Wicked!

Wicked!

Tonight, I went to a performance of Wicked.

It was absolutely phenomenal! I was really excited yesterday after I managed to snag a ticket for a really good price from the Leicester Square. I had seen Wicked before in Des Moines, so I was excited to see how it differed in London.

There wasn't much of a difference in the show set-up, which I think is pretty standardized, but the venue was incredible. From the moment I stepped into the theatre, I felt like I was in a different place. Everywhere shimmered with emerald light, and all of the facilities had been Oz-ified. The Art Deco style of the building just added to the effect. I felt like I was immersed in Oz.

The show was amazing, with a very talented cast. It was fun to hear a few tweaks (school was referred to as “Uni”) that made it uniquely British. As always, the story and its unique twist on the world of the Wizard was… Wonderful.

Outside the Venue

 

Just Before the Entrance

 

Poster Inside

 

The Set

The Emerald Bar

 

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Big Ben Strikes Again!

Big Ben Strikes Again!

Today was a very photo-tastic day!

I ventured over to Trafalgar Square today, hoping for some pictures of the square and of Nelson's column before I visited the National Gallery to see the paintings. However, as soon as I got to Trafalgar Square, I could see the beautiful light illuminating Big Ben and Parliament and knew I had to get some pictures. I hurried down Whitehall towards them and got to the area near Westminster as the clock struck three.

The light was absolutely perfect and I managed to snag some phenomenal shots. Check them out below. After the photoshoot, I headed back to the National Gallery and got to see some amazing paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, and more! Post-art-viewing, I headed to Leicester Square to check out the discount tickets for shows. I lucked out and managed to snag a seat for Wicked at an awesome price. After that, I hit the gym for a massive workout and then went to the grocery. All in all, a good day!

 

Nelson's Column

 

Down Whitehall

 

 

Big Ben

Parliament

Ben and Skies

Sepia-Toned

London Icons

I See the Eye

Perfect Light

The National Gallery

 

Big Ben Strikes Again!

Big Ben Strikes Again!

Today was a very photo-tastic day!

I ventured over to Trafalgar Square today, hoping for some pictures of the square and of Nelson's column before I visited the National Gallery to see the paintings. However, as soon as I got to Trafalgar Square, I could see the beautiful light illuminating Big Ben and Parliament and knew I had to get some pictures. I hurried down Whitehall towards them and got to the area near Westminster as the clock struck three.

The light was absolutely perfect and I managed to snag some phenomenal shots. Check them out below. After the photoshoot, I headed back to the National Gallery and got to see some amazing paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, and more! Post-art-viewing, I headed to Leicester Square to check out the discount tickets for shows. I lucked out and managed to snag a seat for Wicked at an awesome price. After that, I hit the gym for a massive workout and then went to the grocery. All in all, a good day!

 

Nelson's Column

 

Down Whitehall

 

 

Big Ben

Parliament

Ben and Skies

Sepia-Toned

London Icons

I See the Eye

Perfect Light

The National Gallery

 

Hello Harrods!

Hello Harrods!

Today, I adventured around Harrods, London's famous department store.

It was impressive and slightly insane. Four floors of shopping, filled with luxury items in every category. I began at the bottom, starting at the food hall, which was really cool. I saw all sorts of amazing food items and the quality was amazing, particularly for the chocolate craftsmanship. Although it was outside my price range, it was still really enjoyable to see what amazing food a large budget can create. I ventured through the various floors, flitting between being astounded by products and then being astounded by their prices. (This was particularly prevalent in the watches department. They were beautiful masterpieces, but I also saw one that cost £38,785.)

The crowds were also massive, as this is one of the last Sundays before the holidays. I had to sometimes just ride the flow of the crowd to get from room to room. It was a fun way to spend part of the day, and an amazing store to just enjoy the people-watching in. All in all, a good day.

All Lit Up

 

Harry Potter Wands!

Underwater Sea Scooter. Not Even Joking.

 

Spectacular Scotland, Day 3

Spectacular Scotland, Day 3

Today was another day full of food, adventures, and climbing things in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I began my day with another hearty Scottish Breakfast, as well as a bowl of porridge, juice, and tea. It was filling, dense, and exactly what I needed to fuel my day. I then checked out of my room. I was sorry to say goodbye to NB's Bed & Breakfast. It was a phenomenal place to stay; the comfortable and clean room combined with a stupendous staff made for one of my best travel experiences ever.

 

An Egg-cellent Way to Start My Day

Next, I made my way down to bus station, stored my duffel bag in a locker in the station, and went back to the center of town. Edinburgh is a city positively glowing with holiday spirit. I walked around the streets admiring the decorations until I made it back to the Scott Monument. I had read that one could pay a small fee and climb up the hollow interior all the way to the top! Of course, if there is one thing I apparently cannot resist in cities, it's climbing insanely tall monuments to take photographs. So, after 287 steps (some of them climbed sideways, as my shoulders couldn't fit widthwise inside the top spire's staircase), I made it to the very top of the monument! It was beautifully clear, and with the holiday celebrations all around the center plaza, I got some really fun shots.

Festive Decorations!

 

It's a Long Way Up.

 

Ferris Wheel, Shot Halfway Up

 

Gorgeous Hidden Interior in the First Level Up

 

View From the Top

 

Self-Portrait!

 

Another View From the Top

Next up was a trip to the Museum of Scotland. It looked immense and really cool! Inside were some amazing displays. They included everything from industrial design throughout time, to world cultures, to animal adaptations, to geology. It was amazing to see some of the treasures the museum has. I particularly enjoyed the rock samples and the Lewis Chess Pieces. It's always quite fun to see in-person things that I've only seen in textbooks. After the museum, I made my way to a local pie shop, Piemaker's, for a quite delicious red pepper and chicken snack pie.

 

Lighthouse Reflectors

 

The Second Edition of Darwin's Origin of the Species


Beautifully Designed Wall Sconce by Frank Llyod Wright

What a Car!

 

Typewriters

Pallasite

 

Amethyst

 

 

Buddha

Another Buddha

 

The Famed Lewis Chess Pieces

 

Great Humor, Great Pie at Piemakers

 

Next, I made my way to the Elephant House yet again to bask in the Mecca of the Harry Potter world. I had a pot of tea and read from the seventh book. I also left my own message in the bathroom. It's one of my favorite lines from the entire series, and I think is also reflective of the amazing world the JK Rowling created for all of us and the power of our collective imaginations.

Of course it's all happening in your head, Harry, but why on Earth should that mean it's not real?

-Dumbledore (Book 7, Page 723.)

I finished my day with some adventuring on the Royal Mile. I watched a street performer for quite awhile; he was a combination of comedian and contortionist, which was very entertaining, especially as he had a very polished show. I then caught a quick fish and chips dinner at a pub with my friend, Kate, who also ended up visiting Edinburgh this weekend. Finally, I boarded my bus to go back home to London. All in all, a good day.

The Entertainer

 

He Attracted a Massive Crowd

 

 

Spectacular Scotland, Day 2

Spectacular Scotland, Day 2

It's been an amazing day full of adventure here in Edinburgh.

In short, I ate a full Scottish breakfast, toured the Bank of Scotland Museum, went on a whiskey distillery tour, visited St. Giles Cathedral, climbed the 250 meter mountain/hill Arthur's Seat, ate a delicious sandwich, and visited the “Birthplace of Harry Potter”, the cafe where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter.

 

I began my day with a hearty breakfast cooked to order at my bed & breakfast. The full Scottish Breakfast included sausages, bacon, eggs, haggis, tomato, beans, toast, porridge, tea, orange juice, and apple juice. Needless to say, I was thrilled to have such a hearty breakfast to start off my day. I ate it all up, and headed down into town.

 

The Scottish Breakfast

 

After that filling breakfast, I rode the bus into town, and swung into the Bank of Scotland Museum. It was incredible, with an impressive display of artifacts, including a display of shiny copper banknote print blocks. I enjoyed browsing through the free-admission museum as my food digested. The staff were also very friendly and knowledgable!

 

 

Old Bank Keys

After the bank, I ventured up the hill to see another of Scotland's treasures, its whiskey. I had the whiskey tour highly recommended by many, so I paid my fee and ventured into the building to explore the world of whiskey. Luckily, my tour group was really small, (only an English couple and myself) so we got a great deal of attention and care from our guide. After a quick introduction to the process of actually making whiskey, we made our way to a tasting room, where she explained the four most important whiskey production regions in Scotland and the various influences geography have on the character of the whiskey. We then were able to try one type of whiskey from a region of our choice. As we enjoyed our selection, we moved into the room housing the extensive collection of whiskey bottles in the museum. It was an astonishing sight, with the beautifully lit shelves filling a massive room from the floor to ceiling with whiskey bottles. The museum bought the collection from a Brazilian whiskey enthusiast. The collection contains over 3384 bottles, of which none have been opened. After touring the collection room, we finished our tour in the tasting room, where we were each given a small portion of each of the four regions' whiskey to try, as well as some still Scottish Water to add to the whiskey to taste. It was an incredible experience.

 

The Tour Whiskeys

 

One Portion of the Collection

 

 

Nice “Books”

 

Expensive Bottle Decorated With Real Silver

 

Each Chess Piece Contains Whiskey… Checkmate?

 

 

My Tasting Set

Next, I walked down the Royal Mile to St. Giles Cathedral. It was a glorious Gothic-style building with amazing stained glass and interiors. Absolutely stunning, inside and out!

St. Giles

Interior of St. Giles

 

Impressive Organ

 

Exquisite Celtic Cross

 

Next, I made my way down to the corner of the town and began my ascent of Arthur's Seat, a massive hill/tiny mountain that towers over the city. I took a semi-unconventional route up, which was quicker, had fewer people, but was more vertical (read difficult) and unpaved for most of it. It was awesome, and I enjoyed taking pictures along the way. The view when I finally clambered up over the last few rocks to make it to the peak (at 250 meters above sea level) was absolutely breathtaking! I took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed soaking in the amazing view. The day was amazingly clear and I could see for miles, making the climb all the more worth it.

 

Early Shot, the High Point is Arthur's Seat

 

Not Sure If I'll Make It

 

Ice on the Path Looked Like a River Stopped in Time

 

Nearly Halfway

 

View From the Seat

Another View

 

Success

 

See For Miles

 

Edinburgh Far Below

 

 

After all of that climbing, I needed some refreshment. Luckily, a sandwich store on my way into town vanquished my hunger, with an amazing Cajun Chicken Panini, tomato basil soup, and crisps. Now that my stomach stopped its whining, I could move onto finding the “Birthplace of Harry Potter”, the Elephant House. JK Rowling wrote much of the first book here, where she famously could barely afford one cup of coffee. (She doesn't have that problem anymore.) It was wonderful, and while the place didn't play up its famous importance besides a few articles and postcards, the bathrooms were a shrine to Rowling. Graffiti from fans covered the walls. Some were funny, some were strange, but some were deeply moving. It's amazing how that one series has connected a generation worldwide. It was so great to see where it all started. Finally, I went home to my B&B, exhausted but happy with an amazing day.

 

 

Sandwich

The

The Elephant House

 

Magically Delicious Cocoa

 

The Deathly Hallows

 

Touching Quote.

 

Spectacular Scotland, Day 1

Spectacular Scotland, Day 1

After a nice, long bus journey from London (nine hours!), I arrived in Edinburgh! I had a few hours to kill before I could check into my hotel, so I began wandering around the city as the sun began rising. Edinburgh is absolutely picturesque and very walkable. So began my day's adventures!

 

I started by making my way down the main road towards the castle on a craggy patch of rock that dominates the city. As I climbed the hill, I began to realize just how excellently strategically placed the castle was. In other words, it was a steep, arduous climb, especially with a backpack and duffel bag on my back.

Eventually, I made it to the top and was greeted by a spectacular view. The castle was simply magnificent. I made my way into the castle, paid for a ticket and audio guide, and explored every nook and cranny in the castle. I saw the views from the various embankments, the old cannons, the famous one o'clock gun, the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, old prison keeps, a war museum, a small chapel, and tons (quite literally, I suppose…) of incredible stone architecture. I also learned a great deal of Scottish history from the audio guide, including the stories of the Scottish/English wars and truces, and the castle's varioussieges and rebuildings. It was fascinating, and the history major in me was in pure heaven. The photographer in me was also thrilled, as the high vantage point gave me a ton of great shooting opportunities.

After the castle, I made my way down to a Christmas festival and enjoyed a brunch of a burger and a small piece of dark chocolate covered marzipan for dessert. There were a bunch of fun stands, and it was great to browse and see the attractions set up for the festival, including a Ferris wheel!

Eventually, I made my way to my lodgings, a little bed and breakfast (NB's Bed & Breakfast) twenty-five minutes by walking from the city center. I made it there, and was greeted by the incredibly friendly and helpful staff. They made sure that I was settled nicely into the room and then helped advise me on a bunch of various things to do. (The staff and this B&B are phenomenal. If you are ever in Edinburgh, I highly recommend it. They even upgraded my room for free! Also, funnily enough, another one of the Eric Mistry's of the world has stayed here before. I guess it's just where Eric Mistry's like to stay when they come to Scotland.)

I showered, got cleaned up, and headed (on the staff's advice) to the local coffee shop, Piece Box, for coffee and a supper. It was a phenomenally cute, really friendly place with great staff, excellent coffee, and delicious food! I got myself a mocha and the goat cheese and chorizo sandwich with red pepper relish on wheat bread, served with potato salad. It was a great way to cap off my day! I then retired to my room, relaxed and planned out my day for tomorrow! Stay tuned! All in all, a good day. Pictures galore below.

 

The Castle on the hill.

 

Up at the Top

 

Self-Portrait

 

King and Guardian

 

 

The Famed Edinburgh “One O'Clock Gun”

A gun has been fired from the northern ramparts at 1 PM every day except for Sundays and Christmas since the mid 1800's to provide an audio signal of the time to the ships in the harbor. Why one o'clock and not noon? According to the audio guide, “The Scots, being frugal, decided that one shot per day was cheaper than twelve.”

The Northern View

 

 

Pistols and Surgical Tools inside the War Museum

 

Display of Prosthetics Through the Years at the War Museum

 

The Southern View

 

Box Made By French Prisoner of War.

Prisoners of war contained in the castle could make various items from the meager everyday items in their cells to sell to townspeople every week in exchange for food, tobacco, and stationary to write home on. This particular example is made out of STRAW!

 

Incredible Stained Glass in the Chapel

 

View From the Top of the Castle

 

Christmas Market

 

Ferris Wheel and Scott Monument

 

My Cozy Room

 

My Supper!

 

Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath

Today, I visited Hampstead and got to enjoy a nice bit of nature just outside the city.

 

I began my morning by visiting with Professor Prevost about my paper at her flat in Hampstead, then enjoyed some great conversation with Professor Guenther as well. After all of that, I made my way to Hampstead Heath, a massive park right outside of Hampstead.

Though it was pretty chilly, I was well-protected from the elements. I walked all around the park, seeing lots of beautiful paths, and catching some great shots of some of the birds. It was a very hilly area, but I was rewarded with climbing by a spectacular view of London from one of the higher hills.

After my adventures around the Heath, I decided to warm up with a nice cup of warm cider from a nearby pub. It was nice and toasty, and I enjoyed reading the news in a comfortable armchair as I waited. Later tonight, I will head via bus to Edinburgh, Scotland. Stay tuned! Pictures below.

Seagull

 

Swans

 

The Fields

 

Bench with a Tree-Window

London from the Heath

Trekking through the Forest

 

Hot Cider Reward

 

British Museum, Yet Again

British Museum, Yet Again

After a morning spent organizing and sorting out details, I made my way over to the British Museum for a quick visit before class. I ended up spending my time on only two artifacts, but it was time well spent. Today, I looked at the Rosetta Stone and an Easter Island Head.

I first examined the Easter Island statue. It was immense. Even though I have previously seen pictures of such statues, and even passed by this particular one to get to the Asian exhibits, it wasn't until I stopped and really looked at this statue at its feet that I realized how impressive and beautiful it is. It is so simple, yet elegant, without superfluous carvings or details. Just a timeless, simple stone face, watching for eternity. It also amazes me how little we know about these statues. They are famous around the world, yet no one has much, if any, information on their origin or meaning. It's so incredible knowing that this mystery just sits in front of us, a forgotten people with a forgotten culture.

The Rosetta Stone is another amazing relic, one that unlocked what could have been a mystery for ages, the secret of the Egyptian Hieroglyphics. This single slab of stone, marked in three languages and discovered by chance, was the key to understanding the Egyptians. In a world of “what ifs” where the Rosetta Stone remained buried and hidden, one can only imagine the frustration of the historians and archaeologists who could see and record the hieroglyphs, but could never understand their meaning. Another whole civilization would have been lost in the sea of time, leaving only the monuments and tombs as a beacon of their existence.

It's always interesting to reflect on our own time after seeing these incredible relics. What will survive of us? Thousands of years from now, what will the relics be? Will the generations that follow us be amazed by the primitive communication devices we carry? Will the iPhone sit in a glass case for viewing? Or will it be something else? Perhaps a Twinkie, still wrapped in its plastic? (…or perhaps not anymore, in light of Hostess closing down.) No matter what the object is, it would be interesting to see what little pieces of our modern world survive.

 

Easter Island Statue

 

The Rosetta Stone

 

Detail of the Rosetta Stone

 

Markets Galore!

Markets Galore!

Though the name implies a vast amount of shopping, I actually only bought a little bit of food at the markets today. It was more of an exploration/window-shopping day! (If one can window-shop without windows…)

 

I started my day at the Old Spitalfields Market, a pretty massive covered market right by the Liverpool Street Station. There were some pretty nice stands there with some especially cool clothing designs, but nothing that really could justify the London-style prices. Looking was really enjoyable, and I also picked up some interesting ideas for jewelry designs after seeing some of the metal manipulation by some of the artists selling their works.

Next, I made my way to Bricklane Market, my personal favorite market. After checking out some of the vintage clothing stands, I decided to treat myself to some spring rolls from one of the Thai food stands. They were excellent! Wrapped in rice paper, they were filled with cabbage, vermicelli (thin rice noodles), carrots, and other veggies. I topped them with some HOT chili oil and ate them right up! Totally delicious and actually pretty healthy. I was pleased.

I continued to browse around for a little bit, then finally made my way back to the tube station, which took me to the gym. One long workout later, I swung by the grocery store for some sausage and cherry tomatoes to make into dinner tonight. I ended up using them in a pasta with a creamy tomato pesto sauce. It turned out pretty scrumptious and disappeared rather rapidly. All in all, a good day. Picture below!

 

The Street Outside Old Spitalfields

 

Rosie the Riveter?

 

Old Spitalfields

 

Spring Rolls!