Friday, September 26, 2008

New Term and a New Room

Sussex in September in over! I handed in my final paper yesterday and I'm leaving tomorrow for a week of traveling. Before I could take off on my fabulous adventures I had to move all of my stuff from York House to East Slope. I was lucky enough to get my keys Thursday so I could take me time moving instead of rushing through it all today. The worst part about moving was that East Slope in at the top of a big slope. Moving is heavy business to start with and then uphill on top of it was even more straining. The upside is that when it's time for me to move out in June it's going to be all downhill. Which is really good because I'm probably going to accumulate even more stuff between now and then.

My new place is nice. I'm in a six-person suite but I'm the only one here right now. I don't know the names of any of my roommates but there's plenty of time to learn those. My room is narrower than my room in York House so it seems smaller than my other one did. I have full kitchen, dining, and two tiny bathrooms also. The shower barely has enough room to turn around or pick the shampoo up. The shower does have awesome water pressure which is generated by a very noisy small box on the wall.
I've decided that it must be part of England's conversation tactics-make the showers really uncomfortable so people don't stay in them very long and use less water.

I didn't realize how many animals lived around the campus. We met the seagulls on the very first day. Seagulls are really very ugly and dirty birds, and ours are vicious. I saw a seagull literally flew into a girl trying to eat a sandwich the other day. During the evening, it's like a reunion for the cast of 'The Fox and the Hound.' I've seen foxes and rabbits, and yesterday we saw a BADGER. I've never seen a badger before. It looked like it was as big as our pointers but it could have been bigger. It was much more solid than the dogs and moved almost like a bear. It was fine to watch it run away from us but if one ever started running towards me, I would be very scared.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Back from Beatlemania!

This weekend I took off to Liverpool to be an annoying tourist and check out the Beatles' history. Definitely a worthwhile trip. The first day I was there I went to the Liverpool Cathedral/St. James Gardens. The Cathedral tower is so high that you can see Wales from it. I did not have a chance to go up in it because it had already closed for the day when I got there at 4pm. I also wandered around the University of Liverpool. It was like a much bigger version of the University of Rochester. It had lots of brick buildings and pretty greens but was also right in the heart of the City. I got a map of the popular Beatles sites and started walking. I decided I have going to try to do the sites in the residential area first since they were further away from everything. It turned out that my map and the directions I got were not very good and I only made it to two of the five sites I was trying to I get to. I did make it to Penny Lane and Dovedale Primary School (John and Paul's primary school).


Saturday morning I got up early and caught a bus out to Strawberry Fields, St. Peter's Church (where John and Paul met), and John Lennon's childhood home. I couldn't go inside the house because it's part of the National Trust. However if you pay for a certain tour you can go inside John's and Paul's childhood homes and see all sorts of cool stuff like family pictures and their bedrooms. I was on a budget trip as far as time and money were concerned so that didn't happen. Next, I caught a bus back into City Centre and went to Mathew Street, home of The Cavern, where the Beatles were discovered. The street was a very small back street which was packed with tourists. It was still pretty cool to go down the street even if it's been almost completely commercialized. I wanted to eat at The Cavern, but I got there right at lunch time and decided it might be better not to in the interest of time. After Mathew Street, I went to Albert Dock which was full of warehouses back-in-the-day. Now it has a maritime museum, the International Slavery Museum, and the Tate Liverpool (modern art gallery). Not to mention over a dozen cafes, sweet shops, and souvenir stores. 

The main reason I went there was to go to The Beatles Story. It's a museum of sorts that showcases the Beatles' careers from before they were discovered until the present. It took me over two hours to find my way through everything and I still think I missed a wing. Mixed in with the vintage posters, recreations of clubs, photographs were scores of pieces of Beatles paraphernalia and possessions on loans from various families and collectors. They even had a pair of John Lennon's gold-rimmed sunglasses which he had given to his interpreter on display which had recently been purchased of one million pounds! At the end of the history portion of the museum there were four mini-amphitheaters which each showed a short film about where each of the band members ended up after the Beatles broke up. It was all very very cool.

I wish I could have stayed in Liverpool for a couple extra days. There were so many other things I would have liked to have been able to do. There was a football game on Saturday and the streets were crawling with fans in red jerseys or wearing Liverpool scarves. There is also an awesome philharmonic hall, the Victoria Gallery and Museum, and a tour of Williamson's Tunnels. I guess there's a reason why it's called the European Capital of Culture.

Entrance to cemetery at Liverpool Cathedral

Eleanor Rigby statue

Port of Liverpool

Beetles Stage Outfit

Thursday, September 18, 2008

King Arthur and the Return to Stonehenge

Yesterday my folklore class took a field trip to Winchester and Stonehenge. While we were in Winchester, we went to the Great Hall of Winchester Castle. Winchester is one of two castles that are rumored to be Camelot-the legendary castle of King Arthur. Inside the Great Hall is a giant circular table mounted on a wall. It is painted with a likeness of "King Arthur" and has the names of twenty-four knights around its circumference. For years, this was supposed to be King Arthur's legendary round table. However it was recently carbon dated and it was probably made in the early 13th century (over a thousand years after Arthur was around), and was probably commissioned by King Edward I, who was a big fan of King Arthur. The portrait of King Arthur is suspected to be King Henry I. The hall was immense and the sight of a one ton table on the wall was pretty cool even if the table was a fake. We also went to the Winchester Cathedral, the longest cathedral in Great Britain. The original cathredral was built in the seventh century AD but it was expanded several times over the next couple of hundred years. Inside the cathedral there are well over a dozen memorial plaques and burial spots for people from the First Earl and Sandwich to Saxon Kings to Jane Austen. There are also enough Pagan symbols in the architecture and graffiti to write another Dan Brown book. At the point my camera battery started to die.

After we finished at the Cathedral we went to the Bishop On The Bridge Pub. I finally found a hot meal that I like: Bangers and Mash. It's not exactly a high class meal (sausage, mashed potatoes, and onion gravey), but it was hot and it tasted great. I had it with half-a-pint of Gales HSB (Horndean Speical Bitter) Ale. It's kinda of a hoppy "autumn" ale which thankfully went great with my 'pub grub.' Bottom line is that the best food I've had in England thus far has not been the fancy or more expensive stuff, or all that healthy. Good news for my wallet but news for my waistline. I'd still argue that it's still better for you than McDonald's anyday.

Our afternoon visit to Stonehenge was very different from the morning visit I experienced on Saturday. The light was completely different and eventhough the stones were in the exact same spots as they were on Saturday, they looked completely different. We also learned a lot more about the folklore associated with it; how it was built, why it was built, what it was used for. We also completely discredited some of the tales which was kind of fun. I love a good story but I still prefer science for actual explanations. I got about three new pictures of Stonehenge before my battery completely died. I need to figure out a way to make sure that this doesn't keep happening on trips because it is very annoying.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Last night was the SIS trip to the Globe Theater to see A Midsummer Night's dream. I didn't know what to expect since I have never read the play and the theater is built to the orginial's (1599) specifications. It was very funny and for not using microphones that actors were extremely easy to understand. The theater itself is small and it was packed eventhough it's an open-air theater doing a show in mid-September. That was probably a good thing because it definitely got colder inside when people went out during intermission. The seats are wooden benches and I would definitely recommend handing over the pound it costs to rent a seat cushion. Three hours on a wooden bench during a show is much different than sitting on the bleachers suring a sporting event.

Some of us ate dinner at the Prince something-something pub. I got the Chicken Chasseur special: Chicken with white wine sauce, roasted potatoes, and a vegetable garnish. The vegetable was somesort of squash and definitely the most flavorful part of the meal. Thus far my theory for happy dining in England is to get sandwiches as those are the only meals I've had that haven't disappointed me. I don't know maybe I just use too many spices on my food back home. I am determined to find some sort of hot meal in this country that I enjoy though. I have another field trip tomorrow that includes eating lunch at a local pub. We will see how that goes.

London at night, quite opposite the food I've had there, is amazing! All of the buildings are lit with different colored lights and stand-out beautifully against the skyline. I'm definitely going to have to go back when I have time to take some pictures. Westminister Abbey and the House of Parliament are right down the road from the Globe and across the River Thames is St. Paul's Cathedral. We were able to see them all lit up along with the Tower and Millenium bridges as our Coach negotiated its way out of the city. I wish I had been able to take some decent pictures but snapshots from a bus at night tend to not come out. Oh well, I'll be sure to get some next time I'm in London.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Stonehenge and the Spookies

Last Night I went on a walking Ghost Tour of Brighton. I admit the guy giving the tour was far more interesting than the actual ghost stories. It was more of a tour of "places-that-shady-things- happened-in-the-past" than "haunted places." The bubbly friday night atmosphere also didn't create much of a spooky mood. The most impressive part of it was "The Cricketers," which is where the man suspected to be "Jack the Ripper" used to stay and even left a map with a drawing on it that matched out with where the bodies of the first five victims were found. Now they have a museum of sorts with all the newspaper clippings about the murders in the room where this guy used to stay. It was hard to imagine something so horrible being associated with such a tidy room. The pub itself was definitely playing up the haunted aspect. It is known as the oldest public house in Brighton to start with, and the management installed a sound box or something so when you stand in a certain spot it sounds like barrels are "mysteriously" rolling in the cellar below you. In any case the museum was much more impressive.

Today was the Sussex in September trip to Stonehenge and the Roman Baths in Bath. The trip started really early. There was still morning mist floating around when we arrived at Stonehenge about 2 hours away from campus. Luckily it burned off before our tour started so we were able to get so awesome photos of the site. The actual site was interesting just because of the engineering skill it must have taken to erect the structures (thank you RPI). The entire site was not as big as many of the pictures I've seen in magazines and books suggested. The tour said that the structures were positioned in such a way that they look much bigger than they actually are from certain angles. There is no denying that the blue stone structures are montrous even if they aren't as huge as National Geographic portrays. I got some incredible pictures but I won't be able to post any until my laptop is resurrected.

After visiting Stonehenge, our next stop was Bath to tour the Roman Baths that were built back in the days before the Empire was converted to Christianity. We were on our own for lunch, so I went with three other girls to Sally Lunn's Refreshment House and Museum. It's a world famous for it's Sally Lunn Buns, which are light semi-sweet bread according to the menu. The building is the oldest house in Bath and has served such greats as Charles Dickens and other aristocrats and royal bathers. I had an awesome ham and chedder melt on a bun. It's a really good thing that the food was really good becasue the service was terrible. We sat for nearly twenty mintues before they took our drink order. We had wanted to go to the Jane Austen House/Centre but ended up not being able too because our service was soooo slowand we had to go back to the Baths for our tour.

The Roman Baths was also very impressive. The structure was discovered in the 1880s under the ruins of itself. The water is naturally heated and delivered the the bath by a hot spring. Hot springs are not common to that area of England which makes it even more special. The bath complex also included a temple to Sulis Minerva, a combination of the Celtic goddess Sul and the Roman goddess Minerva (Athena). Other than the Great Bath, the center is in ruin or covered over by the Bath Abbey or the surrounding shopping district. The Great Bath has been restored although it is nowhere near its former glory. In some of the ruins off of the Great Bath, that haven't been demolished, you can see how the building was converted to a Turkish Bath and then, later, modified again by the monks of the Abbey. After exploring the baths, a bunch of us went to ShakeAway which is a milkshake place where you can order 150 different types of milkshakes. I finally settled on a chocolate and cherry milkshake that kinda tasted like Cherry Gracia ice cream. Delicious. Overall, Bath was a very pretty city and I wouldn't mind going back to check out the rest of it sometime.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

London and "London by the Sea"

St. Paul's Cathedral
Sussex in September took us on two awesome tours over the last couple of days. Sunday, we went into London and did a walking tour for about 5 hours. In that five hours we covered well over six miles and only saw some of the classic buildings in London. It's hard to imagine how massive London is until you get there. The buildings aren't very tall compared to the skyscrappers of NYC but they cover a lot of ground space. Standing next to St. Paul's Cathedral and the House of Parliament were especially awe inspiring. We had lunch at a pub called "The Coal Hole." I had a Sunday Chicken Roast. Our guide said they were amazing, but I wasn't impressed with mine. I thought the chicken was really dry and bland, and didn't know what to make of the yorkshire pudding. I'm definitely going to have to get used to the lack of spices used in dishes. The dipping sauces are a different story. There are a bunch of different sauces over here though. So far I've tried: tomato relish, horseradish mayo, and HP sauce or brown sauce. I definitely liked the HP sauce the best of the three. It was like BBQ sauce only different. Not a very good description but it definitely helped my chicken. After the walking tour, we took an open-top boat tour down the River Thames. Unfortunately my camera died right at the beginning of the tour so I didn't get any pictures from that. It was very disappointing.

Sunset in the Lanes
Yesterday, we went into Brighton, or as it is affectionately known, "London by the Sea." It's famous for its clubs, music scene, pubs, and The Pier, which is a Coney Island-esque amusement park. It's just under an hour train ride from London and attracts a lot of Londonites for its entertainment qualities. It's much smaller than London, obviously, but is full of shops, restaurants, and boutiques. The majority of the smaller shops close at 5:00 or 5:30. We started the tour at 6:30 so there were very few shops that we could check out. There were scores of places to eat though. Every restaurant sounded and smelled better than the last one. Most of us had waited to eat dinner and are still trying to adjust to the exchange rate, so we were starving, surrounded by good food, and didn't want to pay for it. I ended up going to the Brighton Helm with a bunch of people. From the outside it looked really expensive but was actually reasonably priced. I got a sandwich with a side salad and chips (french fries) for a little over £4 or roughly $8. It was probably the first meal I've had where most major food groups were represented in a reasonably healthy way.

My class started on Monday. I'm taking English Folklore which is definitely going to be different than any class I've taken before. Tomorrow we are actually going on a field trip! It's been a long time since I've been on a legitimate field trip. We're going to check out some of the local sites associated with lore such as Devil's Dyke, Hangman's Stone, and the Rottingdean Imp. My professor is a chemist turn folklorist and slightly eccentric. He hasn't really said why he changed his career path but I'm not ruling out the possibility that he just woke up one day and decided to pick up folklore. Nevertheless, the class seems pretty cool and it's definitely a nice break from chemistry.

Friday, September 5, 2008

First Day Across the Pond

Outside Detroit Airport
After ten hours of straight traveling I have finally arrived at the University of Sussex. I discovered that it is much harder to sleep on an airplane than on a train. Even though it wasn't very comfortable and I didn't get much sleep the flight was still okay. I got a window seat and the food was really good for airplane food....much better than the half-raw "Chicago" pizza I had at the airport before we left, and Kung Fu Panada was the in-flight movie. I took a train from Gatwick airport to the campus and, despite the rain, the country side was beautiful and really really green!

A lot of people are staying here for the Autumn term, but so far I haven't met anyone else who is staying for the year. I actually haven't met anyone in my class yet. There's only about six classes for the September term so someone around here must be in it. No one has heard much about their classes yet which is probably a good thing because things are crazy enough as it is. A herd of us were escorted to the grocery store "Sainsbury" with two orientation staff this afternoon. It was by far the most inferior grocery store I've been in yet. We were all struggling to find brand replacements for our former staples. Items like peanut butter and Ramen noodles are in short supply and I have serious concerns about how I'm going to find/make coffee to survive the year. It's a good thing we had people who knew what was going on because the town seems to have been built well before city planning and has only gotten crazier.

We have an orientation dinner tonight and then orientation begins in all its glory tomorrow. Wish me luck!