Temporary Brit

My three months of adventures in London!

“Far have I traveled and much have I seen…” November 6, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — temporarybrit @ 6:47 PM

I’ve been home for about three and a half days now, and I still can’t believe that my London adventure is over.  Those were seriously the FASTEST three months of my life.  I actually feel like I’ve been home for longer than I was in London!  The last few weeks I was there, I found myself getting anxious that I’d leave without doing or seeing something that I wanted to.  I kept asking myself if I should go to this park one more time, or visit that museum again.  In the end, though, I just had to stop worrying about it because I did a pretty good job of getting the most out of my trip!

 

I’ve been asked a few times what the highlight of my trip was.  I haven’t really been able to answer that, because I couldn’t pick just one.  Les Mis was fantastic, of course.  So were the deer in Richmond Park, and being out in the city at night, and all the FABULOUS candy.  Even school was better over there; being able to read about a particular time period and then go to a museum and actually SEE objects from that time really added to the experience.   Also… I SPENT THREE MONTHS IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY.  Not everyone can say that. :)

 

So….what’s next?  Finishing school, for one.  I’m done in December, so getting that out of the way is a priority.  I’ll need to go back to work at some point, but I’m trying not to think about that.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I don’t WANT to work.  I just don’t want to have to settle for the same old crummy jobs that have made me so unhappy for so long, and I’m afraid I’ll have to.  Instead of worrying about that, though, I’m looking ahead to the book I want to write about my trip.  It’ll be satisfying to actually put time and effort into writing about everything, and writing it well.  In all honesty, I didn’t do that here.  Blogging was a pain more than anything (there were always so many other things I wanted to be doing), so I didn’t put the time into it that I would have liked.  Plus, there are one or two adventures that I DIDN’T write about.  That will have to wait until school is over, though…..as I said, finish that is my priority for now. :)  Who knows, though…maybe my book will be such a raging success that crummy jobs won’t even be an issue anymore! ;)

 

So…I guess that’s it for now.    Goodbye until my next trip! :D

 

 

 

Last Day November 2, 2011

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Well, the time has come: my three months in London are almost over, and I fly home in just over 12 hours.  I had good final full day here, though.  It didn’t start off particularly fascinating, seeing as I spent most of the morning doing laundry. :)  This afternoon and evening, though, were all about fun.

 

I went up in the London Eye this evening around 5pm.  I had always planned to do the Eye on one of my final nights here, so I could get one last look over the city.  Since I went up during the day when I was here in 2009, I really wanted a chance to look out over London in the dark, when it was all lit up.  It ALMOST wasn’t dark enough by 5, even though the sun set at 4:30.  I dawdled my way through the line as much as I could without making anyone suspicious, though, and gave the sun a chance to set just a little bit more.  By the time my capsule reached the top of the wheel, it was definitely night.  It was SO WORTH IT; before the sun dropped completely away, I felt like I was in that scene from Mary Poppins when they’re on the roof, looking out over the city.  The skyline is just slightly more modern now, of course….and not part of a Hollywood soundstage. :P

I thought nighttime photography was tough when I was standing in one place, but trying to take pictures with slow shutter speed in dim light in a moving object with my shaky hands was even tougher.  The fact that I had nothing to brace myself against didn’t help.  Once again, I found myself wishing for my tripod (which probably wouldn’t have been allowed on the Eye), but I did okay without it:

 

 

The London Eye is one of those expensive, touristy things that I think is worth it.  You’ll save money if you book online ahead of time, and you can buy combo tickets that will get you into other attractions as well.  I also saw something about an option that lets you ride twice in one day: once when it’s light out and once in the dark.  That’s not a bad idea, if you can’t decide which you’d prefer.  I’m not sure I could decide, now that I’ve experienced both; photo opportunities are better during the day, and when the weather is good, you can apparently see as far as Windsor Castle.  There’s just something about London at night, though…I wouldn’t hate going again after dark!

 

After I was done on the Eye, my friends took me to a local pub for dinner.  That was something I had been wanting to do for ages (I also wanted to back in 2009), but I never got around to it.  It was fantastic; the food was great, and the prices were amazing.  The place wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be, given the aforementioned prices and good food.  I’m told that the smoking ban has a lot to do with why some pubs are a bit less populated than they used to be.  That’s a shame, but as a non-smoker….I don’t totally hate it. :)

 

It’s after 2am right now, and even though I’m not particularly sleepy yet, I think it’s time I start winding down.  Tomorrow morning is going to come awfully early, and I’m planning to start for the airport early.  At some point within the next few days, though, I’ll be back to summarize everything. :)

 

Oh, Deer… October 29, 2011

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Today, I went to Richmond Park.  I had two reasons for wanting to go there; the possibility of good fall colors, and the famous herds of deer that live there. My first impression of Richmond Park was that it wasn’t what I expected.  I thought I’d be more or less out in the wilderness (the park is huge), but that wasn’t the case.  There were a TON of people out and about, and there are a few main roads that run right through the place.  That was a little disappointing, but the park itself was really pretty.  It’s also HUGE; I walked around for a few hours and didn’t even come close to seeing it all!

 

As you can see from the photo above, I DID find some fall colors.  They seem to be coming in a bit more, although there’s still plenty of green out there, too.  So, that was item number one off my list…..what about item number two?  There are actually two types of deer that live in Richmond Park: fallow deer (about 350 of them) and red deer (300).  I walked around for ages, and just as I was getting frustrated, I happened upon these guys:

 

 

There was a small group of red deer just hanging out in a meadow, resting in the sunshine.  Most of the males were kind of off to the side, by themselves, but there was one who was smack dab in the center of all the ladies.  Since it’s their rutting season, when the males fight over the females, I think that guy was the winner! :)  I sat and watched them for awhile, and another big male came out of nowhere and very casually approached the group.  The “winner” got up, also very casually, and I was SURE I was going to see a fight.  Nope; the “winner” just walked away, leaving his womenfolk to the newcomer.  Too bad the womenfolk wanted nothing to do with him; it was pretty funny. :)

 

That would have been enough deer encounters for me, but just as I was heading for the exit, I stumbled upon another meadow, and saw these guys:

 

 

Those are fallow deer; they’re smaller than the red deer, and (obviously) they have spots.  There were a few dozen of them, hanging out and grazing.  At least, I thought there were a few dozen.  Then, I noticed a whole bunch more of them hiding in the brush; they all came rushing out to join the others eventually, and there were easily more than a hundred then.  They were definitely more active than the sleepy red deer!  There was also one guy who was definitely the boss; the whole time I was watching the group, he was walking around, bellowing at the other deer.  He reminded me of a drill sergeant trying to get his troops in shape:

 

 

 

I love animals. :)  I was surprised at how close I was able to safely get to the deer.  They were definitely aware of my presence, and the presence of all the other people who were enjoying them, but they didn’t really seem to care what anyone was doing unless we moved around too much.  I always made sure to give them a WIDE berth when I was looking for new camera angles.  I liked being able to get close to the animals, but there’s such a thing as TOO close… :D

 

Care for a walk? October 27, 2011

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Way back at the beginning of my trip, I decided that it might be a good idea to walk from Richmond to Greenwich along the south bank of the Thames.  I don’t know what put that idea into my head; it was either the fact that those were the furthest places I’d been outside of central London at that point or the Tudor connections.  At any rate, I looked up information on the Thames Path online, and realized that Richmond to Greenwich was a 24 mile walk.  That didn’t really deter me; I’m a good walker, and it sounded like a decent day out. :)

 

I made a few false starts on this walk.  There were a few times that I planned to go and I just couldn’t get up early enough.  I also had transportation issues, which eventually led to it being too late for me to get started.  Last Saturday, though, everything fell into place.  I took an actual train over to Richmond, so I wouldn’t have to worry about Tube issues, and I got there at a decent time.  The beginning of this part of the Thames Path is really pretty; there’s the river on one side, and Richmond Park on the other.  I didn’t see any of the park’s famous deer, but I definitely heard them!  Those suckers are loud; I’m going to head to the park this weekend to see if I can get some pictures.  They won’t be closeups, though; those deer have been known to charge people who get too close, and I’d rather avoid the hospital during my last week here. :)

 

The path continues to be very pretty for awhile; lots of trees and pretty fields and nice buildings:

 

The path was also rather crowded with joggers and dog walkers and families.  That’s understandable; it’s a nice place to walk, and the weather was fantastic.  As I got closer to central London, though, the scenery got…less attractive.  The Thames Path runs through some pretty urban areas, and given how much construction is going on, there was an awful lot of industrial stuff to look at.  At least I was a little more alone on those sections of the path. :D

 

I had fully intended to walk all 24 miles in one day, but by the time I got to Westminster Bridge, I had to stop.  Not wanting to ruin the new shoes I’d just bought, I wore my old, falling apart pair.  Not only did they give me blisters and sore spots, but they were practically in pieces.  I don’t think they would have made it the rest of the way to Greenwich.  Plus, even though I walk VERY fast and had made good time from Richmond, my sore feet combined with all the detours that the path took to get around the construction had really slowed down my progress.  I might have continued if I’d had the luxury of time and could have taken the next day off, but time is of the essence.  So, I put off continuing down the path until today.  I went back to Westminster Bridge (my previous stopping point), which meant that I didn’t make quite such good time at the beginning.  That’s because Westminster Bridge is ALWAYS crowded with tourists who don’t seem to have anything to do but block the walkways so people who actually need to get somewhere can’t do so.  The parts of the south bank immediately around the bridge are usually pretty crowded, too; the London Eye is right there, as is the aquarium.  From there, I headed down a section of the river that I’ve walked many times since being here: Westminster to St. Paul’s.  Typically, I then cross the Millennium Bridge so I can get the Tube home from St. Paul’s station, but today (obviously) I kept going.  I passed the Tower of London, which I doubt I’ll get to again before I leave:

Nice that the leaves are finally changing; I may get some decent fall color pictures yet!

 

Once I was past the Tower, the path got very quiet.  There were lots of times that I was totally alone, which was pretty fantastic.  As I’ve said, I don’t hate crowds, but I need my alone time every now and then.  The path DOES still detour through and around some construction and ugly industrial stuff, but it also winds through some quiet, pretty neighborhoods.  It really made it hit home how much of London I still haven’t discovered, even after three months.

 

I was surprised at how quickly I got to Greenwich.  It felt like I’d hardly been walking for any time at all, and I wasn’t tired or sore.  I walked around Greenwich for awhile, remembering how much I liked it when I was there before, and then decided to celebrate the end of my walk with some authentic English fish and chips.  There’s a place in Greenwich called the Great British Fish and Chip Shop, which seemed like a good bet.  The place was clean, the staff was friendly, and the prices were decent.  Not great, mind you, but decent.  I ordered the “regular” size meal, and when I got my food, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I was staring at half a large fish, and the equivalent of about 14 potatoes.  I could have fed two people with very large appetites or three people with normal ones with what was on my plate!  It made me very, very scared about what the large meal option looked like.  The food was actually pretty good, especially considering that I don’t really like seafood all that much.  It was just SO GREASY.  Seriously; the fish was dripping with it, and there were puddles forming underneath.  By the time I got about halfway done, I was so stuffed I could barely think straight.  I didn’t feel particularly good, either.  I was a little nauseous, and I definitely learned the meaning of the phrase “food coma.” I ate at about 3pm, and I just started feeling normal about an hour and a half ago (9pm).  Again, the food itself was fine; I’m just not used to eating such big meals, and I definitely don’t do greasy food.  If you’re used to that kind of thing, and you have someone with you to help you eat the HUGE portions, you won’t have a problem.  Fish and chips is one British tradition that I won’t be trying again anytime soon, though!

 

 

 

Cemeterial Success October 26, 2011

Today I finished visiting all of London’s “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries.  I don’t know if that’s something to be proud of or not; who goes sightseeing in a GRAVEYARD, never mind seven of them????  Still, I had to do it, and I think I can sping my visits into a fairly interesting chapter in my book, once I get around to writing it!

 

This past Sunday, I went to Tower Hamlets Cemetery.  It was pretty nondescript.  It wasn’t artistic or pretty, and it just wasn’t as interesting as some of the others.  That’s all I have to say about that! :P

 

Yesterday, I went to Kensal Green Cemetery and West Brompton Cemetery.  Kensal Green just didn’t sit right with me, for some reason; I just felt icky when I was there.  There are plenty of old monuments and things, but it’s not woodsy at all.   Plus, a good percentage of the place is more modern than historic.  Remember…it’s only the OLD cemeteries I like. :)  Kensal Green did feature this grave, however:

No disrespect to the dead, but I SO wish the husband’s name had been Donald! :P

 

West Brompton was next, as I said.  It’s the most well-laid out of all the Magnificent Seven; it’s shaped like a perfect rectangle, with straight paths running the length and width of it.  Like Kensal Green, it’s not THAT wooded, but it feels a bit older and wilder (it’s actually not older). West Brompton is also the cemetery that feels the most like a park; there were plenty of people out walking themselves and their dogs.  This isn’t surprising; it’s actually a pretty place:

 

I visited the last two cemeteries today.  They were a bit more of a challenge; neither one is accessible by Tube.  That meant taking actual trains that are NOT part of the Underground network.  The good news?  Most rail services that fall within the TFL zones are covered by my Oyster Card.  :) All of the stations that I had to use today were within the first four zones, which are covered by my monthly pass, which means no extra money out of my pocket!  Nunhead Cemetery (south of London) was my first stop.  It’s definitely the most overgrown of the seven, and is now a nature reserve.  The only graves and monuments visible were the ones that lined the paths.  It felt like I was taking a walk in the woods more than a graveyard, which I didn’t hate.  The woods are my favorite natural environment. :)  There was also a ruined chapel in the middle, but unlike the one from Abney Park, it was well kept and therefore did NOT give me the creeps:

The paths were pleaseant and winding, and I basically had the place to myself.  That was due in large part to the fact that it was POURING rain.  I even heard thunder at one point.  So basically…I was wandering around alone in a graveyard during a storm.  The only thing that could have made it more awesome was if it had also been a full moon on Halloween. :D

 

My last and final stop was West Norwood.  The rain had stopped, and the sun had come out, making it a fraction less cold.  This one felt the most modern to me, which is funny because it’s the second oldest.   I think that’s because it seemed to have more modern, lawn-style graves rather than the old-fashioned monuments that I like.  Plus, it’s very well-kept.  There were hardly any overgrown spaces and gravestones that had been swallowed up by nature.

 

I got several reminders during my visits that these places aren’t just there for nice walks and history.  They’re still working cemeteries; Kensal Green, West Brompton, and West Norwood were all playing host to some sort of funeral or memorial service while I was there.  The one at West Brompton was a particularly big deal.   The departed was….ummm…delivered to the site in a carriage drawn by matching black horses.  Now THAT is a classy way to go out! :D

 

Today marks the beginning of my final week in London.  It still looks like I won’t be getting into St. Paul’s; they’re talking about opening it up again by Friday, by the dome will still be closed.  Since that’s a big part of the reason why I wanted to do the tourist thing in there, I think I’ll probably have to skip it.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to sneak in one last service, though; their boys’ choir is the best I’ve heard at ANY evensong service anywhere. :)

 

Shopping until I (almost) drop October 24, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — temporarybrit @ 7:56 PM
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Well, we’re down to the wire.  I’ve only got nine days left (out of my 99 total) before I fly back to Seattle.  That means I really only have 8 days left to enjoy London; I won’t be doing anything on the second other than getting up and going to the airport.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I can’t BELIEVE how fast the time has gone!  I feel like I just got here, and yet it’s already time to leave!  I’ve gotten the bulk of what I needed to get done for school out of the way, so I’ll have most of this next week to enjoy myself and get all those last things checked off of my to do list.

 

Today was my big shopping day on Oxford Street.  I’ve been planning this for ages; even though (as you all know by now) I’m on a budget, I figured I should take advantage of the fact of the reasonably priced stuff that fits me better than most of what I find back home and add a few nicer pieces to my wardrobe.  I also spent only a fraction of the clothes budget I set for myself before I left, leaving a little something to shop with here.  You can find high streets and shopping districts all over London (just about every neighborhood, borough, and outlying town is going to have something), Oxford Street seemed like an idea choice for me.  It has all the stores I’ve grown to like and then some!

 

I rode the Tube to the Marble Arch station; that’s as far down Oxford Street as you can get and still be on Oxford Street.  My plan was to walk up one side of the street and down the other, finishing up back at Marble Arch.  That’s exactly what I did, and as any good travel adventure should be, it was a learning experience.  I learned that Oxford Street is a bit….repetitive.  The street isn’t all THAT long, but a good chunk of the stores have more than one location.  Some even have three (Next and Dorothy Perkins, I’m looking at you).  If that’s not enough for you, just head down Regent Street for more of the same (it crosses Oxford Street at Oxford Circus).  I’ll admit it: I went into multiple locations of the same store. :)  I was afraid that one would have something that the others didn’t and that I’d miss out!  Needless to say….that wasn’t the case. :P  I also learned that I’m NOT an all-day shopper;  I was pretty much done by the time I got finished with one side of the street.  Since I hate not finishing things that I start,  I kept going.

 

I was surprised at how crowded Oxford Street was, considering the fact that it wasn’t even a weekend.  By the time early afternoon rolled around, it was hard to get around at anything resembling a reasonable speed.  Part of it is the fact that schools are on vacation this week, which meant dealing with packs of teenagers in some of the shops who seemed to feel that they were entitled to block aisles, shelves, etc.  It got really annoying trying to work around them.  Does the fact that teenagers annoy me mean that I’m getting old?  If so, I’d better pick out my cane and sign up for AARP.  At any rate, trying to shop at Primark was an experience in and of itself.  I wrote briefly about them in my shopping blog from from awhile back; cheap stuff, big stores, very Old Navy-esque.  Today, though….oh, my lord.  I’ve never seen a store so crowded!  The line to get into the dressing rooms stretched halfway through the store, and the place looked like some sort of natural disaster had just been through.  There were messy piles of shirts and sweaters on display tables, and people had even untied the ribbons from gift sets of pajamas to get a better look at them.  I don’t blame the store; I’ve worked in retail, and I well know what kind of a mess customers can make.  Primark still gets the prize for least pleasant place to shop when it’s crowded, though.  There’s so much to look at in the first place that it’s almost over whelming, and when you have to fight through hordes of people and dig through stacks of unfolded stuff, it just isn’t worth it.

 

So…with all that, did I buy anything?  Did my big shopping result in serious wardrobe additions?  Nope.  I bought a total of one very nice, very sensible, very inexpensive black button down shirt.  I can wear it with anything, which the bargain hunter in me likes very much, and when I add that to the (very small) pile of other things I’ve picked up during my trip, I think my London wardrobe is as big as it’s going to get. :)

 

A Very “Grave” Day in London…. October 21, 2011

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I have a confession to make, and it’s a little bit creepy: I really like old cemeteries.  Don’tworry; I don’t have some weird obsession with death, and I’m not turning goth or anything. :)  I don’t like NEW cemeteries, and recently dead people freak me out big time.  When a cemetery has been around for long enough, though, it stops being creepy.  I love looking at the old tombstones and monuments, and thinking about the history that those people lived through.  Plus, some of the statuary can be really beautiful!

 

London has quite a few old cemeteries, as does England as a whole.  Almost any old church is going to have one.  There’s an informal network of cemeteries in London, though, called the “Magnificant Seven.”  I decided on the spur of the moment to try and visit all of them before I leave.  In fact, I was originally going to try and visit all of them in one day.  Once I started planning out my transportation routes, I realized that this probably wasn’t going to work.  Connections between some of the cemetaries aren’t exactly direct, and there are only so many hours in the day.  So, I decided instead to do three today, and the other four one day next week.  At least, that WAS the plan….

 

Highgate Cemetery is the best known of the Magnificent Seven, and was the only one I was originally planning to visit.  It’s split into two sections: Highgate East and Highgate West.  Highgate West is only accessible through the guided tours which happen once every weekday, and slightly more often on weekends.  They recommend booking by phone a week in advance, and cost 7 pounds.  I didn’t think all that trouble and all that money were particularly worth it, so I stuck with Highgate East.  There’s still a small admission charge to that one (3 pounds), and while I STILL find it odd to pay to visit dead people, I forked over the money and went in.  Highgate didn’t disappoint; lots of pretty, old-fashioned monuments and stonework, and pretty plant life as well. Highgate is also home to some pretty famous residents.  If you’re a Karl Marx fan, you can see him here:

 

 

One thing I’ve noticed in a lot of old cemeteries is that hardly any of the people in them died.  They all “fell asleep” or “went away.”  All, that is, except Patrick Caulfield:

 

 

As I said, my plan was to visit three of the Magnificent Seven today, but I almost didn’t make it to any.  I got off the Tube at Highgate, assuming that there would be signage pointing the way to the cemetery (there usually IS signage pointing to major sights).  There wasn’t, and I hadn’t printed a map ahead of time.  So, I wandered around Highgate for hours, trying to find the place.  There were maps at bus stops, but I kid you not; EVERY SINGLE TIME I would use one of those, there would end up being a huge block of houses where the cemetery was supposed to be.  It was early afternoon before I actually got in.  I normally take snags in my plans in stride, but I don’t really have the luxury of time anymore.  Getting lost for hours isn’t an option!  On the upside, I made a new friend as I was leaving Highgate:

 

 

I had time to squeeze in one more of the Seven, so I headed to Abney Park.  It was a ridiculously long walk from the nearest Tube station; so much so that I probably should have taken the bus.  At any rate, I didn’t, and I found the place without too much trouble.  Abney Park isn’t nearly as well maintained as Highgate.  The paths are clear, and many are paved, but most of the graves are overgrown with ivy, weeds, and trees.  I would be willing to bet that there are more graves that aren’t visible anymore than there are graves which are visible.  It was like taking a walk in the woods more than anything:

 

 

The only time that I got creeped out all day actually happened in Abney Park.  There’s this old, ruined shell of a church on the cemetery grounds, and for some reason, it gave me the heebie jeebies just LOOKING at it.  Here’s a picture of the interior:

 

 

I’m not sure I believe in ghosts, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few hanging out in this place!

 

In other news, I’m not sure how much coverage the protests around St. Paul’s have been getting.  Basically, a bunch of people have set up a tent city in front of the cathedral to protest capitalism or something.  It’s been totally peaceful, and the church has been fine with having them there for over a week.  I’m not politically active, so I have kind of a live and let live attitude towards protests.  Today, though, I found out that they had to close St. Paul’s, for visiting AND for services.  That just makes me angry.  It’s disrespectful enough to choose a place of worship for your activism, but when you keep that place of worship from conducting its daily business, then you’ve gone too far.  It’s true that I’m mostly upset about this because I haven’t had a chance to tour the cathedral yet, and I’ve been looking forward to ending my visit with a climb to the top of the dome.  I’m absolutely mad and disappointed that I won’t be able to do that.  Maybe that makes me just as selfish as the protestors are now being, but I KNOW I’m not the only one who feels this way.  As per a poll in the newspaper today, the majority of their readers no longer have sympathy with the protestors.  The Dean has politely asked them to leave (read the letter from him to the protestors here: http://www.stpauls.co.uk/News-Press/Latest-News/Open-Letter-from-the-Dean-of-St-Pauls-Cathedral  ). That sounds reasonable to me, but the church is already taking flack for being “hypocritical” and asking the protestors to leave.  Ridiculous.  Keep your fingers crossed that they can get the cathedral open again soon.  I don’t think my book about London wold be complete without a chapter on the Cathedral that includes a dome climb!

 

 

 

 

 
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