Coming Home.

Coming Home.

 

Finally, the journey is complete. It's been an amazing experience. I've grown in ways I never could expect and saw more of London and of the world than I ever could imagine.

This blog has also been an amazing experience in itself. I wrote at least one post with pictures every single day, sometimes more. I've edited over 900 pictures for this blog (and taken literally thousands more). This blog transformed from a mere record of my journey into something more; it's an artifact of my life in London and definitively one my proudest works to date.

With that, I want to thank some people. First, my parents and Grinnell College, for making all of this possible. Next, the rest of my amazing family for their love and support and constant praise. Next, Emily, for making the homesickness a little easier to bear and giving me so much to look forward to when I return home. I'd also like to thank all of my amazing friends on the program, back home in Grinnell, and fellow abroadlings for making this semester great and forming such incredible memories. A huge thank you goes out to Donna Vinter, Caroline Hart, and Professors Prevost, Nuttall, Guenther, Delminico, & Layton-Jones; you all helped make the program so incredibly enriching and life-changing with both your teaching and your conversations. I also owe a major thank you to the Grinnell AV Department in conjunction with the Off-Campus Study Office for providing me with an amazing DSLR camera to document the journey. Finally, my warmest thanks to all of you readers; I've had over 5000 page views from dozens of countries around the world and your comments and praise helped keep me motivated to keep writing and adventuring.

 

This may be the last Grinnell-In-London blog, but I hope to make sure that it isn't the last blog. Updates will be less frequent, but I plan on sharing bits from my life here. You'll see my photography, my art, my writing, food creations, etc. I hope you've enjoyed the London blog and will occasionally pop over to see what's new at The Life and Times of Eric Mistry. Thanks again for being amazing, dear readers.

With all of that out of the way, I just wanted to reflect on the journey, first with some statistics, then with some final musings.

The Numbers (And More Subjective Things…)

  • Plays: 17 Full Productions (Including 5 Shakespearean Plays)
  • Countries: 4 (UK, Belgium, Italy, Spain)
  • Cities: 15 (London, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Salisbury, Bruges, Brussels, Venice, Florence, Rome, Sorrento, Termini, Bari, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Edinburgh)
  • Blog Posts: 149
  • Reader Views Before This Post: 5128
  • Edited Pictures: 930 (Note: EDITED, I took thousands more.)
  • Favorite Pub: Exmouth Arms
  • Favorite Fish and Chips: Poppies
  • Favorite Local Brew: Camden Ink (Delicious stout with chocolate overtones.)
  • Favorite Purchase: Tied between my leather briefcase or vintage leather bomber jacket.
  • Favorite British Word: Cheers!
  • Favorite Memory: TOO MANY TO CHOOSE!!!

This has been the trip of a lifetime. I've seen an insane amount of sites and sights, walked miles and miles around Europe, and made some amazing friendships along the way. It wasn't always easy, but keeping a good attitude helped make everything easier. I've learned a lot about myself as a person, but also learned some important skills that I will definitely be using for the rest of my life, namely learning to cook for 4+ people and how to take good photographs.

I've made some small collages below that capture a few of my favorite snapshots from the trip.

So thank you for sticking with me, dear reader. It's been an amazing journey, and I was glad to bring you along.

Now, it's time to go home.

Much love,

Eric

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The Final Banquet

The Final Banquet

Tonight, we gathered as a group for the last time to celebrate finishing Grinnell in London.

The papers are in, the bags are (nearly) packed, and the last little things are finally being done. The banquet was a nice cap to the semester. It was so nice to get to get together with all of the wonderful people who made this semester what it was. Not only did I get to dine and chat with my fellow Grinnell-in-Londoners as a large group, but I also got to say some final goodbyes and thank yous to the program professors and staff.

It was a wonderful evening filled with great conversation and fantastic food. We dined at the Clerkenwell Kitchen, a little restaurant right by our flat. We each received a three course meal. I started with a delectable English Onion Soup. It was rich, hearty, and wonderfully seasoned. I quickly gobbled it up and eagerly awaited the main course. I had opted for the roasted sirloin served with vegetables, which turned out to be parsnips, potatoes, and sprouts. It was a delicious and quite filling entrée. Finally, for dessert, I opted for the toffee pudding, which was scrumptious and not terribly heavy, a sweet way to top off a fabulous meal.

After the meal, we convened to snag a final group shot. It is somewhat crazy to see how much we've grown together on this semester together. We've bonded over an incredible experience and it's been wonderful to make so many new friends. We said our goodbyes see-you-laters and headed back home to polish off some more packing. All in all, a good day. My final day in London is tomorrow. Pictures below.

Teddy and I

 

Soup!

 

Fresh Sourdough! Yum!

 

The Main Course

 

Delectably Delicious Dessert

 

What a group!

 

Adventures at Stonehenge!

Adventures at Stonehenge!

Today was a glorious celebration of 12/12/12. I visited Stonehenge (one of my life dreams), as well as the nearby town of Salisbury and the castle ruins at Old Sarum.

I began my day early this morning by catching a bus from Victoria Station in London. I enjoyed the nice, long bus ride to Salisbury by reading, working on a paper, and sketching in my notebook. Finally, I arrived in Salisbury and bought my combination ticket to Stonehenge, Old Sarum, and the tour bus. There was a bit of time to kill, so I meandered around the local Christmas market in the town square. I found a little present for one of my readers out there, so that was exciting as well!

Finally, the tour bus departed and I enjoyed the ride to Stonehenge and all the interesting facts the tour told us along the way. Apparently, Salisbury was a major strategic location in World War I and II, serving as a mustering point and training ground for the Allied Forces before they shipped off to continental Europe. As Stonehenge approached, we learned a bit about its evolution and what little history we know. The technological achievement was amazing at the time, and even holds up today. (An attempt to move a similarly large stone in the early 2000s in a historical reenactment ended in total failure.)

At long last, we finally pulled up to Stonehenge. It was truly amazing. The massive rock pillars stand in a wide open field, dwarfing everything around them. Majestic, ancient, and imposing, they are like nothing I have ever seen. They seem almost out-of-this-world and as old as time itself. This feeling was augmented by the Wiccan/Pagan/Druid followers that turned out in a sizable number to celebrate the occurrence of 12:12 on 12/12/12. They brought incense and chiming bells, and also organized a rhythmic chant amongst themselves. As the minute drew close, everything but a low hum from the bells went silent. Then, as if on a cue, the sun burst from behind the clouds, illuminating everything. It was one of the most magical moments in my life.

Majestic Stonehenge

 

After that, I walked around the structures, taking tons of pictures and enjoying the moment. Stonehenge is incredible, and these pictures don't even begin to do it justice. The sense of something bigger than the individual is unavoidable as one gazes upon these ancient monuments lost in time.

Post-Stonehenge, I made my way back to the bus, which took me to Old Sarum, a massive hill complex that holds the ruins of a castle used by William the Conqueror in the 1080s. It was really beautiful and peaceful, and offered an excellent view of the surrounding countryside.

The last cool thing I had to see was the famous Salisbury Cathedral. It towers over the city and dwarfs everything in sight. It was absolutely gorgeous. After snapping a few pictures, I walked around the town, finally warming up with a little coffee at a cafe before heading to the bus.

All in all, a wonderful day. Only a few left. Pictures below!

 

 

 

 

The Countryside

 

Heading up to Old Sarum

 

Beautiful Light by Old Sarum

 

View of Salisbury from Old Sarum

 

Castle Ruins

 

Adventuring Amongst the Ruins

 

Salisbury Cathedral

View from the Front

 

The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town

The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town

For one of my last evenings in London, I decided to have a little fun and check out a nearby speakeasy, The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town.

Cleverly hidden, the Mayor is quite a find. In fact, it doesn't even have a street entrance. You have to ask to be let in by the restaurant above it, a charming breakfast diner called The Breakfast Club. We entered The Breakfast Club, and when the waiter asked where we'd like to sit, we told him we were looking for the Mayor. He then led us to the 50's era SNEE refrigerator, opened the door, and led us down a staircase hidden inside. That's right. The entrance to the speakeasy is through a REFRIGERATOR. It was pretty phenomenally cool.

We made it down the stairs and got a table. After some consultation with the bartender, I ended up ordering a cocktail called the “King Yellowman's Answer”, which apparently won Rumfest 2012. It seemed like a safe bet, and the description made it sound amazing. It read:

King Yellowman's Answer

Blackwell Rum, roasted pineapple with cinnamon sticks, honey, espresso and freshly pressed pear juice. With a garnish not to be messed with.

It was delicious. The garnish turned out to be a scotch pepper, one of the hottest in the world, filled with rum to be added to the drink to taste. It was lit on fire at our table to infuse the flavor into the rum, then I poured about half in my drink. It was fiery, but so delectable. After enjoying the ambiance of The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town for awhile, we finally headed home to do some homework. All in all, a good day.

 

The Store”front”

 

 

 

 

The Hidden Entrance

 

 

Quirky Ambiance Painting

 

King Yellowman's Answer

 

A Fun Day at the V&A (…And Natural History Museum)

A Fun Day at the V&A (…And Natural History Museum)

Today was a massive museum day!

 

I started with the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is such a vast, amazing space filled with countless treasures. I explored various rooms for a few hours, marveling at all of the incredible handiwork. It always astounds me to realize how much incredible stuff was made before the advent of modern technologies like computers or even electricity. I just see so much potential in the human race by looking at our past and seeing the marvels we could make in the old past, and dreaming of the incredible, unimaginably awesome things the future will hold.

 

After the V&A, I traveled to the nearby Natural History Museum. Its imposing exterior is matched by the majestic interior, filled to the brim with scientific treasures. I went through a special exhibit on the museum's most valuable acquisitions (including a Neanderthal skull and a first edition of On The Origin of the Species), an exhibit on evolution, and the museum's giant collection of minerals. The collection was housed in a massive hall lined with rows on rows of display cases. It was a geology enthusiast's dream, and totally ROCKED! (Okay… awful pun, I apologize.)

 

After all of the museum walking, I was hungry, so I swung into Chinatown to grab a cheap Baozi (steam bun), then headed off to the gym. After the gym, I made a supper that used up almost the last of our food stocks! The end is near! All in all, a good day!

 

 

Buddha From the V&A

Another Buddha

…And Yet Another Buddha.

 

Exquisite Arabian Carpet

 

Bronze Statue

 

Ivory Framed in Wood

V&A Courtyard

 

Entrance to the Natural History Museum

 

Darwin

FIRST EDITION!!!

 

Gibbon

The Rock Hall

 

Malachite

 

 

Topaz (Mom's Favorite)

 

Agate

 

Magnificent Opals!

 

Bricklane & Family Dinner

Bricklane & Family Dinner

Today was quite a fun day! I enjoyed going to my final Sunday market at Bricklane, and also got to have my cousin and her friends over to my flat for supper.

I began the day at Bricklane, browsing the stands and enjoying lots of delicious food! My favorite treat of the day was a s'mores whooping pie from a bakery stand. It was amazing. The cake was perfect and dipped in dark chocolate, with a tasty toasted marshmallow center. YUM!

Treats!

 

Classic London

After eating a bunch, I made my way to the gym, enjoyed a good workout, hit up the grocery store, and set about making a dinner! I made a caprese salad and a pasta with roasted chorizo and tomatoes in a creamy tomato pesto sauce. It had to be good, because we were having guests tonight!

My cousin Alyssa came over for supper with her boyfriend, Toony Goghavala, and her friend, Maya Tata. It was wonderful. We enjoyed a great dinner and conversation together, as well as the wonderful wine and great little cookies that Alyssa baked for us. (Let's put it this way… That pastry education is WORKING! They were gone in mere minutes!) All in all, a good day, and a great FINAL Sunday.

 

The Whole Group

 

Our Guests and Me

 

Cousins!

 

Alyssa and Maya

Toony and Alyssa

 

Successful Saturday!

Successful Saturday!

Today was quite a busy day! The big highlights? I went to the Design Museum and also saw a play today.

I began my day by traveling to the Design Museum. It is a really cool building based in a converted warehouse. The main exhibitions of the day were an awesome jewelry design exhibit, and another level that contained a plethora of installations involving crystal and lights. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the descriptions and just examining the beautiful and well-designed objects.

After the museum, I ventured via tube to the Tricycle Theatre to see an adaptation of The Arabian Nights. It was a very interesting and creative adaptation of the classic tale of Scheherazade and the 1001 nights of stories. It was beautiful to watch, and ran the gamut of emotions, from funny to sad to nostalgic. All in all, a wonderful play.

The rest of my day involved an extremely long workout at the gym and then enjoying an evening of hanging out with my fellow Grinnellians. In the end, it was a superb way to spend my last Saturday in London! Pictures below!

 

Jewelry!

Awesome Projector Lamp/Kaleidoscope

Thousands of Crystals

 

Detail

Creative Crystals

 

Awesome Embroidered Poster

 

The Best Fish and Chips in London

The Best Fish and Chips in London

The contest is over. Today's combatant blew away the rest of the field. The best overall fish and chips experience in London (by my criteria) is Poppies, an establishment just off of Bricklane. I visited Poppies for lunch today as a study break from writing my paper. Definitely a great decision.

Let's break down the criteria.

1. The Fish: Perfectly fried, brought hot and fresh to the table. Crispy but light breading covers a massive hunk of beautifully white cod. The fish was flaky, and utterly delicious. Also, the homemade tartar sauce was perfect.

2. The Chips: The best traditional chips in London. (Exmouth Arms was a close contender, but Poppies keeps it closer to the traditional steak-cut fry, giving it the edge it needed.) Crisp on the outside, and totally fresh, these fries were a great complement to the fish. They tasted good without vinegar and salt and absolutely phenomenal with the classic two toppers.

3. Mushy peas: Poppies advertised its mushy peas as “homemade.” They certainly taste like it, and it makes a huge difference! The sweet, fresh peas complemented the heaviness of the fried fish and chips nicely. Best mushy peas in London.

4. The atmosphere/overall experience: Poppies is an old-fashioned chippy, and it shows in the best possible way. From the waitstaff wearing 50s era white short sleeve button-ups with a black tie to serving the takeaway fish and chips in newspaper, Poppies captures a lost era. Huge lines and friendly staff, coupled with a cohesively fantastic and classic fish and chips meal, make this one London experience you absolutely cannot miss.

 

It's been an amazing adventure trying the various fish and chips restaurants all around town. Each one had its own twists on the classic meal, so my favorite fish and chips may not be your choice. Either way, with a good batch of fish and chips, everyone's a winner!

 

In any case, even though Poppies won, many restaurants deserve acclaim for a delectable meal as well. I can highly recommend any of the following fish and chips restaurants in London.

1. The Golden Hind

2. The Fryer's Delight

3. Fish!Kitchen

4. Exmouth Arms

 

Check out the winner below:

 

Poppies' Fish and Chips

 

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

As the days left in London shrink rapidly, I've been finishing off a few “must-see” sights and events around London. Today, I visited the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland.

 

It was a beautiful evening outside, and after walking down a dark park path for a few minutes, my eyes and ears were met with the sights and sounds of a full-blown festival! The whole section of Hyde Park was filled with festive wooden booths selling food and holiday gifts, as well as full selection of carnival rides and games. It was fun to walk around and see all of the sights and people enjoying themselves. I enjoyed a delicious pork sandwich with stuffing and walked around the whole park. It made me even more excited that I get to be home for the holidays. It's just around the corner! Pictures below!

 

 

Long Exposure of the Ferris Wheel

 

The Tower Of London!

The Tower Of London!

Today, I visited the Tower of London. It was magnificent: I explored the history of the tower, saw the Crown Jewels, and snagged some amazing shots of tower bridge!

I began my day with a wonderfully long workout at the YMCA, and then came home, had brunch, and went off to the Tower with my friend and classmate, Deb Tillman. We adventured around the tower complex with our guide named Barney, saw the Crown Jewels, and walked the the tower ramparts. It was awesome. I was amazed by the vast amount of history and historical figures attached to the tower. I also enjoyed taking a bunch of pictures of the Tower Bridge. Check them out below.

Also, amazingly, I have fewer than ten days left in London. It's been an incredible journey, but I'm really excited for home. I feel like I have seen and done so much over this abroad experience. It is exciting to see what I can fit int the next few days, but I feel content with all I have accomplished thus far.

 

Pictures below, per usual! (Enjoy the pictures of Tower Bridge at various times of the day!)

 

 

 

Our Guide, Yeoman Barney