the Whitechapel Market built into the sidewalk, which for a while widens to about 50 feet to accommodate all the tents for the vendors, very few of whom are Caucasian. This is where I hope to buy a lot of my fresh fruits and vegetables.

Once Whitechapel High Street ends, you are leaving the borough (region of London) of Tower Hamlets and entering the very ancient and well-known borough of City of London, which contains the major business district. The change is very apparent and very sudden. The proportion of minorities out and about plummets after walking just one city block out of Whitechapel (area within the borough of Tower Hamlets adjacent to Mile End, are you following this?) and into City of London. The buildings changed from small crowded shops lining the street to glamorous office buildings with receptionists sitting in 25 foot long ornate desks inside. A second business district that now rivals City of London is Canary Wharf in Tower Hamlets, which represents the emergence of the East End from its former shadow of poverty and undesirability.

My room in Pooley House (still getting organised)

Pooley House, including my flat, which house seven students

Old Jewish cemetery right in the middle of campus: it was there before campus was built around it. The East End was a hub of Jewish immigrants in the past and of Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants today.

Queen Mary Campus

Queen Mary Campus building

City of London skyline seen from Mile End Road

It's the Tube or the Underground, not the metro or subway

The brand new Heron Tower, set to open this spring: tallest building in City of London borough

Scene from City of London during a rainy rush hour

the old and the new in City of London

"The Gherkin," so dubbed for its resemblance to the fruit

At One Canada Square

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Luke: Bus and boat trips

January 11, 2011

The past few days we had a bus tour around London with a few short photo stops and a boat cruise up and down the Thames. They were good ways to get acclimated to London, and the bus tour guide was quintessentially English.

1. London City Hall;
2. Tower Bridge, finished in 1894, NOT London Bridge (London Bridge is very plain and boring);
3. City Of London;
4. William the Conqueror must be doing some renovations on his White Tower, part of the Tower of London;
5. Lambeth Palace, across the River from Big Ben, where the Archbishop of Canterbury stays when he’s in town;
6. & 7. Houses of Parliament;
8. The London Eye at night;

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Alyssa: The Last Day

July 3, 2009

It’s my last day in London. The feeling is entirely bittersweet. I love this city and there is an immense amount of things to do and see (some of which I didn’t get to). However, I do miss driving, my family, cable, and living on my own.

Tonight the CAPA program is hosting a Cream Tea event at a hotel near the V&A. I think it’s a great way to round out the last six weeks. Tomorrow I will get onto a plane for about 9 hours back to Minneapolis, then drive another 4 hours back to Sioux Falls for what’s left of the 4th of July.

These past 6 weeks have been incredible and highly life changing and eye opening. I will have to come back in the future, if not just for London, most definitely Paris.

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