Today I begin my journey back home to the sunny shores of HB, with a brief stop in Boston.  I’m elated to finally re-unite with family and friends for the holiday season.  Cheap food, sunshine, comfy bed, my car, my dog, NBA games… they all beckon me home.  However, parting ways with London for the next month has me reflecting and realizing what I’m going to miss about this city.  Since I like lists, here is a list of the top 10 things (in no particular order) I’m going to miss about London.

1. Borough Market; fresh, locally grown foods, delicious cheeses and breads.  I’m pretty fortunate to have this gem tucked away right around the corner.  Saturday Borough runs never disappoint.

2. Pubs; the intimacy and charm of local pubs really can’t be matched by bars back home.  Cheery accents, laughter, and pints shape the social culture of drinking here.

3. Travel; okay, so I didn’t do THAT much traveling this term (Scotland, Amsterdam).  But the opportunity was always there and London’s accessibility to hot destinations is something I’ll miss.  Spring break traveling is going to be amazing.

4. The Tube; I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with public transportation.  New York had me swearing off the subways for life, but once I mastered the Tube I never looked back.  It’s convenient, stress-free, and cheap.

5. The Christmas Spirit; from the Christmas songs played in all the department stores, to a stampede of hundreds of people dressed up as Santa, to decking out Hyde Park in decorations to transform it into a Winter Wonderland, to the ice skating venues sprawled across the city… London does Christmas justice.

6. Indian food; I was never the biggest fan of Indian food growing up.  My reasoning was always rooted in the aesthetics.  Looks are deceiving.  Yesterday I made a highly anticipated trip to Brick Lane.  Curry bliss.  I’ll miss soaking up that spicy, savory concoction with hand-torn pieces of warm naan.

7. “Cheers!’; it means a lot of things here but to me it means that I’m definitely in London.

8.  Peroni; this lager was my first beer here.  It’s still one of my favorites.

9.  Master Superfish; you walk into this local favorite and you can see/smell the authenticity of their fish n’ chips.  Something about a  whole cod fish battered and deep fried, served with a piping hot plate of chips, warms my soul.  My favorite fish n’ chips.  I won’t miss the heartburn though.

10.  Jaywalking; there is nothing like being a complete BA and crossing the street, narrowly missing speeding double decker buses, while you leave those pansies clutching the crosswalk button in the dust.  It’s a way of asserting yourself as a true Londoner, and it’s a good rush.

So those are the ten I came up with.  I’ll probably make one more post on here before I return to London.  So, I’ll see you all in 2011.  By the way, I recently surpassed 1000 views.  Thanks for reading, I’ll be doing mass posting of pictures soon.

-J

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”   – Henry Miller

The past three weeks have been quite a ride.  It is difficult to even begin compacting this time into words.  I can honestly see now how time spent abroad, time traveling, can seem so abstract and displaced from the routine that you question its realness.  Photos do a pretty good job in keeping me grounded, giving a tangible sense to the places I’ve been or the experiences I’ve had.  But the things that have driven my time here can’t be captured by a camera lens; sounds, tastes, emotions.

November 5th in London is Guy Fawkes Night… basically a celebration over King James eluding a gunpowder plot schemed to assassinate him (thanks Wikipedia).  For all intents and purposes, its Britain’s version of July 4th.  All the parks put on fireworks displays and various celebrations and festivals take place all over the city.  The fireworks were nice… but not amazing.  All the shows I watched had no big grand finale, no dramatic build-up… just a “thank you for coming”.  Left me wanting more.  I think July 4th kicks Guy Fawkes Night’s ass.  But still a blast.

Battersea Park Fireworks

A few weeks ago I had the chance to finally hit the club scene here in London.  Ministry of Sound is a world-renowned nightclub and this particular night featured DJ Dash Berlin.  The club atmosphere here is pretty amazing.  The music is so electric… everyone develops this connection with the rhythm, beat, and movement.  And it isn’t a grind fest.  It’s a powerful vibe.  Hands down, one of the funnest nights I’ve had in London so far.

autographed dash berlin card

To round out the past three weeks I took a trip last weekend to Amsterdam and Bruges.  Per usual I procrastinated and ended up knocking out an essay and packing a few hours before our bus left Friday morning.  And yeah, I said bus.  We traveled the 200+ miles to Amsterdam, Netherlands almost completely by bus (minus the ferry we took from Dover to Calais).  The journey there took 11 exhausting hours.  When we finally arrived at our comfy hotel I was ready to hit the bed.  So I knocked out and slept the night away.  Okay seriously, no way in hell I was sleeping… Amsterdam is a city of nightlife!  We checked in at our room and then hit the streets of Amsterdam.

There are a few things that characterize the city of Amsterdam (some you may know of):

Amsterdam is below sea level and the numerous canals are testament to this, it is a city of canals

Bicycles are a big deal.  They have their own traffic lane.

Prayers should take place right before crossing a street (there are two lanes of traffic for cars, two lanes of bicycles, and a tram lane)

Prostitution stares you right in the face (literally)

Cannabis.  You can smell it in the air.

Amsterdam at night is one of a kind.  Neon lights illuminate the intimate corridors of its streets while enamored individuals emerge from smoky shops.  The atmosphere, while shocking, doesn’t reflect at all a city tainted with sex or drugs.  Everyone remains seemingly relaxed and once you begin walking the beat of the city it seems like a dream.  The lights, the sounds, the smells… those are the pieces of Amsterdam I remember (but then, maybe that is because I was slightly enamored myself).  My dinner that night was amazing.  Cheese fondue and spare ribs.  The cheese fondue was smooth and rich with a garlic subtlety that teased my tongue (yeah, that’s right.. teased).  It was good.  I think I’ve dreamt about that fondue a few times since.  After a quick stroll we retired to the hotel; full, cheesy, and happy.

4 forms of alarms greeted me in the morning.  A light breakfast, a lovely brownie, and a bus ride later brought me to the Dutch countryside where we stopped at a little quaint cheese farm/ clog maker.

That "Entree" sign made me hungry

Clogs

a conversation piece

a conversation piece

After a lesson in making clogs (what appear to be the most uncomfortable shoes) and a cheese tasting we were shuttled off to the fishing town of Vollendam.  Vollendam (from what I can recall in my enamored state) is a charming town removed from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam.

After some fried cod we took the shuttle back to Amsterdam where the rest of the day was for our leisure.  To be honesty, I can’t recall most of the ensuing 9 hours of time because of a lack of pictures.  But I do remember visiting the Van Gogh museum and being blown away by the art.  I’ve seen my fair share of “art” in the past few months, but for one reason or another Van Gogh’s work spoke to me.

The next morning marked the return journey home with a short stop in Bruges, Belgium.  Precisely put, I liked Bruges.  It’s hard to go wrong when you serve up awesome mussels and waffles with Belgian chocolate.  I can’t really elaborate on the Belgian waffles because then I’ll want one.  Seriously, that good.  We almost left without trying one but risked being left behind to grab one.  The sprint to catch up with our group, one hand pumping, the other clutching that warm waffle drizzled in chocolate, was nothing short of glorious. Just look at those little waffle jacuzzis of chocolate.  And I’m so winded from the sprint I can’t even hold the camera steady.  I love you waffle.  You sexy thing.

Mussels in white wine; simple, fresh, delicious

Amsterdam/Bruges was another amazing trip.  Full of delicious food, great sights, fun experiences, and good company.  Next up: Paris.

I was also fortunate enough to watch a night session at the ATP Barclays World Tour Final at the O2 Arena here in London.  The stadium’s lighting was incredible.  The featured matches and results:

[6] M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) d [1] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) 26 76(4) 10-8

[4] R Soderling (SWE) d [7] D Ferrer (ESP) 75 75

Soderling has a beast serve.

So that wraps up the last several weeks here.  It’s been fun.  I’ve eaten at some great restaurants here.  And I also gambled for the first time at a casino here.  Playing hold em’ with your hard-earned money is a rattling experience.  It was awesome though.

 

I can’t really express how much I’ve grown as a person here.  New environments force you to alter your perspective, compel you to question and reassess even the most basic of values that grounded you before.  Thanks London.  Oh and I’m home-bound in two weeks!  Can’t wait for some warm weather, cheap food, familiar faces, family, and my 21st.

J

Train to Edinburgh

This past last last weekend I took a 5 hour train ride to visit the rolling hills  of Scotland.  Scotland was both everything and nothing like I expected it to be.  It’s beauty is truly anchored in its rich history of tyranny, struggle, and defiance.  It really took only a few hours on a bus to realize that the stunning scenery of Scotland was something worth fighting for.

The trip started off with my alarm waking me up at 6am.  I hate it when you feel like you just closed your eyes and then your alarm goes off.  A group of us made our way to King’s Cross Station where we attempted to buy a small bottle of vodka at 7:30 in the morning (yeah, didn’t happen… apparently 8am is the acceptable time to start making your alcohol purchases).  The train ride to Edinburgh (pronounced Edinbraaa) is about 5 hours.  It was essentially my first real “train ride”.  I definitely like trains way more than airplanes.  More space, plusher seats, more amenities, and better sights.  The English countryside is so drastically different then the suburbs of Boston or Los Angeles; the colors, the architecture, the layout.  The sudden display of nature on the train ride reminded me that I had been stuck within the confines of a city for the past month.

Stepping off the rain at Edinburgh I was greeted by a sharp chill and the medieval, Reformation-era architecture.  The best adjectives I can think of to describe the buildings of Edinburgh are sharp, intricate, and cold.  The layout of the city is quite amazing.  All the buildings are situated around the castle and all the streets are stone-paved, with all the stones uneven, loose, damp, and mossy.  Our guide led us on a light walk through the “old town” of Edinburgh on what is called “The Royal Mile”, all the while sharing Edinburgh’s intriguing history.

Old Town, Edinburgh

After the short walk, we took a stroll to the most famous cafe in Edinburgh… The Elephant House.  Most famous for being the cafe of choice for writer J. K. Rowling who apparently had many a cup of tea/coffee at this shop while writing a few books, staring out at her inspiration for Hogwarts; Edinburgh Castle.

The Elephant House, excellent place to write apparently

After this stroll we made our way back to the hostel to get our rooms.  That night I enjoyed a couple drinks, dinner, and a walk back to the hostel in pouring rain.

The next morning we woke up bright and early to take a lengthy bus ride to explore Stirling Castle.  Stirling Castle is perched high on a hill with an amazing vantage of the entire city of Stirling.  It was a really clear day.

Stirling Castle

View from the castle

Looking down the barrel of a cannon

Apparently the castle was a very significant point of defense, guarding the crossing of the River Forth, and survived 8 sieges in its history.

After the castle we huddled back into the bus, took a pit stop to see some important hairy coos (highland cows), and then made our way to Loch Ness.  I’m going to spoil it for you now… no I didn’t see Nessie.  :[  In fact I barely saw a ripple in the water.

Loch Ness

After visiting the Loch we made our way to the city of Inverness where we checked into our hostel and settled in.  We grabbed some Italian and then hit the bar.  We eventually made our way to the prime spot in Inverness, Hootananny’s.  It was a pretty hip place to drink and listen to some traditional Scottish music.  It was a fun night.

The next morning we began our drive back to Edinburgh making a stop at a battlefield and a stream/waterfall.

stream/waterfall

Scotland was an amazing trip.  And hopefully the first of many to come.  Next up: Amsterdam.

*This is my first post in a really long time and I’m going to try to post more frequently because I have left out so much stuff I’ve done simply because I can’t recall everything…

Some notable things:

I’ve had some amazing food.  Namely the cheese, bread, and fresh juice I got from Borough market one day with Emily.  Amazing idea.

Fresh cheese, tomato/basil bread, and apple raspberry juice. NOM NOM

I also got to watch the NBA opener at a really cool sports club/bar.  And in the American tradition got drunk.  And peed on the National Gallery Museum.  Sorry Mom & Dad!  The beer was just too cheap and I really had to go.

Again, sorry about the infrequency of my posts.  I’ll be posting all my pictures within the next few days.

Cheers!

J

 

Hardest Lion to mount. lol

I think I realized these past few days that I’m finally settled in.  I knew this when I took a stroll around the neighborhood on my own and didn’t feel alone.  When you get to a new place you are initially afraid of being alone in an unfamiliar setting.  When that setting becomes familiar, you shed that fear, and you embrace a new home.  And my new home is awesome.

So a lot has happened in the past days.  I can’t assure you my recounts will be in perfect chronological order.  But I’ll try my best!

London has lately blessed us with some fantastic weather.  Not quite Southern California but definitely worthy of some photography.  It was so clear and sunny I actually felt inclined to enjoy some of the various parks London has.

Lincoln's Inn Fields

Green Park, Eff you expensive lounge chairs... all I need is the grass beneath me.

Green Park, pigeons!

My suite mate and I ended up walking to Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace that day.  It was an exhausting walk.  But then I’ve grown accustomed to walking everywhere here.  It’s a great work-out… I bought a pair of skinny jeans before I came to London (yeah I was trying to be European stylish) and now I need a belt to hold up those jeans.  I’m dropping pounds like crazy.  Both kinds of pounds.  :[  haha get it?

Speaking of dropping pounds… we made a trip to China Town the other night and I spent quite a bit on dinner.  But it was pretty tasty.. and it was a feast.

Chinese feast

I also had a bet going during this meal… and ended up having to down two pints.  I looked like such an American.  “No, no both of the pints are mine.” -_-

So you’re probably wondering what is up with the “Panther” part of my title.  Well, while me and Sahil (my suite mate) were out near Trafalgar Square (where the Lions are) we discovered this hip, upscale lounge/bar that was serving a cocktail called the “Pink Panther”.  As intrigued as any two guys with the sudden freedom to consume alcohol might be, we went in and voila… the “Pink Panther”.

The Pink Panther

And yes I realize my alcohol counter is already up to 2 pints and a cocktail.  But I promise you I have been doing other things in attempts to be cultured.  Like visiting museums.  Which are completely free here.  It is so awesome to enjoy the works of artists like Warhol, Gauguin, Monet, Monat, Serrat, Cezanne, and others for the cost of a light walk.  The Tate Modern Museum is so close it is actually visible from my window.  Speaking of modern art… I have developed a love/hate relationship with it.  My love for it is based purely on its ability to wow and shock me.  The only thing predictable about modern art is its unpredictability.  I hate it (some of it) because without that little 5 by 10 plaque next to it I would have no idea what it is or what it stands for or why my 11 year old sister couldn’t replicate it.  I actually heard a story that someone dropped their wallet at the Tate and came back hours later to discover visitors taking pictures of a new exhibit; the wallet.

Andy Warhol

It says so much by saying so little.

Some other amazing things I managed to do in the past few days:

– cheese/bread tasting at Borough Market; who knew cheese came in so many flavors?

– watched the “sneak peek” of The Social Network at Leicester Square (movies come out later here than the states), great movie

– enjoyed Somset House at night (check out the pics!)

– Toured the Herman Miller show room (jealous much?)

Some lame things that happened:

– my laptop screen broke, eff you lenovo

– I got sick, eff you pathogens

*Random fact* : The American Civil War cost $6.5 billion.  The “North’s” share of that: $3.5 billion.  The cost of buying every slave in the south and giving them a 20 acre farm: $3 billion.  What a waste!

Anyways, that’s it for now.  I’m exhausted.

Nyquil is my best friend.

– J

We use these a lot.

 

Piccadilly Circus at night

 

Spontaneous

–adjective 1. coming or resulting from a natural impulse or tendency; without effort or premeditation; natural and unconstrained

My favorite times so far have been when spontaneity plays a role.  The other night we all decided to make a trip to China Town to get some real asian food.  Despite the pouring rain we made the trek.  I convinced everyone to eat at a Vietnamese Restaurant and there I proceeded to order the best meal for a cold, wet night; Pho.  The pho was great.  After we ate our impulses took us to a huge 3-story arcade/bowling alley/bar where we had an awesome time scouring the selection of games.  This place is freakin’ awesome.  It has every game you could think of.  Legit.  While we were perusing on the first floor we saw this underpass with a bunch of guys break dancing and discovered a huge krumping battle competition.  It was amazing to stumble on something like that.  Apparently the best UK Crumping Crew, Wet Wipez, was holding a competition to see who would represent them in a international krumping event.  So we got to witness the best “krumpers” in the UK going at it with sick beats reverberating in this small underground tunnel.  It was hot, it was sweaty, it was smelly… but that is what made it raw and real.  Probably one of my favorite moments so far simply because we didn’t plan on it… we stumbled upon it.  That is what is great about London… there is so much going on in every pocket of it that you can by chance discover something like a krumping battle.

 

Sick.

 

After the intensity of that battle we were reminded that London weather doesn’t care how far away from home you are.  We proceeded to walk the hour back to Bankside in pouring rain.  Oh, we made a pit-stop at a McDonald’s (btw, Mickey D’s is legit here… they have people waiting to take your trash/trays and their apple pies are bomb).  The rain, while drenching us from head to toe, gave us something to bond over.  Thank you heater for drying my clothes that night.  And f*** you taxi drivers for not stopping to pick us up.

The next day the rain relented enough for us to catch the evening service at St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Service was an amazing and humbling experience.  The echo of the reverand’s voice bouncing off intricately chiseled stone walls constructed hundreds of years ago, the smell of the incense burning, and the awesome site of the gilded columns towering over you was something that had me in awe.

The next morning I was yawning at my first 10am lecture.  Sociology of work, though, turned out to be a lot more interesting than I expected.  But my corporate finance lecture an hour later was brutal.  Basically ran through everything I learned in a semester at Babson in one 2 hour lecture.  Oh boy.

But let’s not talk about school here.  Let’s talk about the awesome kebob I had for lunch today.  Let’s talk about the nice stroll on Oxford Street (the longest street of shopping in the UK!).  Yeah those things, coupled with “Crown Royal” pong tonight, rounded out another awesome day in the city of London.

That’s it for now.

Oh and this is a shout-out to my girl friend.  Miss you!

 

Jess cooked me a farewell dinner, it was bomb.

 

 

We had second row seats to Wicked. It was sick.

 

Anyways, over and out.

Cheers,

J

Its been five days since I touched down at Heathrow Airport in the UK and it has felt like weeks.  I’ve been through the whole cycle of emotions already.  Arriving at my Bankside residence hall room after an exhausting 6 hour flight, a 4 hour wait at the airport, an hour check-in process, and deprived of internet connection, phone, food, sleep, a shower towel, familiar faces, friends… I had an overwhelmingly feeling of loneliness and fear.  The fatigue and culture shock compounded into a feeling I had never felt before in my life.  So I resorted to possibly the best remedy for anything: a good nights sleep.

The shower that next morning (with the aid of tshirts as towels) was just the refreshment I needed.  I grabbed breakfast in the basement of Bankside, made my first friend (shout-out to Tricia!), and then took my first walk through London.  Let me start by saying that London is beautiful.  It’s winding paths, clash of contemporary and classical architecture, little pockets, alleyways, and niches make it unique, complex, and exciting.  Crossing the Thames River on the Waterloo Bridge for the first time, gazing down the embankment, and spotting the London Bridge/London Eye was amazing.  That first walk on my way to my LSE tour I quickly realized that in every nook and cranny of London there is something to discover and experience.

I’m not going to talk too much about the LSE campus because, well, there isn’t much to describe.  It’s small and smack dab in the heart of London.  It does have an awesome library I must say.

Orientation after my tour was my first look into the make-up of the students at LSE.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The diversity and cultural mix of LSE is one of the factors that played in my decision to study here.  After orientation I made my pleasant trip back to my room where I found my bed waiting for me.

FYI, I have a bar in my basement.  Yeah, awesome.  Had my first drink there (a Corona… I know, I’m so American).  I also partook, for the first and last time, in something called “speed-mating” at the bar.  Not the kind of mating you think.  As I was quickly reminded, mate = friend here in the UK.  Let me just say that it was an interesting experience.  I did one round of this and got what I think can be considered sexually harassed by a British chick.  I’ll spare the details.

Speeding up the pace here… I’ve met more people than I ever have… have already made some great friends… and am already sure that my year here in London is going to be an unforgettable experience.  Since so much has happened, here is a little recap of my favorites:

  • Had my first pint in a pub (Peroni beer is great)
  • Toured the London Bridge
  • Went on a boat party on the Thames
  • Had the best Fish n’ Chips
  • Sat on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Meandered through Borough Market
  • Visited Tate Modern Museum
  • Bought a shower towel
  • First alcoholic cider

I think I could go on and on but I’ll sum up my first 5 days by saying that I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to live in a city full of adventure, complexity, and charm and to have already met great people who are as excited as I am to travel Europe and live life in the driver seat (which is on the right side here haha).

That is it for my first post.  I promise my future ones will be much more concise and visual.  :]

Thanks for reading!

– J