After church and a quick meal in the refectory, we were all still pretty frozen from the service. So Katie and I went off into the manor to explore, trying to find a room with some blankets or fires or free hot chocolate or anything warm, but could only find a room full of cold leather couches. Luckily for us, we stumbled upon who we now know as "blanket lady", and she let us grab a few wool blankets out of the housekeeping room. We found our couch room again, and were warm at last. So warm and comfortable that my next memory is of Principal Kingsley waking us up and telling us we were missing the orientation sessions. Ahh! So we rushed to those, and learned nothing interesting. But first we stashed out blankets. Hoping they don't get found!
1/12/10- Monday (First day of classes!)
Waking up for my first class was rough. It starts at 8:30, and by the time you account for a shower, a walk to the manor, and breakfast, I need to be up at about 7. Ugh.
8:30- British Studies Lecture (M,W)
9:40- British Studies Seminar (M,W)
11:15- Principles of Management (M,W)
3:10:- The Mathematics of Gambling (M,T,TH)
British Studies was rough, and doesn't seem like a class that I'm going to thoroughly enjoy. But it'll be interesting, and I know that when I leave Harlaxton I'll be glad to have learned all that I did. Our lecture class is taught in the Long Gallery, with all 150 students in attendance. Our seminars are split off among the British Studies faculty, and my class is probably 18-20 students deep. Seminar is much more hands-on and interesting, and where we receive all of our tests, quizzes, and assignments. Management was pretty interesting, and our professor (Sherman) seems to be a pretty cool guy. I'm not too worried.
I'm signing up to be on the school volleyball team, and that should be interesting. I've never played volleyball in my life.
London is this weekend! I'm really excited to take our first official trip, and will update again when I'm back!
1/17/10- Sunday (Back from London!)
So London was incredible.
Friday morning, we all packed into three coach buses and were on our way. Taking a train to London takes about an hour, but to get there is a coach is more like 2 and 1/2. The drive to London is a boring one, unless you love fields full of sheep and the inevitable paranoia that comes with driving on the other side of the road. I was on the back of the coach, and was able to sleep for about 15 minutes of the ride, but otherwise I just tried to make friends and looked out the window. I met a girl named Sara Seng who liven in the same town where I used to have to relatives, so that made for a good conversation. About 45 minutes before we arrived in London, we pulled off the road into the largest truck stop I've ever seen. There were shops, probably 5 little cafe-style restaurants, and a small casino, as well a several kiosk vendors. We looked around in the shops for a while, and grabbed some lunch while we were there, but ultimately we just wanted to get back on the coach and get to London!
After another 100 km of sheep fields, we were parked outside of our hotel in London, the Royal National. Sounded legit. We weren't allowed to go inside yet, rather we sat there as a London Blue Guide (supposedly they're the bomb) boarded and proceeded to give us the driving tour of the city. He was a pretty funny guy, and very knowledgeable. Along our tour we were able to get out of the coach at the Thames river and see Tower Bridge, which was fascinating. We also drove past the Tower of London, which is so much more massive than I had imagined it. What a fun sneak peak at everything we'd be doing that weekend!
Once we got back to the hotel and were able to check in, we went up to our rooms and dropped off our stuff. Then it was off to explore! Chelsea, Katie, and I walked down first to Picadilly circus, taking funny phone booth pictures along the way. Picadilly Circus is the intersection with the HUGE electronic advertisements, and was pretty cool to see in person. Then we walked to Trafalgar's Square, and climbed up onto the huge lion statues for pictures. They were a little icy, so it was hard to get up without falling off and getting hurt. But we managed. I had to lift both Katie and Chelsea onto the lions, because they weren't tall enough to climb up, and then I jumped up there myself. It's fun to take pictures together doing stuff like that, especially in a foreign city, because you never know who speaks English and therefore who you can ask to take your picture. But I think most people get the idea when you tap them on the shoulder and hold your camera up.
After Trafalgar's Square we stopped at one of those cheesy tourist kiosks that sells "I Love London" tshirts and souvenir magnets and stuff, and were all able to find some pretty cool postcards to send back home. I'm sorry that no one has received one yet... Afterwards we walked down to 10 Downing Street, which is where the British Prime Minister lives, and from there walked a little further and were able to find our first royal guardsman. So we of course went and took pictures. He cracked a smile when I asked what his name was so I could tag him on Facebook, and I got a kick out of that. After that, though, we started walking back towards our hotel, but didn't get far before we realized we'd die without food in the next 5 minutes. So after a long decision making process (Katie finally manned up and made a choice), we stopped in this small little Italian place where the food was awesome. I ordered a calzone for like 6 pounds, but I think they were implying on the menu that the 6 pounds was what it weighed. The thing was huge! Like a large pizza folded in half. Needless to say I ate the whole thing and was done before either of the girls finished their pasta bowls. Best 6 pounds ever spend.
That night, we came back to the hotel and crashed. After such a long day of walking, we were ready to just melt into our beds until the next morning. The shower head in the hotel hit me right in the chest, which made things fun.
The next morning, we added a few to our group and left the hotal for the day. First we grabbed breakfast at some little cafe called Pret a Manger, which were everywhere, and then bought tube tickets and headed down into the subway system. It was so packed! But we grabbed a train to the west side of London and began our day at Westminster Abbey. On the way out into the world from the tube station, there was a man standing near the exit playing CCR's "Have You Ever Seen The Rain", and doing a hell of a good job. Then we walked outside, and did. Rain in the UK in annoying. From what I've witnessed, it never pours. Maybe it does, but I've never witnessed it. It just kinda sprinkles here, but it does it allllll day. And that's what today was like. But we got out at Westminster Abbey and took a few pictures, then went over to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. Buckinham Palace was pretty awesome just by itself. It was huge! But the changing of the guard left a little to be desired. There were all sorts of people there, and the guardsmen all had instruments and played music for a loooong time. But then they did their switch and it was just what you'd expect. Two come out, two go in. Then they all walk off with their instruments and horses in a big parade deal and the roads open back up and all is normal. I was glad I went to see it, but I don't think I'd have an interest to go back. At least not without a better spot in the crowd.
After the changing of the guard, we got back on the tube and rode all the way to the Tower of London. The admission price was a little steeper than I thought it'd be, but it was worth the price to see the Tower from the inside. I never knew one building could have so much history! Nor would I have ever known the history, had Katie not been there. It was fun to talk through and see where Bloody Mary sent Elizabeth I when she hated her, and where Anne Bolyn got her head lopped off. The thing that Katie said that I thought was fascinating was that once you were sent to the Tower of London, it was basically over. You were dunzo. So walking up into the towers and looking out on the courtyard and scenery around the castle just meant so much more, realizing that it was the last thing that hundreds of people saw before they died. We got the chance to see the crown jewels as well, which was pretty cool. We finished the night with some shopping, and then had dinner at the American Embassy (aka McDonalds), and walked back to the hotel. It was pretty late, and people started knocking on our door and before we knew better there was a pretty wild hotel party going on right where we had slept the night before. Details to whoever wants them, but I didn't stay up long.
The next day (Sunday) we got back on our coaches and made one last stop before returning to Harlaxton, and that was to Hampton Court Palace. This is where Henry VIII lived for a while, and it seemed pretty fit for a king of his stature. The place was huge. Inside there were some cool rooms and neat architecture, but I was truly blown away when we went outside into the gardens. The rain from the day before had cleared, and the sun over the expanse of what had to be miles of beautifully landscaped trees and flowers was absolutely beautiful. The whole place was constructed with a sort of symmetry that made walking out the back door of the palace absolutely breathtaking. Wrapping around to the side of the palace, we also found a hedge maze, and were able to make it through without too much trouble. We had our wands out and ready, so I'm not sure we were ever in any real danger.
We grabbed some food in the local town, and then boarded the coaches back to Harlaxton. I slept most of the way back, which was good after such an exhausting weekend.
That night Katie and I skyped her sister, Paige, who works as a cosmetologist, and she walked Katie step by step through how to cut my hair. She only said "oops!" a few times, so I wasn't worried that I couldn't tell what was going on up there. Two hours later (longest hair cut of my life), volunteering to be a dummy worked out, and I was very happy with the way it looked. So I think Katie's gonna open up shop any day now, and start charging. Haircuts in town are expensive, so she might get some serious business!