31 January, 2010

The best photo in the history of all photos.

Today we went on The Beatles walk around London. Hit up places they recorded, bars they frequented, where John met Yoko, where they sang together on the roof, etc. One of the obvious spots we went to was Abbey Road.

Naturally, my friends and I wanted to take that cliche, touristy, zebra crossing photo.

So we did.


Notice anything funny about the picture? (Besides how awkward we all look...)


Look hard.


No, seriously.


Did you find it?


 

Yeah.
See it now? 

Some guy was definitely flipping us the bird in our Abbey Road picture.

Needless to say, we're all pretty in love with the photo.

30 January, 2010

Bathtime and Sheephenge

Hello folks. Sorry I haven't updated in awhile. I've been pretty busy. This weekend was our Bath trip, in which about 80 students in our program hopped on a coach bus (a Mercedes-Benz bus, nonetheless. A long way from the ones we took to NYC in high school...) and spent the entire day driving to Bath, home of the Roman hot springs and some pretty sweet architecture. On the way, we stopped at Avebury, Glastonbury, and Wells, and on the way home earlier today we stopped at Stonehenge. Don't worry, I'll get to it all in a little more detail.

AVEBURY
 Pretty much a lesser-known Stonehenge type place, it's got a lot of big upright rocks. Like, huge ones. Like, really huge, guys. You don't even know. There was a little footpath along the hillside, nothing more than dirt, but it was white! And wet, so I suppose it was more like white mud. It was strange and slippery, and got all over our shoes. But seriously, the big rocks were not my favorite part of Avebury. The little historic town, on the other hand, was awesome. Idyllic, rustic, beautiful, complete with a pond, some beautiful little cottages, and lots of moss. A little church, hundreds of years old, with crumbling gravestones in the yard. As weird as you may think me, I've always found cemeteries and graveyards fascinating, and this was no exception. Old headstones, with names barely legible from erosion or mold, and a few newer ones. It was beautiful. The inside of the little church was small, but no less gorgeous. Lots of big Gothic arches and windows, high ceilings, stone walls, tapestries, the works.

GLASTONBURY
By far my favorite of the places we visited, Glastonbury is home to the Tor, a big stone tower on top of a GIANT hill. Home of many Arthurian legends, and basically a British Ithaca, the town was GREAT. Lots of magic shops and shops selling big cloaks and medieval style dresses. It looked like everything could have come straight out of Middle Earth, especially since the geniuses who designed all the signs in the town decided the best font to use would be the elven looking one from the Lord of the Rings movies. So good.

We went to the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, which has basically been around forever. And ever. I'm not even kidding. The place was HUGE, until Henry VIII decided to be a jerk and destroy it. All that's left now is a few outbuildings and the ruins of some of the bigger buildings. It's where Arthur and Guinivere were supposedly buried, although their tombs have long since been destroyed, and if the place was this gorgeous in ruins, I can't even imagine how it looked when it was complete and functioning. Huge stone remains, some only half standing. Wood markers on the ground plotted out where the rest of the Abbey once was. The place must have been absolutely MASSIVE. Every piece of stone above the doors or windows was carved into these intricate, beautiful pictures, depicting stories from the Bible since most of the people coming to the Abbey back then couldn't read. It was incredible.

After we were done touring the Abbey we decided to climb the Tor. Now, the Tor, as I previously mentioned, it a big stone tower at the top of a hill. Only I think the term mountain would be more accurate here. I thought the hills in Ithaca were bad, but imagine South Hill where IC is located, only three times as high and five times as steep. Wooden stairs cut into the earth, sometimes extremely steep and treacherous, and usually covered in sheep poop. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention them. Herds of sheep roam the hill that the Tor is on, just chilling out wherever they please. No fences anywhere, and they basically just hang out in groups on the hill. At one point when we were climbing the thing, the entire herd of sheep decided it was time to move on, and they stampeded across the hill toward us. I don't know if you've ever seen a stampede of sheep, but it's a lot more intimidating than you would think. It's like being charged by a cloud, only with a lot more mass. We joked later that it would have been like getting run over by a pile of sweaters. Well anyway, we got out of the way of the sheep brigade, and continued climbing. And let me tell you, once we got to the top, it literally took my breath away. And not from the physical exertion. You could see for miles and miles and miles. I could see the sun in some areas, and clouds in other directions. I could see the rain in some far off town, although it was dry in Glastonbury. We could even see our next location, in Wells. Everything was so green and bright and beautiful. Quite possibly the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.

We wandered through the town after we left the Tor, and that was awesome too. Basically a British Ithaca, with just as many hippies and more magic. There were mystical shops everywhere you turned (including one called The Magic Box! Like in Buffy!) and it was just the most laid-back, beautiful place ever. About 50% of the shops we saw had dogs in them, including a beautiful shop set back in a tiny courtyard garden, where there was a friendly black lab. We played fetch with her and she gave me kisses. She was beautiful and friendly and I loved it. Dogs all over England are great. Most people don't use leashes here, their dogs just walk alongside them, even in the city. It's amazing, and they're all really friendly and well-trained. (Note to Mom: we should get Rylie to England, maybe it's magic and she'll catch on?)




WELLS

Until recently, the biggest, most fabulous cathedral I'd ever been in was St. John the Divine in New York City. I swear, Wells Cathedral blew it completely out of the water. Huge, and ancient, and absolutely stunningly breathtaking. A giant 12th century Gothic cathedral, complete with gargoyles, arches, lots of stairs, stained glass windows, and lots of castley looking bits, it was a lot of fun to be in. I couldn't help but wish that my high school chorus could travel there to sing, because it would have sounded absolutely spectacular in that space. Wells Cathedral has this big clock that, on the hour, chimes and moves into motion, with horses going around on top and a little mechanical man who rings the bell. It was fantasmic. The video will be up on Facebook, along with the rest of my pictures, as soon as we get our damn internet connection.

The rest of Wells was just as cool. The whole town was just so... British! The cobbled streets, the little pubs and buildings, the houses, the castles, the tiny doors that are far too short for even me to walk through...

BATH

Bath, our actual destination, was snowy when we arrived. None of us were even remotely prepared for this, and so the walk to the YMCA hostel sucked. We got some dinner, went to bed, and in the morning we went to the Roman baths for which the city is named. It was pretty cool to walk around a big structure that old, and I've always loved seeing Greek and Roman artifacts. It was great, even though we weren't allowed to touch the water in the baths. (The pipes that delivered the hot water from the springs to the enclosures were made of lead, and the water looked gross anyway. But we still wanted to touch it.) It was about this time that my camera batery started dying, and I wanted to save some battery for Stonehenge, so I unfortunately didn't get many photos of the bath house.

We then went to the Costume Museum in Bath, which was really amusing. We got to try on corsets and hoopskirts! Lauren, the silly thing, is so skinny she could actually tighten hers enough so her waist was smaller than the span of Geoff's hand, which was the idea back in the day. It was so funny to see all sorts of fashions throughout the ages. J-Lo's famous green dress was even on display there! And the building where the museum was was beautiful, too. We toured the ballroom, the tea room, and a sitting room, all with the original crystal chandeliers and molding on the walls and doorframes. It was awesome.

STONEHENGE

Sometimes, when there is a particularly bad thunderstorm or I hear talk of tornadoes or earthquakes, I always have this imagined situation in my head in which the apocalypse comes and Stonehenge just falls over. Like dominoes. I don't know why, but that's what I imagine when I think of it. Needless to say, Stonehenge did not fall over while I was there. Nor did anything particularly magical happen, as I secretly hoped. But there were sheep! (Sheephenge!) And lots of rocks! Geoff and I wanted to cross the forbidden rope so we could touch the rocks, but that is apparently not allowed. So I took lots of pictures instead.

All in all, this was a really awesome trip. The next trip is to Liverpool in a few weeks, and I would like to go, but I don't think I can afford to pay for it. It's not even February yet, and I need to make my money last until June! (Donations accepted. Amounts of at least $1000 preferred. Please make all checks out to Emily A. Krempholtz and mail them to the London Centre ASAP. Thanks. The European economy and my landlord thank you. I do too.)

We're watching The Princess Bride right now with the rest of my flat, and tomorrow I'm going on the Beatles walk around London. (Abbey Road picture coming up just for you, Dad!)

I'll try to update more often, and with some photos!

Love you all,
Em

18 January, 2010

Britain vs. America, Part I

Some interesting differences between the UK and the US that I have noticed thus far:

  1. Brits put their washing machines in the kitchen. This is apparently standard procedure.
  2. There are no top sheets on beds here. Just the sheet to cover the mattress and then the duvet. And on that note, duvets are far too thin for the beds. If you roll over, there's generally not enough blanket to cover you anymore.
  3. People will laugh at you if you use the word "pants" instead of "trousers." In particular if you get splashed by a puddle or something, and tell someone you have "wet pants." This is a mistake, as it means something different to them.
  4. Brits seem to have one of two reactions to Americans in London:
    1. "Ooh, you're American?" This is the good one. It means they like Americans and find you intriguing. Also, English boys think American girls are easy.
    2. "Oh. You're American." This is the bad one. It means they think you are a loud, dumb, fat bimbo who says things like "howdy" on a regular basis.
  5.  It is prohibited by law to put a light switch of electrical outlet in a bathroom toilet. Light switches for these are on the outside, which makes it easy for roommates/passerby to be jerks and turn the lights off whilst you are in the shower. Anyone wishing to use a blow dryer or hair straightener in the bathroom are SOL.

Some things I have noticed that are different from what I have been told prior to coming here:
  1. North Face is a fairly popular brand in London. I see lots of Brits wearing it, and a few newscasters on tv.
  2. BRITISH PEOPLE DO WEAR YELLOW. I don't know where I heard this stupid rumor, but it's been bothering me for months. And they DO wear yellow!
  3. I don't notice much of a difference in the tea. I have been told that British people find American tea to be utter crap. So I promptly went to Tesco and bought a huge box of British tea... I can't tell the difference! 
  4. The food does NOT suck. It's such an international city that there's a huge plethora of restaurants to choose from, and we've eaten at some pretty decent places. Ironically, the worst experience we've had was with London's famous fish and chips! (the batter on the fish was still practically liquid... not yummy.)
This list will be added to every once in awhile, I'm sure. But it's 1am here and I need to get to bed. I've got an interview for my internship tomorrow!

xo

An Abundance of Stoves

Today has been a strange day. We moved into our flat yesterday, and we were so happy and excited, everything was absolutely wonderful. The flat is gorgeous, and we've got it for a really decent price, and we joked about what the catch was. Well, we found it!

I woke up this morning to go to my internship work placement meeting at the IC London Centre, and that went fine. Lauren and I went to Tesco afterward, and that was pretty fun. We got ourselves some groceries and explored the massive shop (3 floors!) and got back to the flat...

...only to find that there were strange men inside. We had been expecting some work to be done, since there was a door that needed to be hung and a patch of wall that needed to be painted, and we were told that someone would be in today to work on that. But the patch was still unpainted and the door was still leaning against the wall. What were these guys doing here, right?

Well, they hadn't been sitting around scratching their asses, I'll tell you that. Two of the bedrooms that have their own bathrooms now are the proud owners of their very own kitchen unit.

That's right.

Mini kitchenettes in the bedrooms. So two of our bedrooms, including an extremely tiny one that already was just barely big enough for a bed, now have their own stoves, fridges, and sinks, complete with overhead cabinets. And no one will tell us why they are here!

To make things even better, the workmen turned off the hot water in order to connect our superfluous bedroom plumbing, and failed to turn it back on when they left, a fact I only discovered when I was halfway through a shower. Needless to say, my shower was not as relaxing as I'd hoped it would be.

So now our landlord is on his way over to discuss these new developments with us. Because as much new work as these men did on our flat, they still didn't hang the door or paint the patch above it.

Just another adventure, right?

Pictures soon, I promise. Just as soon as we get this all sorted out.

14 January, 2010

oh look, my house. :)


View Larger Map

It's the one with the red door, although I don't think it is red anymore. We are the top two floors.

Hello from London!

Oh hi, I am in London. Unfortunately, the hotel charges an obscene amount of money for Internet so I have been unable to do anything Internet wise. Which has sucked, but whatever. I'm in Europe! The past few days can be summed up in a Facebook message I sent to my frantic mother yesterday.

''lacking internet for a few days, i will be more in touch when i get a flat. right now i'm at the london centre, searching for flats. then we're off to try and not be homeless people. things are great so far. the flight was loooooong and cramped, i didn't like it. but tell daddy i sat in the wing seat so i had a perfect view of the man. on the wing. of the plane. flat hunting was good yesterday, we looked at 3 fully furnished, fairly cheap flats which were BEAUTIFUL. like molded ceilings, balconies, 15 foot ceilings and crystal chandeliers kind of beautiful. but i'm told the land lady is kind of a psycho, so we're still looking. i just bought a phone, it only cost me like £15, which is nice. i get free incoming texts from ANYWHERE in the world, so if you call verizon and enable international texting you can text me, and it will be free for me, i don't know about you. my cell phone number is (44)07570058447 and incoming calls to me are free, so again i don't know how much it would cost for you to call it, but it's free for me lol. the phone isn't charged yet cause i just bought it but it should be working by tonight. does that make you feel a little better?
well i've got to go look at flats now, so i will talk to you later, again, i am not sure when, but don't worry. i'm fine. everything is super super safe, and i'm generally always with geoff and lauren and emily and lindsay. so calm down! haha
love you. say hi to everyone for me.
love,
em''

 The phone number is crossed out because those work funny over here. I have no idea if that number will actually work because besides the country code you have to type in 245907236246 other numbers, too. I don't actually understand it.

Since that message (sent yesterday morning) I have in fact found a flat. But instead of our original group of 5, we are now living in a group of 9 people. Our flat is in Bayswater, which as far as I can see is a really awesome part of the city, with lots of shopping and food and really close to a the Bayswater Underground station. Only two stops away from school. It doesn't have the old fashioned gorgeousness of some of the others we saw, but the flat itself is BRAND new. Like, the place still smells like new paint. There's five bedrooms, four or five bathrooms (we could only find 4, but the ad said 5, so maybe one is hiding.) Everything in it is brand new, from the heating system, to the showers, the hardwood floors, the couches, the beautiful kitchen and all its appliances, the 40'' flatscreen in the lounge/kitchen area and the smaller flat screens in the bedrooms. I've got a balcony in my room and a skylight and my own bathroom (to be shared with my lovely roommate Lauren, of course.) Included utilities, wireless internet, bedding, appliances, heat/AC, hot water, maintenance, and everythinggg. We're on the top two floors of the building, and there's a beautiful elevator lift up to our flat so we don't have to walk the extensive staircase. We're paying the deposit today. Best part? SO cheap. Because we're splitting the hefty price between 9 people, it's insanely cheap. We move in Sunday, when our stay at the hotel is up. Pictures soon, probably.

It's raining here, which apparently is very normal.Of course, I've managed not to bring even one of the three umbrellas I currently have in my suitcases, but hey, I have a hat and a good attitude. And I am surrounded by British people. Who may or may not make fun of the way I speak. Only one has so far, to our faces, at least. A pile of snow fell on Emily Marshall's head and she said, 'I think I need a hat.' Some boys walked past us at that moment and said 'HAAAAAT.' They were being mean. I am slightly afraid to speak in front of people now. I'll get over it in an hour or so, I'm sure.

I'm a people watcher and this place is so much fun for looking at all the different people. Most of the people I've met so far are not actually British. Most have accents from India or China or the Middle East. Or they're from Ithaca College... The best is the little kids though. It's adorable. A little boy was splashing in puddles yesterday and looked up at his mother and said (adorably), 'MUMMY! I'm NOT wet!' It was fantastic. I might steal one. (joke.)

Right now we're waiting for the rest of our flatmates to get to the London Centre so we can go put down the deposit for our beautiful new home. (Which has a door with the knob in the center! It's so funny!) And then I will explore some more, and buy an alarm clock, since my new phone doesn't seem to be functioning as one. Will update with more once I have regular access to the interwebz.

-Emily

10 January, 2010

It's My Last Night at Home...

and I'm still not getting nervous.

For the most part, I am packed. I added an extra suitcase because my first one was far over 50lbs and I couldn't cut it down anymore. Besides, this way I will have room to bring new British purchases home with me at the end of the semester!

On Friday night I was lured away to my best friend Andi's house for a movie and waffle night, only to be informed she had a "church thing" at 8. So I returned home, only to walk in the house to find my friends in my living room! My mother had put together a surprise going away party for me, complete with balloons, a British flag, snacks, and a cake with the union jack on it. There was lots of Glee-ful singing (geddit?) and playing of the Wii and just hanging out with the people I love, and it was a wonderful way to say goodbye to everyone before I leave.

As for tomorrow, I don't feel nervous yet, although I know I am going to. I've only been on a plane once before in my life, and that time, it was with nearly my entire graduating class, so they all were there to walk me through it. Am thinking now that maybe I should have gone with the group flight, but hey, I've resolved to make 2010 the year of adventures, and tomorrow will just be one of those. I am optimistic about it, although part of that might be in my plans to sedate myself for the flight from Chicago to Heathrow...

And then by Tuesday at noon, England-time, (7am here in New York) I will be in London! So many things to look forward to, and all that stands between me and all those things is an itty bitty plane trip. *deep breath*

And after all, as all my friends keep telling me, if my plane crashes, I'll just end up with Sawyer on LOST, right? Isn't that how it works?

Love,
Em

02 January, 2010

T Minus Ten Days, Folks.

I am diligently working on packing -- er, not really. I'm just researching things I should probably pack. As of right now, my list is about five times as long as a practical list should be, and I have very little clue as to how I will be able to fit everything into one suitcase and a carry on bag.