Visiting the British Museum

Visiting the British Museum

Today, I decided to pay a visit to an old friend, one we haven't seen in awhile, The British Museum.

I made the Southeast Asia collections my focus for this visit. The British Museum has some phenomenal religious artifacts, especially in regards to their collection of Buddhist works. I roamed the exhibits, trying to capture the beauty and grandeur of these ancient pieces. They were all so incredible and interesting. It was an absolute treat to explore this section of the museum and to rediscover the grandness of the British Museum. Pictures below…

 

Ivory Buddha

 

Ravana, a demon from Hindu mythology

 

Shiva

 

Stone Buddha Image

Large Stone Buddha

 

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British Money

British Money

Today was a pretty routine day (besides an amazing care package from Emily- THANK YOU!), so I decided to write about one of the more interesting aspects of daily life that I've come to enjoy: British coins.

A good deal of purchasing happens with bills (£5, £10, £20, £50, etc.), but a ton of important purchases happen with coins. In lieu of a £1 bill, the English use a coin. This round, golden coin is always being used for all sorts of things. Not only do you use it to pay for small purchases, but it is also used to unlock the key from public lockers. I always try to keep a few on me, because the pound coin is the most useful change to have.

There are quite a few other coins. Eight to be precise. Some are useful, others are annoying and used as quickly as possible to get rid of them. In order of value:

  1. The Two Pound Coin: while one of the largest and heaviest coins, this is undoubtably the coolest and most valuable. It has a silver disc inside a golden border. A few of these go a long way.
  2. The One Pound Coin: small, heavy, golden. This coin is used for everything. It is pretty much perfect. I wish we used the dollar coin as frequently. It's better than bills when you get used to it.
  3. The Fifty-Pence Coin: larger than all the coins, but thinner. Has seven distinct sides. Very useful in combination with the One Pound Coin.
  4. The Twenty-Pence Coin: Small, extremely useful. Also has seven sides.
  5. The Ten-Pence Coin: Round, about the size of a US quarter. Pretty useless compared to the Twenty-Pence Coin. (For a US equivalent, think of nickels to dimes.)
  6. The Five-Pence Coin: Tiny, silver. Relatively useful, but not terribly practical to carry in large enough quantities.
  7. The Two-Pence Coin: Nearly as large as the Fifty-Pence Coin, Copper, very beautiful. Also, totally useless. It is utterly impractical and I try to get rid of them as soon as possible.
  8. The Penny: Picture the US penny. Switch in Queen Elizabeth for Lincoln, change up the tails' side image. Used occasionally.

 

It has been pretty fun getting to learn a new currency. The best way I found to learn practically and pressure-free was to do self-checkout at the grocery and feed in the exact change if possible. It was a fun challenge, taught me the different coins rather quickly, and also let me get rid of those silly Two-Pence coins. It should be pretty interesting adapting back into the US dollar, but I'm excited at the same time. Currency is one of those things that one seldom thinks about unless traveling, and its fascinating to see how it shapes and reflects the lifestyle of its respective culture.

 

 

The £1 Coin

The Coins (L->R: £2, £1, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p, 1p)

 

The Coins Again.

 

Portabello Road Market and More!

Portabello Road Market and More!

Today I explored the famous Portabello Road market, met up with my cousin, and cooked a group supper.

I started my morning with a big workout at the YMCA, which made sure I was hungry for the market. Ther was plenty of good food available, and from all corners of the world. I ended up getting an arepa (a Venezuelan dish similar to pita sandwich) stuffed with black beans, beef, and chicken! It as amazing and totally what I was craving.

I then walked along Portabello Road, looking at the various cool items available to buy, including every type of vintage and outstanding silver pieces. There were also various street performers, food vendors, and more!

After enjoying their market, I walked over to my cousin Alyssa's apartment to hang out and try some of her amazing pastries. (She is studying pastry at the Cordon Bleu.) We also watched some tv, video-chatted our Nana, and just chatted about life in London.

Finally, I made my way home, made some of my homemade Mac and cheese (a practice run for our Thanksgiving potluck offering) and enjoyed having my flat, plus neighbors in Teddy and Joe, plus guests in Chrissy and Lauren. It was a fun meal and we had some great conversation and some apple turnovers from Portabello Road Market.

All in all, a good day!

Market Stand

 

Street Performer

Bubble floating over the market

Market Donuts

 

Arepas Being Cooked

 

Alyssa's Creations- WOW!!!

 

Chinatown Adventures

Chinatown Adventures

Today, I spent a little while exploring the Chinatown area around my lunchtime.

It's a delightful area, nestled in a small selection of side streets near SoHo. As soon as one turns off the main road, the signs switch to Chinese and English, paper lanterns crisscross the street, and an array of colors, sounds, and delicious smells explodes into the streets. After a brief time meandering around the streets, I decided to snag myself a steam bun from a small, busy shop with delectable scents wafting from within. I chose the house special of chicken and Chinese vegetables, and it was absolutely glorious. I bit off a corner to let the steam within billow out. Inside was some amazing, deeply flavorful chicken and vegetables, which contrasted brilliantly with the starchy sweetness of the steamed bun surrounding it.

Next, I was craving some dumplings, so I walked around until I saw a small restaurant making them in the window. They looked incredible, and with a London Times article posted near the front door proclaiming its greatness, I decided it was a solid choice. I went with Beijing Chicken dumplings. They were scrumptious! It was such fun to nibble off a corner of one, let out some steam, dip it in soy sauce, and then chow down on it.

Finally, I explored a few grocery stores to pick up some ingredients that I had trouble finding elsewhere. At the top of my list? Sriracha, the classic red hot sauce with a green lid, and one of my favorite foods in the world! Luckily, I found some at a decent price. I also snagged some rice noodles, which formed the base of the massive, vegetable-filled stir fry I made for my flat tonight.

After my Chinatown adventures, I made my way to the teaching site, did some reading, then headed off to the gym for a nice, long workout. (Bonus! Today, I got to swim counterclockwise – American-style – for a little bit of my warmdown. It felt awesome.) Post-gym, I grabbed some vegetables from the grocery, and made some stirfry when I got home.

All in all, a good day.

Chinatown

 

Steam Bun

 

Dumpling Creation

 

Lanterns

 

Red Velvet

Red Velvet

Today was pretty routine and quiet, except for a phenomenal play in the evening.

 

Tonight we saw Red Velvet at the Tricycle Theatre. It featured the story of Ira Aldridge, a talented young black actor in London in 1833. He took over the role of Othello after another actor, Edmund Kean, collapsed on stage and was unable to complete the season. It was a beautifully moving performance, and the actor playing Aldridge was absolutely phenomenal. We saw his transformations throughout the play, and he was entirely believable, especially in the emotional scenes. I was thrilled to have seen the play, and to have yet another London theatre experience!

 

Advertising for the Theatre

Poster Outside the Theatre

 

Georgia and Natisha Come to Visit!

Georgia and Natisha Come to Visit!

It was fun arriving home from Spain late last night to come home to two of my friends visiting London and staying with us! Georgia and Natisha joined us from their study abroad experience in Denmark. It is always such fun to get to spend time with Grinnellians outside of our natural (Grinnell) habitat and to share London with visitors.

I spent the early part of the day doing homework, going to class, and working out, but we got to spend the evening together. I made the whole group (our flat plus our two visitors) some chicken fajitas for dinner and then we all relaxed in the apartment. Of course, no visit to London is complete without a nice visit to a pub, so we popped over to my favorite pub, The Exmouth Arms, and enjoyed a round of drinks and some great conversation. It was a wonderfully relaxing way to finish off the evening. Tomorrow, Natisha, Georgia, and myself are going to enjoy the London Eye, Chinatown, and whatever else we can find to do!

 

Georgia and I

 

Pub Time! (L->R: Georgia, me, Natisha, Claire, Caitlin)

 

Libraries, Indian Food, and Skyfall!

Libraries, Indian Food, and Skyfall!

It was another busy day in London for yours truly!

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My day began with a trip to The Women's Library, a massive collection of books and archives focused on women's history. We spent the morning exploring our research options, touring the facility, and examining some example pieces from the archives. I am really excited to have access to such a first-rate resource, especially as I begin to do some independent research for my class on British Feminism.

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After the museum, I meandered down to Bricklane for lunch. I ate at Sweet & Spicy again, and enjoyed a lunch special with lamb curry, chana, some pilau rice, a puri, a naan, and some pickled mango. It was very delicious and an amazing treat.

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Finally, I went to go see Skyfall, the latest James Bond film. It was AMAZING. I will definitely be seeing it again when I get home. I particularly enjoyed seeing how many of the locations I recognized, as a good portion of the movie takes place in London. It was pretty fun to see the places I pass every day on the big screen!

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Pictures below…

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The Women's Library

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My lunch

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Pilau Rice

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Visiting the Sherlock Holmes Museum

Visiting the Sherlock Holmes Museum

Well, dear readers, I managed to cross an item off of the London Bucket List… I visited the Sherlock Holmes Museum, conveniently located at 221b Baker Street. For a Holmes aficionado like myself, this was an absolute must!

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I rode the tube to the Baker Street station and followed the maps until I found the museum. After waiting in a short queue, I was finally let into the museum. It was a very well-done experience. Although relatively small, the museum packs in tons of memorabilia, from Sherlock's pipes and tools to Watson's medical supplies, to “trophies” from some of Holmes' famous solved cases.

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I toured the house rather extensively, seeing each of the rooms twice and drinking in the experience. It was incredible to see such an amazing literary character brought to life by the artifacts of the museum. The creators managed to craft a believable home from the time period and stock it as Sherlock and Watson would have.

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Enjoy the pictures below!

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The Station

221b Baker Street

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The Front Parlor

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The Tools of the Trade

Pipe Collection

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Sherlock!

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Moriarty!

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I am a Winner

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Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November

Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November

 

Remember, remember the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason, why gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot.

Today was the fifth of November, also known as Guy Fawkes Day.

This day celebrates the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, an assassination attempt by Catholics on the Protestant monarch, James I. Guy Fawkes and his compatriots attempted to plant a bomb and blow up Parliament, specifically the House of Lords, during the State Opening, killing James I. However, a few hours before the event, an anonymous letter revealed the plot to the authorities. They found Guy Fawkes guarding 36 barrels of Gunpowder in the cellarsbeneath Parliament. (It has become tradition for the the cellars to be searched every Fifth of November since then…)

We celebrated by attending a fireworks display by Southwark. It was a massive turnout, with thousands crowding the park. We enjoyed becoming a part of yet another English patriotic event. It was slightly surreal to be in the midst of such a large crowd celebrating such a strange event in history. It is always interesting to be an outsider looking in on English culture, and this was no exception.

Speaking of surreal, outside-in experiences… I was in the locker room at the gym today when the news on the television began focusing on the American Presidential election. That was strange enough to see from a non-American perspective. Even stranger was where the reporter was based currently… Des Moines, Iowa. Nice to see my birthplace, but totally strange to see it on a Monday morning in London. I'm excited to watch the election coverage tomorrow, especially the British channels.

 

Pictures (and video!) below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Room Change-Up!

Room Change-Up!

Between polishing off some final papers and readings for our Phase 1 classes, my flatmates and I redid our room setup as an epic, multipart study break. I now have a small single where the living room once was, Tracey has moved to the formerly small double (now a single), and Claire and Adriyel now live in the big double room that has the adjoining bathroom.

It was a fairly painless process, and we had discussed it before. It works out really advantageously for everyone. Tracey and I both get singles, and Adriyel and Claire get to share a much larger room. I also get a special bonus; because I tend to be very warm all the time, I can keep my windows open in my room now. (Currently, my room is about ten degrees cooler than the rest of the apartment. It's wonderful.)

 

I'm loving the new set-up. I have reposted all of my pictures and my calendar, and my ever-giving chive plant can now sit happily on my windowsill. I have my couch for studying on and my comfy bed for lounging. It was a fun study break, and it was a rearrangement where everyone won.

 

All in all, another good day.