Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Slowing Down Before Shipping Out (soon)

Being at the end of the official trip, it's... It's a strange feeling. Again, this being the first time that I'd ever traveled internationally, I didn't know what to expect once the time to leave got so much closer. Even if I'm staying a few more days in London, seeing it without everyone around will be a weird thing to wrap my head around.

That being said, the last official day of the journey was a good one! Semi-quiet and relaxed, which I think was necessary after so much hustle and bustle from the days before. The Victoria and Albert Museum was far more imposing than I'd thought it would be; so many sculptures, so many priceless exhibits!

This was one view from a massive collection of sculptures and religious edifices. Muses, saints, they're all here - even in their cast, unoriginal forms. And they had been respected there for a long while. A massive stone archway was set into the far wall of that same room, having been one of the first pieces to be brought to the museum to prove the exhibit's scale and scope.

I think the Theatre and Performance section caught my heart the most though. Outside of having a frickin War Horse piece in it's entirety, there were so many prestigious costumes here! Scar's garb and cane from The Lion King, the full rhinoceros costume from Rhinoceros, the stepsisters from Cinderella... Seeing all of the soul put into each, and the souls that WORE each, it was brilliant.

That was the last major thing we did as a group, of course. It started out a little spotty, but I ended up having a wonderful time after everything was said and done. After getting back to the hotel, we kind of just... Calmed down. Took a breath. Eventually we went out to a pub and snagged some gelato, but the 4th was a quiet day, and I don't have any problem with that. As far as what's up for the next two days before I ship out too, I have little idea what I'm going to be doing. Finding some time to meet up with a friend sounds good, but I'm not sure how well schedules will allow that.

For now, we'll see! I know I want to be leaving the UK soon, but... I think the melancholy's kicked in.

Not Quite Homesick

It's strange to think that we're leaving today, isn't it? Or tomorrow, for people still in the US.

Three weeks in London, and I'm finally comfortable here. Streets are familiar, the "Chube" has become a convenience rather than a hassle, the food is sitting nicely, and yet almost as soon as I'm at home, it's time to go home.

The last three weeks have been full and fun, so it wasn't until this morning that I finally had time to do souvenir shopping for my family. With two younger brothers, the most obvious choice for a first stop was the Lego Store, for the London-exclusive double-decker bus.

 ...and while there, I found this monstrosity for the second of my siblings. Almost 1700 pieces.

After I finished my shopping and had a small train mix-up with the Tube, I met the group at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where we shared our last group meal in the cafe, and wrote postcards to ourselves from London to remind us of how much we enjoyed being here.

The museum itself was full of artwork and fashion pieces from the personal collection of Queen Victoria and Prince Consort Albert. The first picture here is a statue of Christ crowned with thorns, an incident recorded in the Gospels as a humiliation before the Crucifixion. The second is a white wedding gown, a now-tradition that was not fashionable until after Victoria's own wedding in 1840. The last, "Tippoo's Tiger", is an organ hidden inside a carving that the British looted from Seringapatam in 1799, the sound of which is said to be reminiscent of the last screams of a tiger's victim.

After the museum, I didn't do much besides return to the hotel to prepare for the journey home and unpack. It's strange that in less than twelve hours, most of our class will be flying back to the United States, many to never return here. It's sad that we have left so much undone here, despite all that we have done - but it's happy, too, because this is an experience of a lifetime, and I would not trade anything to take back the time I've spent here in London this summer.

Last Day in London

It’s officially our last day in London. Today we had the morning free, and as you may have read the US President is on a state visit here in London.  A small group of us headed down to check out the protests against Trump that were happening in Trafalgar Square. We arrived to find hundreds, maybe even thousands of people, with signs surrounding a large robot of Donald Trump. 

The signs ranged from referring to his role in Palestine, to his racist remarks, to his role in Brexit, to his sexist remarks, to his role in attempting to end the health system in the UK. It was an eye-opening experience to see the resistance not only by Americans but by Europeans from all over the continent, especially the United Kingdom. 

After our experiences in Trafalgar Square, we headed to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The museum housed much of the collection of the couple from throughout their lifetime including many different artifacts, fashion, works of art, and much more. 

To end the day, we traveled to the Viaduct Tavern to have one last drink before we head home tomorrow. The Tavern is the last gin palace still standing from the Victorian Era. It is rumored to be haunted as it sits across the street from what used to be the gallows of a nearby prison. Many would have their final drink there or would drink there prior to watching the executions cued by the bells in St. Paul’s cathedral. 

There is a gunshot hole in the ceiling from the first world war. An off-duty soldier had one too many drinks and shot his gun at a painting and then at the roof. Both of the holes from the bullet are still there and can be seen to this day. 

It was quite an interesting day to end the trip to say the least. 

I am so thankful for the opportunities this program has brought me over the last three weeks. I have learned so much. I have made new friends and countless new memories. I will remember this always as one of the highlights here at the College of St. Scholastica. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Everybody's Talking About the Fact That We Leave in 2 Days

Hi, it's your favorite Bailey.

Today was our second-to-last day in London, and we began with a morning tour of Highgate Cemetery. When I was in Ireland last year for school, I visited so many cemeteries I was sick of them, so I can be honest in saying I wasn't looking forward to this. However, the weather and nature were both so beautiful today I couldn't complain.

I could probably write a novel about Highgate and its history, but I'll just state some neat facts I learned during our tour instead:

  • The cemetery was built back in 1839 and is a dominantly Gothic style.
  • There is an east and west side to the cemetery (we toured the west side and were able to go to the east side for free afterward and look around on our own).
  • There are approximately half a million family graves in the cemetery.
  • Back then, a small grave cost anywhere from 3-5 guineas, and a larger grave was 20. People paid more to be on one of the main paths. 
  • Any tomb with a cross on the top meant they were Roman Catholic.
  • The first person to be buried in the cemetery was a woman named Elizabeth Jackson back in 1839.
  • Many famous people are buried here, including Karl Marx, Douglas Adams, Virginia Woolf's parents, some of Charles Dickens' family, and more! 
  • The cemetery has been used as a filming location, including Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald!

Grave of George Eliot
Karl Marx's grave

Virginia Woolf's Parents grave

After the cemetery, I headed back to the hotel for a while to just relax and figure out what to do for the afternoon. I decided to head up to Camden Market just to check it out but it was mostly touristy shops and food. I didn't buy anything, just some overpriced (but good) gelato. 

Afterward, I wanted to go back to Buckingham Palace because lo and behold, President Donald Trump arrived in London today. Surprisingly when I got there, it wasn't nearly as busy as I thought it'd be, and I got a spot right by the gates pretty close to the palace. After waiting for a while, two helicopters flew overhead that read The United States of America, and shortly after, a parade of security vehicles and limos drove into the gates, and I'm pretty positive I saw Trump wave from inside one of the limos. I thought it was a neat experience to see all of this happening, especially outside of my home country, but I decided to leave once it got busier and people were getting a little aggressive. 

To end the day, we all attended the musical Everybody's Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre. The show focused on the life of Jamie, a 16-year-old boy who has dreams of becoming a drag queen but must fight to be accepted and loved for who he is and not who people think he should be. Truthfully, the play wasn't my favorite (I have pretty high expectations for musicals), but I really enjoyed certain singers and the dancing choreography. 

Sadly, this is my final post for this trip. If you're reading this and are from outside of our London group, I just want to say thank you for your support and following along with all of us on our travels! I don't regret a thing about this experience and I can't wait to come back again in the future!

Just in: Faith sees Members of the Royal Family (AHH!)

Hi all!

Today was an absolutely incredible day! We began by catching a bus to Highgate Cemetery & having a private tour of its grounds. As unsettling as this may sound, it was actually a really neat experience!

After our tour, we had some time to walk around by ourselves; most people made a point of seeing the grave of Karl Marx, as well as others.

For the afternoon, I decided since President Donald Trump & First Lady Melania Trump were in the UK visiting the Queen, I’d head over to Buckingham Palace to see what was going on. Lucky enough, there weren’t as many people waiting outside as I’d suspected, so I had a great spot to stand along the barricades placed in front of the Palace. After about 30 minutes of waiting, police began congregating by the main palace gates. Before I knew it, I was seeing Prince Charles & Duchess Camilla leaving the palace!! I honestly still can’t believe it happened; seeing members of the Royal Family was the one thing I truly wanted to happen on this trip and now, miraculously, it has!

As I was trying to compose myself after seeing Charles and Camilla, I noticed the police were assembling again. This time I watched as President Trump & First Lady Melania drove past me! I find it a bit crazy that I saw a US President for the first time when I wasn’t actually in the United States. How ironic!

Honestly, I cannot think of a better way to have spent one of my last days in London! :) The first photo I’ve posted below is from a video I took of Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla’s exciting the palace; the second is from my video of the President and First Lady.

Monday madness (not really though)

Time sure has flown by. It seems like just yesterday I was stepping off a plane into a foreign country. It is our second last day here and there is a feeling of sadness in the air. Some people are homesick, but other individuals (myself included) are sad to be leaving this wonderful place. Today started with a longer than normal tube ride to Higate Cemetery.

The cemetery has a diverse group of people buried there including Karl Marx and Anna Mahler. Karl Marx has a huge statue of his head which was rather amusing. Marx is perhaps the most well known man to be buried there because how he spread Communism, but I found Anna Mahler more exciting. The only famous Mahler I know is Gustav Mahler (father of Anna). Being creatively gifted as a composer, he must have also passed that ability along to his daughter who was a sculptor.

For lunch a small group of us traveled back to Borough Market. It is made up of so many food vendors that is was difficult to choose what to eat. My favorite meal was from an Ethiopian vendor where I had rice with a spicy vegetarian sauce on top. Next we went to Covent Gardens which is basically a large shopping district within London. Both Rachael and I got souvenirs here. At night we went to our last play, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. It’s really sad to think about leaving this wonderful group of people in my new favorite city, but I am still looking forward to being reunited with my family at home.


Learning, Laughter, and Good Memories

Today was such a beautiful day. We went down to breakfast like usual, and headed out at 9:15 to go to the London Museum. With Steph’s amazing leading and directions (jiji), we made it there early before the museum had even opened. We sat down for a little bit before being able to go in. Once inside we went in chronological order through the gallery, looking at London’s history. During our journey we saw from the first human skull found by the Thames River to the Great Fire of 1666. After going through, a group of us snacked in the cafe. At about 12:10 we walked to the Tate Museum where we continued to see more art.

Later in the afternoon a group of us went to Nando’s where I had a delicious chicken wrap. During our meal we played games to get to know each other better and overall it was a great way to bond with the group since we are going to be heading home soon. After our dinner we walked towards the play which wasn’t too bad of a walk, and watched SIX. Overall it was nothing like what I was expecting, but it was amazing. I felt so strong and empowered afterwards and the music was catchy. 

On our way back to the hotel, we had something really funny happen to us in the elevator. I was talking with Lori about the presents she got at Buckingham palace and while taking a picture of the teddy bear, Merry told us to “shhhhhh…” which Steph replied with “it’s fine we are the only ones in here, you can be loud”. What she hadn’t noticed was the stranger woman next to her and the man on the corner who were not part of our group. This led to a lot of laughter and jokes after plus a great memory.