Monday, June 5, 2017

There I Am, An Ocean Away. Do I Have To Live An Ocean Away?

(Psst! The title is a Hamilton reference, if you didn't get that already.)
Sunday morning was a little busy, but what would you expect when you're traveling back home? Merry, Stephanie, Meagan, Cassandra, Rachel Stipetich, Allie and I rode in a (silver) black cab to the airport. Allie left us to get on her flight, and the rest of us sat around the terminal, occasionally getting up to get coffee. Then we got on our plane and were off to America.

The flight went well. When we started our descent, we were finally able to see American soil.

Customs was a bit confusing, but nobody got in trouble when we landed. I said goodbye to everyone as I left to catch my second flight to Chicago. For some reason that only someone who flies planes would know, the pilot didn't land straight away in O'Hare and instead flew out over Lake Michigan to loop us back around. I'm glad he did because I took this cool picture of the Windy City.
It's a little fuzzy through the glass, but you can see Navy Pier (the white strip over the water) and the Wilis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower (the tall, dark building to the far right).

My flight landed early, and my baby sister just graduated high school that afternoon, so I had dinner at the airport. I made the mistake of not buying Chicago deep dish pizza in the Terminal before I claimed my luggage. I had to settle for Starbucks, which wasn't bad. But it wasn't deep dish pizza, either.

I was finally picked up and on my way to countryside Cedarburg. I'm glad to be home...

I miss London already.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

London, bye ta ta!

I’m sitting here, at Heathrow airport, getting ready to board and I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to have ended the trip of a lifetime. I had a peaceful breakfast watching BBC before leaving to go to Twinnings, again, with Allie, Keeley and Emily. We spent so much time there, and I got maybe a little too much tea. We went walking around a bit after that and said hello the the dragon guarding London City. After walking to the Thames to find the nearest tube station, we were met with a closed station, so we decided to walk to the next station… which was also closed. But we were up for the walk as we got to take in all the sites one last time. I went back to the hotel with 4 bags of tea so that we didn’t have to carry it with us before going to Leicester Square. We stopped at some shops, got food, and I got my friends a lot of candy. Once we had finished eating, we went to a place that I had wanted to go all trip-the Abbey Road Studios to see where the Beatles took one of their most iconic photos. I’m so glad that I got to see it! It was magical.
Once we had finished there, we went back to the hotel and packed a little before we left for the restaurant to have our farewell dinner. It was a wonderful way to say good bye. I’ll miss London, and in the words of David Bowie, “London bye ta ta!”

A Perfect Goodbye

This morning I awoke expecting the pitch black of the middle of the night. (Well, 3:30 am technically) To my slight surprise, as I glanced out the window I saw a murky grey sky and not a black one - I suppose that's due to all the lights from the city. Any ways, after a speedy change into somewhat warm clothes, I carefully attempted a     quiet exit from my room and tiptoed up the stairs to the lobby where I was met by Allie, Emily, and Maggie. We then crept out into the waiting (semi) darkness. It was 3:45 am.

A ten minute tube ride and a walk of the same length later, Primrose Hill rose into view. We arrived at the top, hearts pumping and bodies full of heat, completely oblivious to the cold wind that was scampering over our skin. Resigning ourselves to the fact that anywhere we sat the damp grass would soak through our clothing, we picked a spot near the peak of the hill and gazed at the horizon and the most beautiful view of the London skyline! We settled in and waited for the sun to rise. It was 4:15 am.
Somewhat unfortunately for us the weather was typical London weather and the sun was nowhere to be seen. Vast clouds and a grey fog swirled above our now familiar landmarks, while frosty puffs of wind began to gnaw through our layers of clothing. Though chilled and chattering, we sat and stared at that horizon, taking in every last drop of the landscape. The knowledge that it was our last morning in London weighed heavily on our hearts, only adding to the somber note that the missing sun provided. After a few moments of silence to appreciate the serene quiet and beauty of what lay before us, our usual lively conversation began.

The sun never made an appearance, but we were witness to a gradual brightening of the sky and a faint orange glow that seemed to emanate from the city skyline, highlighting the contrast between tall and short buildings. Eventually the cold wind and heavy eyelids forced us to our feet, and our journey back to warm beds began. It was 5:30 am.
 At 9:00 am my alarm went off for the second time today and I rolled out of bed, even more tired than when I had crawled in. After a lengthy last breakfast, we said goodbye to Maggie, who was headed home early for a sister's graduation. Next stop? Twining’s, an incredible tea shop! Needless to say, I am flying back with my carry on’s volume being half tea.
Our last day in London is coming to a close, and so we completed the last remaining items on our bucket lists - the National Gallery, lunch in Leicester Square (the actual grassy square), a quaint old bookstore where many books were purchased, and Abbey Road.

Farewell London.

Your loving friend,

Saturday, June 3, 2017

London Eye, Oh My!

Friday was a bright sunny day in London that brought about many adventures. The day began with a visit to the British Library. Expecting to visit a typical library, I was very surprised when I saw what was inside. The British Library contains old manuscripts and historical items dating back centuries before our time. These historical artifacts are housed in the “Treasures Gallery,” and the name is very suiting. We weren’t allowed to take any pictures, but it was wonderful just to see pieces such as old biblical texts, a display on the Magna Carta, and even an exhibit on The Beatles.
After the British Library, we grabbed a quick lunch on our way to our next stop, the London Eye. The hot tourist attraction we were to see sits on the bank of the Thames River, and it was hard to miss. Although, I have been on the London Eye before, I was excited to use it again to gain a bird’s eye view of the city. My second experience was just as rewarding as the first as London looked beautiful from above. We were also fortunate as a group to get a capsule to ourselves. We all enjoyed the air-conditioning within and even did a mini photo-shoot, getting pictures with one another before we leave London in a couple of days.

Our day was not over after the London Eye, as a few of us went to the Florence Nightingale Museum. Nightingale, the founder of modern-day nursing, played a large role in reforming health care in London and war. During the Victorian era, little was known about sanitation and hygiene; Nightingale offered insight on how to improve these components of the health care system. It’s crazy to think that it was only a couple of centuries ago that fundamental disease and infection precautions, such as hand washing and sterilization of hospitals were discovered. The trip to the museum made me even more excited to be pursuing a future career in healthcare!

To end our day, we were able to attend one more London show titled Kinky Boots. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was not disappointed after leaving the show. The story line was unique as the musical told the tale of a man inheriting a men’s shoe company after his father’s death and eventually turning it into a factory for drag queens' boots. The music was fantastic and the dancing was superb. I think it may have been one of my favorite shows I have seen this trip. If you get the chance to see Kinky Boots, I highly recommend it!

It was a great day, but I’m sad that our days in London are numbered. This trip has truly been one to remember. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Eye See London

Vandalized sign in the library bathroom states
 "love books not men." 
The trip winds down with a few very exciting events. This, my third and final blog assignment should be a breeze as 2 June was packed with activities. The group started the day with a trip to the British Library where we saw a large treasury of different artifacts from handwritten music to the Magna Carta! One writing I found was on a piece of notepaper next to an exhibit about the Beatles. The note belonged to a man Benjamin Zephaniah. I looked into the writing and ended up finding it online. It is titled "What Stephen Lawrence Has Taught Us." The particular stanza that caught my attention goes as such.  

     Black people do not have
     Chips on their shoulders,
     They just have injustice on their backs
     And justice on their minds,
     And now we know that the road to liberty
     Is as long as the road from slavery.

(link to the poem:

Another exhibit that caught my attention was "Gay in the UK." The exhibit provided and abundant amount of information on the UK's journey toward sexual freedom. It told the stories of individuals who were punished for their sexual orientation, and others who were instrumental for the movement. 

After the exhibition, a few of us found the library's gift shop (which I now hold near to my heart). The gift shop was wall to wall with interesting titles and beautiful knick knacks. Several of us were able to find our way out empty-handed, but many were happy to invest at the shop. 

We continued our journey via Tube to the Embankment station and strolled to the London Eye. I found ice cream to keep me company as we stood in line which led to an air conditioned pod that would carried us to an amazing view of London!

After the eye, Shayna, Alissa and I found food (twice) and we also strolled into a familiar individual. While my photo is awful, look closely and you can see a non-distinct fellow wearing a hat and backpack. The fellow is not other than the Duke from "Twelfth Night" at Shakespeare's Globe. We were quite starstruck. 

The fun continued as we saw "Kinky Boots" at the Adelphi Theatre. The show was absolutely stunning, of course. It had to be to compete with the other productions we have seen thus far! It certainly didn't disappoint. 

London eye are margaritas!

Today we started out with a walk around our neighborhood as we headed towards the British Library. Inside was a museum that I simply found fascinating. I wasn't really looking forward to it because, well, it was a library. It was filled with books, manuscripts, and other written works. But once we arrived I became in tranced. I was surprised to find myself so engaged as I went around to every section to read about what was  on display. I was happy when I was able to recognize names such as Keats, as I had read his work in my British Literature class this past semester. Also, when I stumbled upon the manuscript of Beowulf I was very excited, fore when I had read that epic in highschool it made me sure that I wanted to pursue British Literature. After that, me and Meagan wandered around London enjoying the nice weather as we headed back to the hotel. Then we met up with everyone to go on the London Eye! It was a long, hot wait, but worth it! It was magical! Then back to the hotel as we took leisure time and caught up on homework. Then we ventured to Benito's Hat for a Mexican dinner and two for one margaritas. I had been looking forward to Mexican and margaritas for over a week and a half now and I was by disappointed! Now we are eagerly heading to Kinky Boots, and I'm sure the show will not disappoint! How exciting!

Time as it Dwindles.

Look out world! Because today a majority of the group learned how to fight. Worry not, no true violent physical contact was made. Did I have you bamboozled? Remember, we are on a trip involving literature and theatre education. 'Twas but stage combat we practiced to create illusions of violent acts. Post breakfast, we headed to our workshop hosted by the company Independent Drama. Unfortunately it took a while to get fighting because of an accidental double-booking. Still, we managed to find a suitable space in which to practice fake punches, slaps, choke-holds, and the like. Our instructors Alexandra and Claire were a delightful lot to learn stage combat skills from. They possessed an immense amount of wisdom and experience. I admit that at first blush I thought they might actually be slapping and punching each other. I partnered with my pal Tayler and we created two scenes posing as two tussling sibling rivals. My largest take-away from the workshop is as follows: characterization and intention are key to creating a realistic, exciting stage fight. I was happy to learn hand-to-hand combat because I possess some sword-fighting education as it is. However, there is always more to perfect and learn. In all, it was a rather sweaty morning, but immensely enjoyable nonetheless.
Ready to learn some stage combat ft. our instructors Alexandra & Claire.

Me giving Tayler a good smack for refusing to allow me the privilege of borrowing her shoes.

After grabbing a mozzarella ciabatta panini from Patisserie Valerie, I found myself on a bus with the large group heading to Highgate Cemetery. Back in the early 1800s, London had a population of about one million people. The population increased in years following reaching about 6 million around the 1830s. Previously, graveyards and burial grounds were crammed in small spaces between shops, houses, and taverns. The increase in population also meant an increase in deaths. Thus, the desperate need for private cemeteries arose. Built in 1839,  Highgate was one of seven private cemeteries statued by Parliament. Contrary to popular belief, those who lived in the Victorian Era led colorful lives full of amusement. Although many appear worn and dreary today, gravestones and tombs would have been made with white stone including black and red script. A trip back in time would show the magnificent gardens surrounding graves within the cemetery. These gardens experienced neglect following the first World War allowing dense trees and vines to sprout. Walking through the graveyard, one may notice the many different types of gravestones. Changes in gravestone architecture were equivalent to changes in clothing style, quite trendy and popular. Many graves also tell the onlooker about the life of the deceased, often times via symbols of occupation. Following our guided tour, some friends and I took a stroll through the East cemetery stumbling upon the Graves of Karl Marx and Doulgas Adams. Today, a mere thirty burials are allowed each year.

An example of the diverse gravestone styles present (Gothic, Celtic, and Egyptian Obelisk).

An example of occupational symbol: The grave of a Menagerist named George Wombwell. 

Karl Marx's counter-intuitively extravagant grave. 

The day came to a close after we saw "Matilda" at Cambridge Theatre. It was fantastic! I am unaware if you have any prior knowledge of the story from the Ronald Dahl book or the movie, but I most definitely did, increasing my excitement tenfold. This musical was written by Dennis Kelly. The staging, singing, choreography, and acting were stellar. It is amazing what tiny children are capable of accomplishing (I wish I was as good an actor, dancer, and singer as many of those youngsters). An interesting fact we learned about Matilda is that she often expresses her love for Charles Dickens because his stories reflect the lives of abused children, or children experiencing great hardship.

The stage for Matilda. 
Following these happenings, I sit here clacking on my keyboard in exhaustion. I hesitantly admit, I am a bit sore from our workshop. I am both dismayed and pleased by the thought of returning home as our time in London dwindles. A sense of normalcy has been established after these few weeks, so it feels strange to consider the little time remaining.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Stage Combat, Matilda, and George Michael

It's so sad that this is my last blog post!  I've had such an amazing time on this trip; however, I think I'm ready for home.  As Prince would say, "Parties weren't meant to last".  All good things must come to an end.

First thing on the agenda for today was a stage combat workshop.  This was a little out of my comfort zone but I had fun!  I used to be involved in theatre and had backed away from it for awhile, so this workshop made me very happy!  Was I any good at it?  Probably not.

Then we went on a tour of the Highgate cemetery.  This is actually a very popular tourit attraction in London.  Sounds weird at first but once you're actually in there, its sculptures and final resting places are beautiful.  Plus, tons of famous people are buried here.  The sculptures here show how the decorative trends have changed throughout time, especially during the Victorian times.  They would change sculpture styles like we change fashion trends.  There are influences from every time period and era of the world.  One of the most beautiful styles there that shows how Victorian took pride in their works was a sculpture of a lion on their tombstone.  This lion was made for a menagerist, or zoo keeper, to show their pride in their work and love for their lion named Nero.  Also, George Michael is buried here, but his grave is unfortunately not marked.  While being a fan, I respected his final wishes.

On the way back to the hotel, we went to a bus stop that was not far from George Michael's house in Highgate.  This made my little heart flutter!  I then proceeded to listen to "Faith" while waiting for the bus.  RIP George Michael!

Finally, we saw Matilda!!!  Wow!  This show is amazing!  Just everything about it.  They had laser beams, I've never seen a show with laser beams!  These kids have so much talent, it's unbelievable!  Also, the actor playing the head mistress, was phenomenal!  This was the show I was most looking forward to on this trip because I loved the movie growing up and I was not disappointed!  I think I love the play more than the movie!

Now for my sappy goodbye: This trip has been so incredible.  I have made so many memories and some wonderful friends.  I love this city and am so sad to leave.  I will return one day because I want to see my wild hedgehogs.

Thank you for reading my posts!

Excitement in the air with Combat

   Today started out on a very high note. We had a theater combat workshop with two amazing instructors Claire and Alexandra. We started out with running in a circle and then stretches. Then the fun began we started with slapping. They brought us through the motions of action and reaction. After we were finished slapping we switched to punching. We got to put on a little skit for everyone else. Then we started shoving that was quite fun. We also learned how to block a punch and slap. Once we were done blocking we learned how to fake strangle each other. Then we got to make another skit. Matt and I were partners for the skit. Matt was team Edward and I was team Jacob. In the end of the skit I killed Matt over the argument. Once the combat workshop was over we came back to the hotel and had some lunch.
   We finished lunch at 12:30  then we went to Highgate Cemetery. There were all sorts of different gravestones and tombs. My favorite was the Otway family tomb it was very well placed in the cemetery. The railings on the edge were meant to represent cannons and cannon balls. We also saw Egyptian avenue which was a series of family tombs in the hillside.
   Once the tour was over I went and had supper with friends we went to TCR bar. It was taking quite a while for our food to come out and we asked about it. Our food was sitting in the lift so long that it was cold. After we ate we went to Matilda. It was a amazing performance I liked how adults dressed in cloths that looked like the child actors to look like children.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Journey's End

Hello once again!

Today, the St. Scholastica group ended its excursion to Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon and returned to London! A bit of a later checkout time at our Stratford hotel meant we were able to sleep in if we desired; however, everyone in my room was awake much earlier than we had set our alarms for. I think our bodies may have adjusted to early mornings!

Shortly after breakfast and check out, we bused ten minutes to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, a historical site near Stratford-upon-Avon. Before anyone jumps to conclusions, this cottage was the family home of William Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway; it has no apparent connections with the Princess Diaries star who bears the same name.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage

The cottage is surrounded by a magnificent garden which boasted many perfect picture spots. Naturally, we took many a photo of the flowers, structures, and wildlife nearby, while trying to get at least one decent group photo.
So many colorful flowers and wood work, plus an appearance by
Mortimer the slug, who raced his way across the pathway under our vigilant eyes. 

I think we managed one! 

We were also able to tour the inside of the cottage and caught glimpses of the lives of the Hathaway family through the thirteen generations that inhabited the cottage starting with Anne’s grandfather! The family began living in tight quarters, but were able to expand the cottage through the generations, eventually ending up with enough space to support three families as tenants toward the end of the Hathaway’s tenure on the property.

While Anne lived there, the family was in possession of two beds, a symbol of their elevated status and wealth at the time. It was also interesting to see and read about different pieces of furniture that were of particular importance in the courtship of William and Anne as found in stories told during tours by the last generations of Hathaway’s living at the cottage property.

The Hathaway Bed, given to the family by
Shakespeare's granddaughter, Elizabeth Barnard.

The fire place in the middle room, complete with a bench
(to the right) said to be the place where
Anne and William chatted during their courtship. 

After the tour and a quick lunch stop at the café next door, we boarded our coach and departed for London. Two hours later, our bus driver Richard had safely delivered us to the doorstep of our home-away-from-home, the Jesmond Hotel.

Our afternoon was spent recuperating from our journeys, but our day was not over yet. With the evening, a few groups of Scholastica students ventured to the West End to see the musicals Wicked or Les Mis. After our whirlwind journeys from Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon through the Land of Oz and the French Revolution, we hang our hats and are gladly off to our dreams as we await another day in London!

Anne Hathaway Cottage and Les Miserables

     Today we started off with a tour of the childhood home of Anne Hathaway in Stratford-upon-Avon. Much to my dismay, it was not the home of the talented actress, but rather of William Shakespeare's wife. The house has been lived in by the Hathaway family since the 16th century. It was the house where Anne grew up in, and then left to be with Shakespeare. On ground level there was a kitchen, laundry, and parlor. Upstairs they had the bedrooms set up to reflect the many generations that had lived in the house. However, the house was only a tiny portion of the property. The rest was taken over by a huge garden. There were beautiful sections of neatly trimmed hedges, others with lavender and colorful flowers. It was truly as wonderful experience to walk through.

Later that night when we returned to London, some of us went to see the play Les Miserables. The play is set in 19th century France, post revolution. Many are sick and poor, and have to do what they can to survive. The play centers on a thief who is released from prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his nephew. Years after this, he learns from his ways and takes care of and raises a young girl under the wish of her dying mother. All of this takes place under the rebellion of schoolboys who want to fight for a better future for the people of France. Having seen the movie already, I had an idea of what I was walking into. I was not however prepared for the heartfelt emotion casted by the actors, as their singing was top notch and professional. Even the two young kids carried their weight amongst the older actors. Overall it is one of my favorite plays I  have seen so far.

The End of An Excursion

Wednesday marked the last day of our little excursion outside of London. We spent it viewing Anne Hathaway’s cottage and gardens. Anne Hathaway was married to William Shakespeare. The cottage was the home that she grew up in, meaning Shakespeare never lived there. But they did visit after they were married. 

The gardens offered much to see and explore, including a giant jenga game that a few of us set up and played until our tour was called.

We explored the cottage, read the information available, and then wandered the grounds. A few of us traipsed through the forest just a little ways away from the cottage. I’m not really a fan of forests and such, too many bugs for my liking, but it was a pretty walk. They also had cute signs every so often, teaching us about hedgehogs. 


After a quick stroll through the gift shop, we ate lunch at an adorable café across the road before boarding our coach bus once more. The ride was a leisurely two hours. Most students slept, but a few of us played games on phones to keep us occupied.

After we returned to London, the time was our own. My friends and I decided to see if we could snag tickets to see Wicked later that evening, so we took the tube to Leicester Square and checked out the discount ticket booth. To our delight, they did have some inexpensive tickets available, so we bought them for the 7:30 pm showing. That left us with three hours to spend and we went to Camden Market. I bought an oil painting (I’ve been collecting them from each country I go to where I can find them) and we ate a quick dinner from the food stalls there. It was a great market, I love the energy at those places.

The time passed quickly and we made our way to the theatre. Now, on a complete side note, I am a huge Hamilton fan. For anyone who is unaware, Hamilton is a musical about one of the US’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. A theatre nearby the Wicked theatre is going to have Hamilton there in November and is currently under construction. The coverings on the building have the characters’ silhouettes. It was spectacular. 

Then we saw Wicked. I was enthralled. I’d never seen it before. The voices of the cast, with the stage and everything was amazing. One of my favorite performances (yes, I do say that often. But I do mean it at the time I say it, so it counts).

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Goddess of Bath

Today I payed my respects to the Pagan/Roman Goddess Sulis Minerva. Sulis Minerva is the Goddess of the thermal-spring in Bath. After seeing the spring myself, it's no wonder people long ago sensed the presence of something magical. Pictured above is the great bath that was filled and heated by a natural thermal spring. The spring rises from the ground and bubbles, as if it's boiling. Steam and the scent of minerals rise up as well. When the Romans built the baths, they rerouted some of this water to run through several rooms before meeting up with the River Avon. With the exception of some out-dated lead pipes, their original stone architecture is still working today. This was visible all over the baths as we took our tour. I was most interested in hearing all of the recovered items when they excavated the baths and spring. Most notable were the offerings and curse requests. Offerings typically included carved plates and, not surprisingly, coins. On the other hand, people also would make carvings with names and accusations of people they believed needed to be cursed. Overwhelmingly, these were for what we would see as rather small thefts such as a cape or gloves. These days, they ask you to throw coins into one of the baths rather than the deep Spring. I tossed a coin and made a wish to the Goddess Sulis. I also had the opportunity to drink water from the spring but not until it was thoroughly cleaned! Overall, it was a really beautiful and magical location.

High Church

Today, my fellow cohort and I visited a significant church in Stratford-upon-Avon, England; the Holy Trinity Church. Here at this church, William Shakespeare is buried with his wife, among other important family members. Emotionally moving moments like these remind me why I appreciate not knowing about certain landmarks such at this. Throughout this trip, the greatest moments for me have been when I personally didn't know about what I going to see that day. Funny enough, I'm sure the professors accompanying this trip state what we are going to do before we do it; my mind wanders in different places accidentally and fails to hear these plans. Luckily though, I encounter beautiful places like this church will a fresh ignorant air. In this same church, there is a memoriam to William Hunt, one of the founding members of the pre-raphaelite Brotherhood. He was a well-known painter that dedicated his life to capturing the real spirit of nature in his art. I wonder if he himself is buried there. This morning began in Bath, England at the Hilton, and we had a full continental breakfast. Then most of my morning was spent at the Roman Baths, in Bath. Then, while on the bus ride to Stratford-upon-Avon, I slept and mentally planned out my novel. So needless to say, the things I saw today were immense inspirations for what I want in my novel. For the end of the day, me and my friends has McDonalds and saw a play, "Antony and Cleopatra".