Archive for January, 2010

My Weekend in Not So Brief

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

I have finally been able to put up some posters on my wall. It turns out scotch tape doesn’t work and the walls must be made of cement because I couldn’t make push pins work either. Today though, in a fit of efficiency, I got Blu Tack and finally got my posters to stay up for longer than 2 minutes. I’m use to having an insane amount of colour in my room, so not having any for a week was absolutely miserable and I’m quite enjoying having the vibrant colours of my newly acquired poster. One says “Keep Calm and Carry On” which I got from the V&A Museum. I also got a poster of the cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was acquired at the Beatles Coffee Shop near the St. John’s Wood tube station. Of course I also put up my mini-poster from A Clockwork Orange. I’ve also put up some postcards on the pin board that the school provides, so I’m very slowly becoming more pleased with the appearance of my room. I also got a pillow case that’s 100% cotton, which considering how everything else on my bed is a 50/50 blend of cotton and polyester, will be quite nice for my head. Now onto more interesting things.
Yesterday I spent the day in the city with a friend of my Mum’s and got stay over at her house which was really nice. During the day though we went to Westminster Abbey which was really very beautiful. My only disappointment was that I couldn’t take a picture of Handel’s tomb marker inside the church, which would have been absolutely brilliant, but sadly no photography inside the church. The best part of the day though was that we took the bus everywhere and we sat on the top level so I got see parts of the city that I hadn’t seen before. While the Underground is definitely faster than taking a bus, you don’t get to see all the streets and houses and stores that you get to see when you’re on a bus. It also helped that we were going along Regent and Oxford street which are the main shopping streets in London. So many big stores, so little time. After Westminster, we went back to her house where we preceded to watch the most recent episode of QI and episodes from the first series. It was actually really nice because I also got to call home and talk to everyone except the dogs (though I did tell Dad to say hi to them for me, hopefully he did that.)
This morning I had my glass of juice and nothing else (damn you stomach!). Marjie (my Mum’s friend) finished knitting the hat she had started last night and then we headed out to Abbey Road which she lives really close to. She took some pictures of me crossing the street, which considering the weather came out okay. Then we walked back to St. John’s Wood tube station where I got the poster I mentioned, a postcard to keep and a postcard I’m sending to my Mum, and a keychain of the submarine from the cover of Yellow Submarine (clever, I know.) Then began the long journey home.
As you may or may not know London is hosting the summer Olympics in 2012. Because of this various parts of what makes a city run are being renovated so that when even bigger groups of tourists come to London, they’ll be impressed. This includes the Underground. So today the entire Metropolitan line (my line) and the northern bit of the Jubilee line (Marjie’s main line) were closed for renovations. This will be an ongoing problem on the weekends, because for some reason London doesn’t care about people who are outside of zone 1 (I’m in zone 4.) Today I got to see all the streets I manage to avoid by taking the Underground. I took about an hour and half to finally get back to Northwick Park which is where I am. Now I had music and found looking at the buildings very interesting but if I hadn’t left around 1pm, or let’s say I had left at like 2pm, I wouldn’t have been back until 3:30 or 4pm and that’s just ridiculous, especially considering how everything closes at 5pm on Sundays. Still, it was really lovely to see so much of the city that I will probably see again next weekend.
One last note: If you’ve ever seen the 5th Harry Potter movie, the night bus sequence, while fantastical, is not completely outside the realm of reality. Bus drivers are crazy. They drive incredibly fast, I don’t know how they make the turns they do, I was constantly waiting for the bus to get into a horrible accident with the other cars on the road, and sides of the road are for other people. But then again, I think that’s just how people drive here. Until next time, don’t panic.

No, I did not see JK Rowling at the Elephant House

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Two days ago, I was at a bookstore, and I wanted to buy all of the books about Scotland. They were really expensive…so I though, why don’t I go to the public library? I walked there (It is a 5 minute walk from my flat) and I love it! It is in a beautiful building. I took out 6 books about Scotland (Edinburgh Ghost Stories, 25 walks in Edinburgh, and a list of Edinburgh street names and where they come from). I walked out of the library, excited about finding those great books for free, and then I see the Elephant House. This is a cafe where JK Rowling wen t to write a lot of her early novels. Here is a discription from the flyer…

“Visit the ‘Birthplace’ of Harry Potter. Voted Best Coffee Shop in Edinburgh. Opened in 1995, The Elephant House has established itself as one of the best Tea and Coffee Houses in Edinburgh. Made famous as the place of inspiration to writers such as J.K. Rowling, who sat writing much of her early novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle. Ian Rankin, author of the Rebus novels, and Alexander McCall-Smith have both also frequented The Elephant House, as well as many others.”

So, after reading that, I had to visit the famous Elephant House. It is just five minutes from my flat, just like the public library. I did not go to the Elephant house that day, but I decided to go two days later (today). I was reading one of the library books about walks around Edinburgh, and I decided to take a walk to the grassmarket and then up to the Elephant House. On my walk, I went by the only remaining part of the medieval wall that used to surround the city. Eventually I arrived at the Elephant House. Imediatelly I was comforted by the warmth and the smell of coffee. I was excited to be in the place which inspired JK Rowling to write Harry Potter. I took a seat in the back room, and immediately saw why she was inspired to write those books. The windows had a direct view of the Edinburgh Castle. I can just immagine Harry, Ron, and Hermione walking around the castle just like it is Hogwarts. While I was there, I did not read Harry Potter, but I was reading Angels and Demons. Next time maybe the castle with inspire me to write a series of books. (Well, maybe not.) Even though the coffee is a little expensive there, I can definitely see myself going back. Maybe next time I will see JK Rowling there!

Equivalence Chart

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Yesterday I went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Along with tea, Digestives biscuits, pie, and cheese, the Victoria and Albert Museum is a tourist institution in London, which I somehow managed to miss the last time I was in London. I took a billion pictures at the museum, feeling a little guilty about taking said pictures but as there were no signs I guess it was alright. I also found out that Marks and Spencers closes at 7pm, which is a bit of a disappointment when you’re expecting to get dinner from there, but I managed to get a sandwich, some milk and dark chocolate Digestives. All in all yesterday wasn’t a complete bust and I got to talk to both my Mom and my sister.
Anyway, the point of this entry is that I’ve come up with an equivalence chart for some of the stores I’ve either been to or are planning on going to. What can I say, I’ve got a lot of free time on my hands and this is just the kind of thing I think about.

  • Primark = Target
  • Marks and Spencers = Macy’s + a small grocery store
  • Sainsbury = K-Mart
  • Tesco = Any grocery store you’ve ever been to
  • Asda = Walmart (they’re owned by the same people, which is why they’re the same)
  • Pret a Manger = Starbucks (as in, they’re every where)
  • Starbucks = Starbucks (because Starbucks doesn’t change from country to country)

Well that’s it for me. I’ve got more orientation and a boat party to look forward to and I’ll be doing something tomorrow. I don’t know what, but something will happen. In a final note I finally got my Oyster card which is nice. Until next time, don’t panic and carry on.

15 reasons why I love LA

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

1. The beach. I love the ocean and the sand.

2. Palm Trees, Birds of Paradise, Cacti

3. Murals

4. Houses with interesting architecture, covered in bright paint..

5. In-n-Out Burger, Foster Freeze and Rae’s Restaurant (Cafe).

6. How close everything is to each other.

7. The friendly, laid-back people.

8. The Car Chases they show on TV, because where else would someone drive for two hours while 1o + police cars and helicopters follow them.

9. The Parks.

10. The Billboards. Some people might think it’s trashy, but I think they’re fun.

11. Open Air Courtyards with lots of plants.

12. How Diverse LA is.

13. The weather (for the most part) and lack of gnats and other annoying insects!

14. Disneyland and other assorted Theme Parks.

15. The Sun!

A Bunch o’ Blarney?

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Last weekend, we embarked on perhaps the tourist-iest attraction on this whole island, yes, for all of you sitting on the edge of your seats in eager anticipation; we went to kiss the Blarney stone. Despite a dreary forecast, the gray skies of Ireland miraculously decided to cut us a break, threatening rain all day, but holding back as we wandered the grounds of Blarney castle. While all of the tourist attractions in Kinsale our first weekend had been closed seasonally, Blarney stays open year around and was pleasantly crowd free. We had a slightly larger traveling group this time (We had  run into some fellow Spires-dwellers at the bus station), so there were even more photo opportunities, as, of course, every person had to be photographed with every scenic view, and, on the treacherous climb to the Blarney parapets, there are many scenic views indeed.

 wicked sweet fog        adorable picture of me and maura

group with blarney bench



When we reached the top, we of coursed kissed the stone. Now for those of you who haven’t hung upside down off the top of this castle, let me explain how this works. This questionably older gentleman (I say questionable because I am greatly afraid he will drop me) tips you over the side of the stone wall (I am probably making this out to sound worse than it really is- there are protective grate-like-things that would probably stop you if the questionable older gentleman were unable to physically hold you). You hang upside down and kiss this rock- the great Blarney stone. Many a famous person has kissed this rock (there are lots of commemorative plaques with cartoon Einstein’s and George Barnard Shaw’s that tell you this), with the purpose not only of fulfilling that great tourist-iest of touristy Irish dreams, but also with the intent of become a more eloquent speaker. No one knows, as far as I can tell, quite where this legend comes from (I suspect it was invented by the Irish government as a revenue generator, because they charge you a flat rate of 8 euro per person to enter the castle grounds.) but, apparently, if you kiss the rock, you will be graced with the gift of gab- the ability to impress many by showering everyone you meet with a flowery rhetoric of flattery. I actually kissed the stone twice (the photo of my first kiss did quite turn out the way I would have liked), so I suppose I have extra flattery skills now. Let me see… I’ll test them out…


Dearest Mum and Dad,

   I would like a pony. Please. So that I may tour the Irish countryside riding sidesaddle on the back of my great steed and so that I may find the prince of Ireland, who will undoubtedly need to rescue me from a great dragon of sorts and whisk me off to a castle where he will marry me and I will, at long last become the princess of the Land of Ire. I am enjoying my stay here in Ireland, but I believe that a pony would make this great adventure much more memorable and even more enjoyable for all.


     (The future princess and pony-owner) Lindsay


Next Post, look forward to hearing all about the pony!

 stone kiss #2

Did you know you Kin Sail in Kinsale?

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Maura and I took our first “day trip” two weekends ago to the village of Kinsale. Saturday, we got up early and caught the bus. Up and out before 8 am here for the first time, I realized that the sun here doesn’t rise until 8:30! Now, geographically, Ireland is located in a rather north, so I suppose this shouldn’t have come as too much of a shock, but it blows my mind. The days are only 8 hours long- in Virginia you all are getting like 9 and a half hours of sunlight! (I know this because I was, in fact, so baffled by this shortness of sunlight that I proceeded to every place I could think of to see how long their days are. In case you are wondering, Antarctica is currently averaging 6 ½ hours of sunlight a day)

 Sunrise in Kinsale

So, as I was getting to, we went to Kinsale early Saturday morning. For another quick geography lesson, the town of Kinsale is a small sailing village located in Cork County, Ireland, along the southwest coast. It wasn’t far from Cork city (where we are living) at all- a mere half hour bus drive. We arrived just in time to see the just-risen sun peaking over the horizon casting its glorious sunlight on the sailboats in the Kinsale harbor. We had big plans for a walking tour, but it was so cold that we skipped it and just spent the day wandering in and out of the little shops and seeing what this well-known B&B and restaurant town had offer in way of scones, cappuccinos, and sandwiches (all, I might add, absolutely delicious!) I think we wandered in and out of every little shop in the town. I also learned that in Ireland, a “Book-maker” is not a shop that makes novels- it is a fine establishment where one can go to place bets on the horse races. Luckily, there was a real bookshop, so I was able to get my literary fix.

 Maura and the fishing village

Unfortunately, because it’s January, a lot of the historical places to visit were closed for the winter months. Kinsale is famous not only for its quaint village scenes, but also for its role in the US involvement in the First World War The sinking of the Lusitania, the event that invoked US president Woodrow Wilson to enter the war in 1915, happened just outside the Kinsale harbor. There is also James Fort, which is one of the last traditional 17th century forts in Ireland, but tours there were closed seasonally as well. Pehaps there will be a return trip for us in March… I certainly wouldn’t mind heading back!

Ups and Downs

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

The bullet points are back people. The homesickness hasn’t gone away, but I figure that you all deserve to know what’s going on with me. So here are the highlights:

  • As evidenced by my phone, I found St. Ann’s. I went to St. George’s, which is another shopping centre in the same area and while it doesn’t have as many useful stores as St. Ann’s, it’s there and it’s good to know how not useful it is.
  • I added one more class to my roster, “Art and Society” which will give me the opportunity to see different locations and galleries in London. I figure that it will be edifying if nothing else.
  • I have all of tomorrow free so I’ve come up with a small-ish list of places I want to go to that are in central London. One of the locations is a restaurant called Bar Italia which Pulp named a song after, hence the appeal. Pictures will be taken and posted on my Flickr photostream. Expect pictures of the Gherkin and various other things.
  • I’d never admit this under normal circumstances, but I’m really glad I’m a member of PEO. I’m also really glad my Mom has a friend in London who she’s still in touch with. These are all things for which I am currently very thankful for, though I think we all know that this too shall pass and eventually I’ll be really glad I’m in London. Eventually.

Well that’s it. I got a normal night’s sleep last not which was good. I’m not sure when I’ll update next, possibly after the weekend and once classes have started up. We shall see. Until then, don’t panic.

California time

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Today, I left Virginia for LA. I had to wake up fairly early, 6:30 am, after going to bed at 4am because I was doing last minute cleaning and packing.

After my dad dropped me off at the airport, I found out that not only does cost $20 to check a bag on United (outrageous!), but that they finally rearranged security at Dulles, in preparation for when the new trains start running. It took some time to get through security because there was a lot of people. Luckily, after I got through security to my gate (which was suprisingly close to the shuttles loading place for a change)  I only had to wait about thirty minutes to board my flight. I got a window seat in the economy class and was right behind the wing of the plane.

The seats seemed smaller than I remember, especially when a rather large guy sat next to me and the woman in front of me put her seat back. I slept on and off the flight, so in a way the six hour flight went by fairly fast, but sleeping in such a cramped condition is never that restful.

It was raining when my plane landed, so the descent down was a little bumpy at times, but it was cool to see the rain whoosh over the wing. Once we landed, I tried turning on my phone to see if my cousin had left me a message about how I was getting into her apartment because she was in class when I landed.

But, my phone wouldn’t turn on and I started worrying that it was “tostitos toast”, because lately it has been shutting off randomly and I had just charged my phone last night. As soon as I got off the plane, I ran over to an outlet and tried plugging my phone in to see if just the battery was dead. Thankfully it turned on, because I didn’t have a written copy of my cousin’s apartment address or her phone number, and without that, I wasn’t sure what I would do.

After retrieving my suitcase from baggage claim, I used an outlet in the women’s bathroom to charge my phone for a bit so it wouldn’t die when I got to my cousin’s apartment and needed to call her roommate to let me in.

The taxi drive was short; Marina del Ray isn’t far away from the airport. It was still raining, but there was a hint of sun behind the clouds and even when it’s raining California is beautiful. I love seeing all the palm trees and love not having to wear a heavy coat in January! My cousin’s roommate let me in the apartment, (the building is so swanky, I want to live here) and we’ve spent the afternoon just relaxing and getting to know each other.

Not sure what we are going to do tonight, but whatever we do it should be fun.

A view photos from the weekend

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010






As my second week begins…

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

and I am still the only student in the class.  Though I want classmates I am learning so much everyday, my Spanish really progressing.  I was extremely pleased with myself today in class because my teacher asked me why I wanted to be a human rights lawyer and I became heated, then spouted off all of my reasons in Spanish!  My adrenaline was pumping afterwards.  My teacher looked a touch scared, I am not sure if it was my reasons or the sudden increase in Spanish.  I really enjoy my Spanish teacher this week.

My stomach has stretched and lunch is my favorite meal of the day.  I was explaining to Belinda that I was going to become fat because I like her cooking so much; I have only had one meal outside the house.  She explained to me that most of her exchange students actually loose weight because all of her cooking is natural.  She does not use anything with preservatives and the like.  When I told her my mom cooks the same way she was very excited!

I have played cards with my host family for the past two nights.  I will try to explain as much as I understand; you should know that I have not won a single game yet.  There are two decks, they are shuffled, and handed out to the rest of the players, dealer receives thirteen cards while the rest only twelve.  The point of the game is end up with the least amount of points when the game is over.  You want to get rid of all your cards in your hand – you win the round because you have zero points, when this happens the other players must count the value of all the cards in their hands – their number of points.  Therefore, you want to be the first to lay down all your cards.  You do this by creating sets.  For example: three threes, three fours, or a sequence – K, Q, J, A. Each round has different rules as to what sets you can lay down in front of you.  For example, the cards must all be red, the same suit, or the same card.  You must put one card down each round in the middle, the next player can take this card if they need it, but then you have to take two more cards from the unused pile.  The game progresses from there and eventually someone wins, not me, but still enjoyable.  Laughing the whole time at the different reactions to bad cards being drawn the game is very entertaining.  I learned a new saying in Spanish due to the grandfather.  He said, “MIRE —– coles!”  The whole family burst out laughing.  I did not because I did not understand the exasperated saying of Wednesday.  I later understood and some help from Matisse that it is similar to, “Ahhh shit.”  However, before I knew what it meant I said it as well, which gave everyone a good laugh, like a child saying a curse word completely innocently.

The next day I asked my teacher what it meant and she backed up Matisse’s translation.  I at lunch told my family that I had asked my teacher, again a roar of laughter from the family.  I asked them for more words that I could ask my teacher.  Belinda, laughing still, told me that if I continued with this the school would think that they were crazy and not send any more students to them.  I feel increasingly a part of the family.  I do not feel so much like a tourist anymore, but a member of the culture, maybe still an outsider, but nonetheless an active member.