Monday, October 20, 2014

Study Abroad at RHUL: Shakespeare's Globe and The White Cliffs of Dover

I seem to be averaging two trips per week where I leave my campus and Egham, the surrounding town, to explore other parts of England. I think that's pretty good! My third week at Royal Holloway I went to Shakespeare's Globe Theater and the White Cliffs of Dover.

Wednesday October 8th: Shakespeare's Globe Theater

This was one of my solo trips, mostly because I'd only learned a few days before that there were only a few shows left for the season. Due to limited planning time and the fact that I could go on a Wednesday afternoon when many of my friends can't, my options were either go by myself or not go at all--easy decision. To make the most of my trip, I decided to get to the Globe by going to St. Paul's Cathedral via tube then crossing the Thames on the Millennium Bridge.

St. Paul's Cathedral 
Crossing Millenium Bridge
If you're unfamiliar with the Globe Theatre, it is a reconstruction of the theatre of the same name that many of Shakespeare's productions were performed in when he was alive. It was built in the 1990s to almost exact specifications of the original, including a thatched roof. I got lucky and managed to make the very last tour for the day, without even planning to go on one. I even got to see some of the actors warm up!
A model of the Globe
View from the seats
Some of the actors warming up!
The Globe has an open top, so you can either buy seats and be covered by the roof or choose to stand in the yard as a "groundling." I chose to take advantage of the cheap tickets (and the great view!) and stand in the yard, which means that I got pretty wet when it was pouring before the show started. Luckily, the rain stopped right before the play began and didn't start up again for the duration.

Waiting in the rain 
The people behind me in the yard.
My view of the stage (!!!)
There's no photography allowed during the show, but take my word for it that it was amazing. I barely even noticed that I was standing for the full 2 1/2 hours because I was so enthralled. I laughed the entire time, and the actors were wonderful. One of the leads had had a part in Sherlock for an episode, so that was cool.

After the show, I bought a bunch of stuff from the fantastic gift shop. That gift shop is the bomb. I got a Shakespeare's Globe tote bag and some magnets with a quote from each Macbeth and As You Like It, my favorite drama and comedy, respectively (at least, that I've read so far). I wanted so much more, but I do have a semblance of a budget to stick to. All in all, it was a great day and I'm really happy that I decided to go despite having to make last minute arrangements.

Saturday October 11th: The White Cliffs of Dover 

I went to Dover with my friends Lauren and Kiana. We got up early to catch a bus from London Victoria station to Dover that took 2 1/2 hours, which wasn't super fun but was about a fifteenth of the price of taking a train. Unfortunately, the tickets we booked didn't give us a ton of time to explore all of Dover, but we got to spend a few hours on the cliffs taking pictures and walking around reveling in the beauty.
The majestic Dover Castle
If you squint, you can see France!
When we were approaching the cliffs it was raining, but that cleared up fast. Although the skies and view got prettier, the mud did not automatically go away when the sun came out. At the end of the day all of our shoes were covered in mud from walking along the paths and climbing the hills. I would recommend wearing really sturdy shoes if you ever visit Dover. I would also recommend that you visit Dover.

Despite our limited time and muddy shoes, all three of us really enjoyed the trip to Dover. If I had more time in England I would probably even go back, but as it is I think that I need to spend my time exploring other things. We capped off our day with a wild hunt for Mexican food in London, and ended up at Wahaca, a great restaurant where I tried my first ever mojito. Overall, a very successful day.

Until next time,

Monday, October 13, 2014

Study Abroad at RHUL: Trips the First Week of October

I've now been at RHUL for three full weeks. In some ways it feels like I've been here forever, and in others like I'm fresh off the boat. Though I haven't been here super long, I've still found time to pack in four trips to London and a trip to Dover. Not having class on Wednesdays or Fridays really helps, because then I have a whole day in the middle of the week where I can go explore London, and I have more time on the weekends to plan longer trips.

This are the trips from my second week here, the trips from the third week will be up soon!

Wednesday October 1st: Leicester Square and Charing Cross Road

I learned how to use the train and the tube on my first trip to London with Lauren and Kiana. It's practically idiot-proof, so I felt like I could go into London and get around by myself no problem. Of course the first thing I did when I had the chance was go book shopping. I got off the tube at Leicester Square (pronounced Lester) and just walked around all day, exploring the famous-for-bookstores Charing Cross Road and wandering to Picadilly Circus.

Part of Leicester Square
There are a ton of independent and secondhand bookstores in that area, and I went into four or five of them. I found some super cheap editions of Shakespeare plays that I will be reading for class at Henry Pordes, a fairly large secondhand store, and I spent hours in Foyles, a bookstore with six levels including the ground floor. I ended up with four books from Foyles.

The books I bought from Foyles
When I was in Foyles, I noticed that a there seem to be far fewer hardcover books in the UK than in the US. Which was good for me, because they weren't nearly as expensive. It felt a little odd to see so many super thick paperbacks, because it seems like US publishers keep books in hardback for as long as possible. I also rediscovered that in the UK only single quotation marks are used for dialogue instead of double quotation marks. (Sidenote: It might be a good idea for me to see if that applies to academic papers too...).

After I wandered pretty far up Charing Cross Road to Foyles, I went back toward Leicester Square and down a few side streets. I went into a really cool store that had signed copies of a lot of popular books. I was surprised at how recently some of the signed books had been released. I also checked out Marchpane, a store for rare children's and illustrated books, but they were closed when I passed by. They had a signed first edition of Harry Potter in the window, though, so I'll probably be back at some point to see what other treasures are inside.

When I had lunch I discovered that saying you want cream with your coffee means you want whipped cream on it. It was awesome. I started One Day by David Nicholls while I was there, and I ended up continuing to read it on the train back home even though I'd intended to read for class (whoops). 

After lunch I walked to Picadilly Circus without even realizing it. I realized that things are a lot closer together than Google Maps would lead you to believe. It was really busy, but there were a lot of souvenir shops around so I stopped in one and picked up some things to bring back home. 

After a quick stop in Starbucks for a very American Pumpkin Spice Latte, I headed back to Waterloo station and got on a train to Egham. I think it went pretty well for it being the first time traveling to London on my own. 

Saturday October 4th: Bus Tour of London and the British Museum

I went on this trip through Royal Holloway's study abroad office. It was a bus tour where we got to get out and take photos at quite a few different places, while also getting a feel for London as a whole. Our guide, Kevin, was super awesome. He was funny and made sure to tell us the important things and the things we would find interesting. I could tell that he really enjoys giving the tours.
Me in front of Buckingham Palace
I'm really happy I went on this trip, because I got to do some of the more touristy things that my British friends aren't super interested in. Buckingham Palace was our first photo stop, and it really wasn't as grand as I expected it to be. Unfortunately, we'd just missed the time of year they let visitors inside. But it was still Buckingham Palace, so it's automatically cool. I found out that the Queen likes to spent her weekends in Windsor Castle, which is actually really close to Royal Holloway. That is definitely on my list of places to visit.

Big Ben
If you went to London and didn't take a picture of Big Ben, did you really go to London? Fun fact: Big Ben is actually the name of the bell inside the clock tower, not the name of the clock or the tower. 
Tower Bridge

Another fun fact: Tower Bridge is the super pretty one that you want to take pictures of (even when it's raining, like it was when I took this one). London Bridge is just a normal bridge that cars go over like nbd. I was actually taking this picture from London Bridge, so I can attest that it's not very cool.


After we finished our tour of London, we went to the British Museum. It is both huge and free. There are so many exhibits there that we only got to go to a few in our two hours, so hopefully I'll be going back before I leave to spend more time there. 

The chess set that inspired the one used in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The head from a huge statue of King Ramesses II
I also want to go back for the gift shop, because there were so many awesome souvenirs there. I couldn't even begin to think of what to buy while I was there the last time, so I didn't end up with anything. That will have to be fixed. 

Although I had to get up early on a Saturday for this, it was definitely worth it. I met my friend Sophie on this tour, and now we're planning to go on at least two trips to cities in Europe together! So it was a great experience, though I certainly didn't feel as independent and awesome as I did when I went by myself. 

Until next time,