Thursday, July 19, 2012

London, etc.

Wow. So how is it that I was so good at blogging during the travel portion, when we were constantly busy every single day? And now when I get to Oxford, where I have only three hours of class a day, I've become the world's worst blogger?

Well, the classes I'm taking now are definitely harder than the music and art ones I took during the travel portion (actually, only Statics is challenging; the ethics class is just a lot of reading). So some of my time is taken up during that. Of course, life in Oxford is not as "exciting" as the travel portion was, where every day was a new adventure. But the funny part is that I love this part of the trip even more. I feel like a real Oxford student, and the campus is truly lovely. When I get a chance on a sunny day (which are few and far between here), I'm going to go on a photo walk, because the grounds and gardens here are so beautiful, so idyllic, that I had to pinch myself when I first arrived and realized I'd be studying here for the next few weeks.

Of course, that was almost four weeks ago. So what have I been doing since then? This...
The London Eye by night - this was our view where we stayed.

A trip to London the first weekend, where preparations for the Olympics (now only a week away) were in full swing! I don't remember very much about the '96 Olympics in Atlanta, but the craze and fervor here for the Games is pretty infectious! They have a huge Olympic countdown clock in Trafalgar Square.
Around London
The Tower Bridge adorned for the Olympic Games

Of course, we saw the obligatory sights in London, from Big Ben to Buckingham Palace to the Parliament to Westminster Abbey to the London Eye. And much of this was done in the rain, because England is apparently in the midst of one of the wettest summers on record. (I still can't decide whether the 50-60 degree temperatures and rain are worse than the scorching heat back home.)
Around London (pardon the raindrops)
 Big Ben (pardon the raindrops)
 Around London
 The London Eye by daylight (sort of) (oh hey, Big Ben!)

But eventually it brightened up, and so did my view of London as a city. I really fell in love with the city, even though I was only there for two days. It helps that everyone speaks English, but it felt very much like New York City, only more sophisticated (probably because of the British accents).
Around London
In Trafalgar Square after the sun came out.
 Kensington Palace Gardens
The Kensington Palace Gardens

On Saturday we went to a production of Phantom of the Opera. It was amazing! I had never seen the movie and didn't know very much about the story, so the first thirty minutes were a bit confusing, but after that it was incredible. It was such a fun experience, and I think our seats were some of the best I've ever had at a production like this.
Phantom of the Opera stage before the first act started.

But without a doubt the two highlights of the short trip were exploring the food markets at Harrod's and making the pilgrimage to King's Cross to see Platform 9 3/4.

The former was sensory overload. We didn't spend too long at Harrod's, but once I found the food markets on the ground floor I had no desire to wander elsewhere. I was in foodie heaven - from the pastries to the breads to the incredible marzipan displays (be still my heart!).
Gorgeous flower displays at Harrod's (top); marzipan madness, or my personal foodie heaven (middle); 
fancy schmancy pastries at the Harrod's patisserie (bottom)

Seeing Platform 9 3/4 was another nerdy highlight. There was actually a huge line of people waiting to take their picture when we got there, and it seemed to have formed organically (Harry Potter fans really are the best). But the line moved quickly and before I knew it I was off to Hogwarts, although I couldn't stay for long.
Platform 9 3/4
Off to Hogwarts, brb!

The great part about being in Oxford is that it's so close to London. The bus ride there is less than two hours, so it's an easy day or afternoon trip to make. I'm going to return next weekend for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics (did you know Danny Boyle is directing them?). Something tells me the city will be a bit crazier than it was a few weeks ago though.

Next up: Edinburgh, Oxford explorations, and Barcelona (where I'm leaving for tonight!).