Temporary Brit

My three months of adventures in London!

Kew July 31, 2011

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I got off to kind of a late start this morning; I didn’t even wake up until 10am (ooops).  It also took me ages to get myself organized to actually leave the house and go anywhere, so it seemed like a good day to take it easy.  I headed southwest to Kew Gardens, which took about an hour and fifteen minutes by Tube.  I DEFINITELY wasn’t the only one who had that idea.  When I made to the  entrance, the line was out the gate and halfway down the block.  I ended up waiting in that line for about fifteen minutes, but after I got in, the place didn’t feel nearly as crowded as I thought it would be.  In fact, there were times when I found myself totally alone…it was very peaceful. 🙂

So…what should you know about Kew Gardens?  First off…the place is HUGE.  I walked around for hours and I’m pretty sure there are parts of it that I missed.  Since the greenhouses closed before the rest of the park, I tried to hit those first.  Too bad they weren’t all in the same area; that might have saved me a bit of walking.  Oh well…the grounds were pretty, too. 🙂  Here are a few of the things I saw:

These next few are from the water lily house.  That was probably my favorite of all the greenhouses, even though it was one of the smaller ones.  Maybe I liked it because it was so photogenic? 🙂

Here’s Queen Charlotte’s Cottage; it’s located within Kew Gardens.  I didn’t get to go inside, unfortunately; it was closed up tight.

Before I left home, I bought a membership to Historic Royal Palaces.  The card they sent me gives me unlimited access for a year to five different properties.  Kew Palace is one of them.  It was home to King George III and Queen Charlotte, along with some of their fifteen (yes, fifteen) children.  It’s where the Queen died in 1818, and where King George was kept during his supposed “madness.”  I liked it; Kew is small (very small) as palaces go, but it feels liveable.  Plus, the guides were very nice, helpful, and enthusiastic. 🙂  Here’s the Palace:

The town of Kew was awfully nice, too.  Very pretty houses, lots of cute shops.  I think I’ll live there instead of Kensington and Chelsea, if I become a extremely wealthy (“I wanna be a billionaire so freakin’ bad…..” 😛 ).

Overall, I’m really settling into things here.  I didn’t even have to use a map to get to and from the house and the Tube today.  For someone who was born without a sense of direction, that’s a big accomplishment! 🙂  I feel like I’ve been here longer than three and a half days, and I’m already starting to worry that my time here is going to go WAY too fast.  If anyone knows how I can slow things down, let me know!

 

Museums and Monuments July 28, 2011

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The one thing I most regretted not seeing when I was in London in 2009 was the Victoria and Albert Museum.  I didn’t have time to fit in everything,  and since I had taken geology right before my trip, I thought the Natural History Museum might be a bit more interesting.  Don’t get me wrong: some parts of it were very cool (the gemstone exhibit in particular was AMAZING).  Still…I DID end up wishing I’d gone to the V and A instead.  Today, that mistake was rectified.:)

First, a little background.  The V and A is a “decorative arts” museum.  That means lots of statues, furniture, some paintings, some articles of clothing, jewelry, and religious objects.  The museum features collections of all those things from around the world, with the main focuses being on Europe and Asia.  Also?  This place is HUGE.  I don’t think I saw everything today, so a return trip will definitely be in order at some point before I go home.  Of the things I DID see, however, my favorite collections were the medieval and renaissance Europe ones, and the one section of the cast courts that was NOT under construction.  The cast courts feature copies of famous statues, art, objects, and architecture from places outside of England; I guess that probably made it easy for people who didn’t want to travel, before travel was easy(ish).  No one actually had to go to Italy, for instance, to see the famous statue of David.  I wish BOTH sections of the cast courts had been open; I peeked into the other one (it’s visible from the floor above) and that looked just as cool as the one I did get to see.  I also loved the priests’ robes; some of them were hundreds of years old, and they;re in amazing condition.  Here are a few pictures from the museum:

There was some INCREDIBLE stained glass in the V and A; this is just one example.

 

The lighting on some of these statues was FANTASTIC....

 

This is part of a larger sculpture, but I thought this part was especially cool.

 

There are lots of faux versions of effigies(statues of dead people that decorated their tombs) in the cast courts. This one is either Isabelle of Angouleme or Eleanor of Acquitaine.

After the museum, I went to Hyde Park and found a nice tree to sit under while I ate my lunch.  That tree happened to be very close to the Albert Memorial, and across the street from the Royal Albert Hall.  The Memorial was bigger than I thought it would be from seeing it on tv, and it was incredibly detailed.  I guess the Royal Albert Hall is a memorial of sorts, too.  Clearly, Queen Victoria was rather fond of her husband. 🙂 Here’s a few more shots:

The Albert Memorial from a distance. Photos don't do it justice, though; you really have to see it up close to get the full effect.

The Royal Albert Hall...lots of concerts happen here.

After all that, I walked around Chelsea and Kensington for HOURS.  No pictures, since what I saw mostly consisted of people’s houses.  On the upside, I’ve now found where I plan to live, should I ever become a millionaire several times over. 😛  Last but not least: I DO have more pictures from today (and from the plane ride), and I’ll be doing full albums on Facebook later on.  For those of you who aren’t on Facebook….ummm….I’ll figure out something.  🙂

 

 

“Got a plane ticket booked, got my bags at the door….” July 25, 2011

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And so it begins!

 

After months of planning and waiting, my London adventure is almost here.  Tomorrow evening, I’ll be flying to the UK and I won’t be coming back until the beginning of November.  That’s a total of three months and about five and a half days overseas, if you’re keeping track. 😛  I’m DEFINITELY looking forward to it….but ‘d be lying if I said I haven’t had a few moments when I’ve wondered what the heck I’m doing! I guess that’s pretty natural when it comes to big decisions and changes.

 

So…how did a trip of this magnitude come about?  It’s pretty simple: way back in late winter, I was feeling pretty discouraged. I’ve been out of work since August of 2009, and NOTHING was happening in the job department.  I thought ahead to this month, when I would have to start living off my savings.  That got me thinking: did I really need to stay in Seattle to do that?  I hadn’t been all that happy here, and I can’t honestly say that I LIKE Seattle that much.  A change of scenery was awfully appealing, and London was really the only place I considered.  I went for a week two years ago, and I think I’ve been a little homesick for it ever since.  I had thought and prayed about going back many times, but something always felt WRONG about the previous plans I made.  This time was different; to my surprise, it felt very, very right, and things just started to fall into place.

 

This blog is how I’ll keep everyone updated on all my adventures, such as they are.  I can’t promise that I’ll write every day.  In fact, I can pretty much promise you that I WON’T.  I’m not going to London JUST to be a tourist; I’m going to try and live as normally as I can for the time that I’m there.  That means that there will be some days when I won’t really have anything interesting to write.  I don’t think you guys want to read about me going grocery shopping and doing my laundry, do you?  I didn’t think so. 🙂  Plus, I’ll be busy once fall semester starts.  I’m still taking my WSU classes online, and I’ll actually be starting my very last semester about a month from now.  I DO promise to write fairly regularly, though.  You can count on that!