Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Posh Parliament and Jack the Ripper.

Let's go back in time. June 25th, 2012. 

London can be an odd place. 

(The morning of the 25th, new hostel!!) 

12 am. Time for the hostel. Scary time. Mo and I had been hiding in my room, hoping that our front desk person wouldn't remember that we had signed her in. Granted literally everyone was aware that I had a guest, but maybe he had short-term memory loss. Let's call him "Ten-Second Tom." I pictured hiding Mo in my closet and then somehow explaining that the feet were sewn ON to the dress she was hiding behind, and it was very in style. Alas, at 11:30 pm,  Ten-Second Tom rang and informed us that we would have to leave immediately. Mo and I gathered up our toothbrushes, laced up our sneakers, and map-quested our directions while we still had wi-fi. We couldn't walk to our destination as it was across Hyde Park (bit of a dodgy dangerzone at night) so we were going to attempt to use the bus. Now, this sounds easy to do, but using public transportation is a lot harder then it sounds. Especially when it's dark, you're blond, and thinking for yourself is quote/unquote "difficult."

Note to travelers:  Maps are confusing...
.... and hostels are scary. 

After four men in a car shouted at us and we watched what looked like a drug deal go down, Mo and I NEVER flagged down a bus. We were on the right side of the street, going in the right directions, but never actually made the move into the street to SHOW the bus driver that we wanted to board. Frustrated, we got the attention of a cab that drove us the necessary 10 minutes to Hyde Park Hostel. We overpaid. Classic.

Our beautiful lobby. It reminds me of the St. Regis in Oahu. 

Our night was taking a turn for the worst. First we walked into the wrong hostel, and then we were accosted by a group of foreigners. Granted we were really the foreigners, BUT I DIGRESS.

Mo is thrilled that we get to stay in another hostel. 

Parliament window. How much Windex does
does it take to clean this? #QuestionsfortheQueen
Mo and I got our room assignment and began trekking up the five flights past a mix of languages and smells. As we entered our room, we were pleasantly surprised! Both occupants were asleep and there were four other empty beds! Everything was silent and dark, just the way I like to sleep. We brushed our teeth, settled in to bed and then... The snoring began.

Now, I've been around some people who know how to snore. I once stayed with my friend's family for a volleyball tournament and his father snored so loud I attempted suicide with a curtain and a coat rack. My brother grinds his teeth, my grandfather has Nam-like nightmares during his typical 5 hours of sleep... Trust me, I've seen it all. But nothing, ABSOLUTELY nothing, beats the sounds that were erupting from this girl.

She was Canadian, I know this much from the luggage she had next to her. I was nearly asleep when her Nyquil started to work and her nose completely shut down because it was so stuffed up. OMG. INSANITY. Mind you, I hadn't been sleeping for the past few days, and I already can't sleep with light or noise! As Canadian Girl would start to inhale and sputter/snort out oxygen, my mind slowly started shrinking and I can began muttering aloud to Mo.

Canadian: "nnnnnnhHHAHHHHLKJLKSjlakdfdsfkjsdlfks;fd snore snore snore"
Me: "Jesus fucking Christ if you snore one more time...."
Mo: "Giggle giggle giggle"
Canadian: "SssssnnnoooooooooRRRRRRREEEEEEE" (buildings shake, Earth's tectonic plates shift)

And so it went. On and on. World without end. But eventually I added a leetle "punch" to my cursing extravaganza because IF this girl wasn't going to let Mo and I sleep, then neither was she. We shared a plastic headboard in this lovely hostel because all of our bunks were connected to each other by the frames. So each time homegirl let out another earth-shattering wail, I slammed on the headboard and screamed "STOP SNORINGGGG!" It wasn't completely affective (simply because my victim was in such a deep sleep she had no idea what was going on) but it did shake her awake a few times. Mo continued to giggle while I banged away the rest of my knuckles and my sanity. The other sleeping victim in the room was absolutely miserable, and only made herself known with this statement:

Australian accent: "Hiya could you stop banging?"
Me: "Um only when she shuts the fuck up."

Sweet, I know.

Parliament. Cool stuff. 
The rest of the morning was a complete blur, with Mo and I barely going to sleep before we woke up at 7 am sharp to walk through the park to my actual London accommodations. In sneakers and light clothing, we shivered past the joggers who should be shot for having so much energy in the morning. We slept for another hour or so, and then got ready for a promising day ahead! Class was held in an unusual location today, and we were meeting at PARLIAMENT for a tour! It's usually impossible to get tours there because you have to be sponsored by an MP, but FIE somehow had a contact. Just so we weren't absolutely star-struck if we saw any posh politicians wander by, Professor Ridgers made sure that we knew "Everyone in that building was an idiot" by letting us watch a show called "Thick of It." It's basically like a hilarious UK version of 'West Wing' that uses more profanity than the Marine Corps trapped in a coal mine. You can buy it on iTunes, and I suggest you do that this very second. Forget the blog (but really).


This is the best scene EVER from the BBC show 'Thick of It." My professor 
used this to show us the 'inside' of British politics. This is a fake "Minister" explaining
to a reporter why she can't write a story.  

After our four hours of shut-eye, Mo and I fumbled our way through breakfast and met up with Alexa to begin the trek to Parliament. Using the trusty ole Tube we got off at Embankment and waddled through the swarms of tourists stopping to take the usual photos. Literally every time I walk by, I still make sure to photograph that gorgeous ole' clock. Unfortunately, we couldn't bring friends who weren't a part of the program with us on the tour, so I gave Mo my phone and told her I would call from a classmate's phone when we finished. Alexa and I found a few of our classmates and mingled until it was time to face the iron gates and security guards that awaited us at the entrance. In the midst of getting my photo taken for security, the guard stubbed her toe and I asked if she was okay. This led to the camera freeze-framing in the middle of my asking, and I ended up with THE WORST photo ever taken.

This could actually be the worst photo ever taken.
Meet my cousin, Dylan. 

Alas, after security we had to turn our phones off so we couldn't take any pictures. This was a bit disappointing, because I was super ready to give The Guardian some dirt on what the stationary looked like in there. As soon as I went to turn my phone off, I accidentally dropped it. Without missing a beat, Professor Ridgers looked at me and exclaimed (insert accent) "For God's sake Carly he said turn it off not shatter it!" I burst into a fit of giggles, and my laughter echoed among the ancient halls (not really, but that sounded kinda cool when I wrote it.) Aside from the camera thing, turning off the beloved iPhone also meant that I couldn't take many notes during the tour guide's speech, but I still stole a few facts off Wikipedia that corresponded with the tour.

Facts from Wikipedia: 
  1. Parliament is big. 
  2. Parliament is VAST. (more fun to say in a British accent then 'big') 
  3. Parliament is like the Queen Mother (old as s***). 

Vocabulary you should know when visiting Parliament:
Old, ancient, Queen, the English, Britons, massacre, government, Tally ho!, fox hunt, embroidered, velvet, bar, alcohol, gin and tonic, water lily, corgi

Parliament. The only part we were allowed to take pictures in.
I took random photos just because I could. They're not especially great. 

Alexa and I :)

Look! An ornate ceiling!
Overall, the tour was amazing. We had a really fun tour guide, and it was incredible to see a place with so much history and character. Fun fact, Parliament actually has 4 bars inside it! Who knew? Our class got to see where Winston Churchill had part of Parliament rebuilt after the bombings of WWII, where the Queen goes when she "opens" Parliament once a year, and we got to sit in the House of Lords and House of Commons. During an example for the class, I actually got to stand where the Prime Minister gets to stand when he addresses "his"  government. My dreams for President have been dashed for this prestigious position, and I am hereby renouncing my American citizenship. I'm not saying that I could do better than David Cameron, but let's be honest... Cutting disability benefits at a time like this? ANYONE could do better than that man.

Look at British politics. They can yell at their PM. This is AWESOME. 

After the tour, we were able to take pictures in a large part of the building where the Queen had been given a birthday luncheon the week before. The arches seemed endless, and the stained glass window were so pretty we HAD to take a picture in front of them. Our tour guide told us that when cleaning up the wooden beams of the roof, they found three perfectly preserved tennis balls from the time of Henry VIII! It seems he also enjoyed Wimbledon and Maria Sharapova. Judging by the sounds she makes playing tennis, no doubt he probably would have beheaded her as well.

Once we finished the photoshoot, we headed toward the back gates of Parliament. Before I left, I turned around to grab a few photos from an angle of Big Ben that not many people get to see. We took our photos of Ye Olde Clocke from inside the gates of Parliament, and they ended up being some of the best photos I've ever taken. OH THE CLARITY! Not to brag, but I will be accepting postcard offers for a limited time only.

Mo and I at the end of my tour. I owe all of these photos to
the wonderful iPhone 4S. My compliments
to Siri and Steve Jobs.
When at long last it was time to part with the world's coolest building, the guards showed us where to drop off our passes before we went out into the street with all the ugly commoners again. Well, Queen/all of England, I sure pulled a fast one on you. I walked out of there with my pass, photo, lanyard and all! WHO GON STOP ME HUH?!

MoMoney MoProblems at The Pastry Shop! 
Quiche for everyone. 

The beautiful Alexa and her cheese- covered sandwich.
It. Looks. Amazing. 

After our wonderful tour, I rounded up Mo and Alexa and we made our way to The Pastry Shop that I frequented with all of my visitors. The staff was starting to recognize me, so I knew I was doing something right. We stopped for tea, quiche, amazing grilled cheese sandwiches, and (what else) DELICIOUS pastries. Alexa decided to return back to South Ken while Mo and I made our way down the river for a photo shoot and some shopping. We attempted to see the Damien Hirst exhibit at the Tate Modern, but they had moved it THE DAY BEFORE. So disappointing. I really wish they would consult me before they made such rash decisions.

Walking the Thames. 

Children's multi-colored sand pit!! 

After walking down the rest of the river Thames we took the tube to Oxford Circus to find souvenirs for Mo's family. A few fun Olympic t-shirts and shot glasses later, it was time to return home to get ready for our Jack the Ripper tour with Professor Ridgers.

In front of the Tate Modern. 

A man in drag playing a piano on a crowded sidewalk. Casual. 

Crazy patriots parked on Oxford Circus.

Rings on a jacket in Kensington for the Olympics!

The tube ride to get to the tour was absolutely ridiculous. We were all exhausted and it was dreary as usual outside. Professor Ridgers cheered us up by saying absolutely hilarious "facts" such as:

  • (When meeting Mo for the first time) "Oh my god, you're friends with Carly? She's an absolutely terrible human being. Horrible, we can't even stand her. HAHAH just kidding, but really... She's miserable." (This did wonders for my self-confidence). 
  • (At the start of the tour) "So here's my theory.. Harry Potter was Jack the Ripper." 
  • (On the street where they filmed Harry Potter) "Try not to think Diagon Alley. Try to think abused corpses." 
  • "Everyone, this was a place for blow jobs. Trust me, this was not on Google Maps." 
  • "Oh look, here is a new building! There were not many car parks in the Victorian Era." 

Diagon Alley from Harry Potter! 

The tour itself was quirky and frazzled, a bit like my professor. I was on my way to a sinus infection (thanks London Fog) so it's safe to say that I don't remember that much. My professor and I did share a quick moment when we announced a funny joke to the class to start off the tour:

        (British accent) "Well class this is something Carly and I thought of so here goes. 'This is the corner where I used to work before I lost my hair.' HAHAHAHA classic bald joke. Moving on. This way! Hurry! We've got Indian food to eat!" 

We saw a few more bars the prosititues used to haunt, our professor shared some intimate details about their death, and then it was time to do what I do best. No, not kill women of the night. EAT, ladies and gents!

Someone was killed here, blah blah blah. 

Despite the ringing in my ears, a stuffed nose, and a completely dull set of senses, I was still excited for Indian food. For the LIFE of me I wish I knew what this restaurant was called, but I'm fairly sure you need Harry Potter magic to discover it if you're not a local. We walked past rows of businesses with Indian men shouting great deals at us, and did my best not to respond to all of them. Our fearless leader Professor Ridgers walked by them unfazed, eyes on the prize.

The class eventually found the restaurant and settled in, ordering Tiger beer and nan while our professor offered countless menu suggestions. The best deal was splitting a five-course meal, but Mo and I wanted to explore other dishes rather than take the set course. Being from an island (Hilton Head) and now living on another island (Britain y'all) I gravitated toward the seafood option. I enjoyed quite possibly most authentic, delicious Indian food I have ever eaten. Granted I have no idea what it's called BUT I would recommend it to anyone.

Name this dish. I'm in love with it. 

My dish was basically a prawn soup with mild spices, perfect for my delicate (weak) palate. I'm not exaggerating when I say I would gladly bathe/swim in that soup for the rest of my life. Indian anyone?

When I wasn't focused on my food I took the time to fall even more in love with my professor. Everyone was obsessed with the 'Thick of It' and were asking for more TV recommendations. I chimed in that my favorite BBC America show that I used to watch was called 'Young Ones.' My professor's eyes widened to the size of my soup bowl and he let out a child-like squeal. "THAT'S MY FAVORITE SHOW! OHMYGOD how did you know that? WE ARE SOUL-MATES!' I couldn't agree more.

Cool street art on Baker Street. 

After eating more than any human should and listening to more stories from Professor Ridgers, our class decided to call it a night. We all had work in the morning, and the weather wasn't getting any better. Nearly everyone fell asleep on the 40-minute tube right back to Gloucester. While others were talking about how they couldn't wait to drop dead in their dorm bed, Mo and I had a wave of fear wash over us.

We had. To go back. To the hostel.

Chances we would be murdered in our sleep for my obnoxious antics? 100%. Fortunately, I'd had a wonderful 'last supper.' Jesus take the wheel.


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Touched by an angel... (Arch Angel that is)

After Mo and I survived the night, I
couldn't even take a picture correctly. It
was that traumatic. 

Ah, the wee hours of Monday morning. "Homelessness" is not something I thought I would encounter in London, but here Mo and I were checking into our shelter for the night, the Astor Park Hostel. Okay, so it's not exactly like being homeless and it was only across the street from my posh digs, but it was still a struggle. And people, the struggle is real. Read on. 

This was our hostel. Okay, so it's kind of gorgeous.
I tend to exaggerate things. 

After showering and brushing our teeth at my place, we then changed into our PJ's, and headed across the street. When we got to the front desk, Mo and I presented our passports as proof that we were indeed "aliens," and then handed over the cash. I imagine this is is how drug deals go down. The two men at the front desk directed us to the fifth floor, and Mo and I immediately turned to each other and groaned. Stairs are a volleyball player's nightmare *old bodies*

The inside of our hostel. You can see the monstrous
stairs to the left. Five flights people. 

As we wearily crawled upstairs, Mo and I entered a room seemingly asleep and very quiet for the five other people sleeping there. I climbed atop a bunk, and Mo took the bed situated in the middle of the floor (it was kind of an awkward setting). Aside from a bit of noise outside, my only concern was the tea I had earlier and how I was going to make several bathroom trips from seven feet above the ground.

After my fourth and final trip to the loo, I was just getting to sleep when it happened. The loudest, most obnoxious French people in the entire world walked through the door.

Not all French people look like this. I'd say 50/50. 

There were three of them, two girls and a lone guy obviously with one of the girls. This wasn't a mixed hostel room, so I was a bit angry that a male was in the room (and not trying to hit on me). Also it was 1:46 in the morning and I was almost asleep when they barged in, turning on all of the lights. I cannot sleep with light or noise. So I decided to wake everyone up by *lightly* shouting at them "UMMMM hi, could you turn off the fucking light? Thanks!" Nothing better than being passive aggressive when you can't sleep. The French people muttered something, turned off the light, and then kept talking. AW HELL NO. NOT IN MY HOSTEL. 

Sooo yeah. I'm kind of partial to America. 

I attempted to keep my anger in check, but there's a special feeling that comes over you when you're exhausted, want to sleep, and French people are initiating sexual intercourse in the bed to the left of you. I was so angry I think I literally could have strangled them with my bare hands and then taken on Jason Bourne and won. But I wouldn't do that because Matt Damon is hot, an Obama supporter, and current father of three. And besides, other people would miss him, like his wife. 

Instead of committing a few felonies, after about ten minutes of this nonesense I angrily climbed out of my top bunk (hard to do while looking stern), stepped on my bottom bunk person (she yelped, I apologized) and slammed the door shut. I then realized that leaving Mo alone was not an option, so I went back into the room to wake her up. The French people were finally silent, probably because as I stood over Mo's bed to wake her up I may or may not have looked like an ax murderer. I calmly informed Mo that I was unable to sleep and would walk across the street at 7 am to pick her up. Yes, it was an incredibly selfish thing to leave her alone, but it is difficult to pull multiple all-nighters in a row and appear awake in class. I made the guy from the front desk walk me home, because you never know when someone's going to jump out of a Bentley in Kensington and try to kill you. Better safe than sorry!

Five short hours later, I was back at the hostel and met Mo on the steps. She told me that after I left, the French girls (who knows what happened to that guy) started having panic attacks and stood trying to breathe out of the window near her. A fire alarm then went off, and Mo may or may not have slept an hour. We would not be staying there again tonight. ANYTHING would be better than that. 

Lunch! I got a full English breakfast. DELICIOUS!
After a filling lunch on Gloucester Road, I had to leave Mo and go to "class" for a few hours. We made plans to meet at 5:00 pm in Camden, where she would go shopping while I laughed my butt off listening to my favorite Professor, Professor Ridgers. And today- he certainly didn't disappoint.

I love this man. 

Professor: (Power walking in fifteen minutes late as usual) "Oh hello class! Sorry I'm late! I've decided we should do a picnic. Of course, no picnic is complete without alcohol or nibbly bits. I'm not rich, so you buy the alcohol and I shall buy the nibbly bits. I will purchase nibbly bits, you shall purchase nibbly bits if you should want. Ten minutes, nibbly bits, break!" 

Never in my life have I heard someone say "nibbly bits" so many times, or so seriously. It was almost like when at the Jubilee Prince Charles said, "Three cheers for the Queen. Hip hip, HOORAY!!...." The British are the most fantastic, fascinating people. 

PICNIC TIME. Professor opening up the cups for wine.
We're a very classy class. 

We all bought "nibbly bits" and found a nice spot in the park. We discussed our trip to Parliament tomorrow, all while munching on British specialities. Here are the rest of my Professor's golden quotes, just remember to read them aloud in a fake British accent in your head! ACCENTS MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER!  
  • (Regarding our trip to Parliament) "Remember class, you can't take high explosives with you.. I know, they're discriminating against some of us!" 
  • "Samosas are beautiful Indian things. Here I'll show you what's inside of them." (Proceeds to take a bite and show us the inside)
  • (Offering his food to everyone) "Disgusting sausage?" (Takes a bite) "My god that's why they were discounted!"  
  • (Talking about how the sausage tastes) "I've been eating them my whole life, and look at me! HAHAH. But really, cordon bleu levels." 
  • "These are disgusting, but beautiful. Okay to say about food, but not about people. Would shy away from them." 
  • (Talking about a politician in Parliament) "The trouble is... He's a complete wanker." 
  • "Do you all mind if I eat this last samosa? You speak, I eat." 
  • "Parliament. An interesting place historically with a LOT of boring people." 
  • (Staring at his phone) "Oh I just tweeted that incorrectly." 
  • "Okay, that's it. Let's talk serial killers!" 
  • "Great class everyone, see you tomorrow! Bring your floo powder we're seeing DIAGON ALLEY!" 
Wine, grapes, and chocolate. HOLLA AT ME. 

Even though I ate some nibbly bits that were a bit disgusting (hardboiled egg, wrapped in chicken and then fried) I may have gotten my abs back from laughing so hard. It's embarrassing how hard I crush on him. 

Once I got my act together, I met Mo in Camden and we did a little more shopping. We were both running on empty from not sleeping, but we decided we'll sleep when we're dead. After all, I organized Mo's "Welcome to London" party for that night, so we had to muster up some energy to eat great food! 

Took this shot on my ride to Camden. I see you
stylin' with the black nails man! 

Off to Hogwarts!

We decided to head home after doing some damage at Camden Street's H&M (go there) but then I actually got us on the wrong branch of the Circle line. No problem, we stopped to take a picture at Platform 9 3/4 and then continued on our way. Walking home, we went down a few new streets and just observed a culture so similar, yet so different than hours. I'm still baffled these people don't wear sweatpants more often. 

Beautiful South Ken. 

Around 7 pm, Alexa, Theresa, Eric, Laran, Tyler and Mo and I all met downstairs and walked up High Street Ken to "Arch Angel." I'd been out there once for drinks, but heard they had AMAZING burgers so we decided to go there for dinner. The food and drinks were great, but our waiter was not that nice. He did eventually become friendlier when we stopped asking for unnecessary things, like "water" and "silverware." We all had a great time talking, and decided to move the party to my new favorite place, MED KITCHEN. 

Laran with his Stella Artois "Cidre." 

 Tyler, Eric, and Mo! Elon '13 and '14 :)

Found a cat that looks just like my cat. Pictures ensued. 

Looks like Sitka! Rawrrrr

Tyler had the right idea with dessert.
We're all alcoholics now.
Ah Med Kitchen, so calm- so delicious. Mo and I were starting to panic about our sleeping arrangements for that night, as we had booked yet another hostel. This one was across the park, and called "Hyde Park Hostel." The originality in the name was astounding. As we both mentally prepared ourselves for yet another night away from the posh digs, everyone divulged in decadent chocolate brownies covered in ice cream or carmel apple crumble. Tyler definitely outdid us all by getting the ice cream dessert that came with a shot. Mo and I should have taken the shot, because we were NOT prepared for the hostel situation we were about to encounter. It made sleeping in the room with the French couple actually more appealing. Let's just say we missed a few buses at midnight, encountered a possible drug deal, and got cat-called by the men waiting outside our digs. The evening literally only got worse from there. WHY GOD WHY?!