Jun 09

London, Day 11

A day behind.

Today’s my last day with internet since I’m a cheapskate and refuse to pay for a full extra week when there are only one and a half days left of my trip.

Yesterday was just a regular day of lectures.  In the morning we had Camelia Csora from Elsevier and Ruth Jones from Ingram Digital.  Both presentations were very good, but Ms. Jones’ had to be the best of the course.  She didn’t just pimp her company but talked about e-publishing in general, trends, and her opinions about what was happening now.  She was really smart and funny.

The afternoon visit to Nature Publishing bored me.  Not sure why.  I think because the room was so warm, it was after lunch, and the presentations were sort of general.  I find that when marketing people speak, it’s not as dynamic since the marketing people don’t work directly on the projects (at least in my own marketing experience).

But when the people who are directly involved in the projects speak, like the guy at ProQuest talking about the Paley Center database, then it’s interesting because they’re excited and know all the cool stuff about the project.

I’ve also found the Scottish speakers to be much livelier.  Though a few of the Brits were good, a few were basically talking comas.

We were near King’s Cross train station so I went in to find the Harry Potter replica.  There were some girls there also taking pictures, and one insisted on taking mine:

I think you can see me blushing from here.

From King’s Cross I walked to Russell Square.  I had heard there were a lot of shops around there, but there weren’t, at least not that I could find.  It was no loss because there was a pretty park with a lovely arbor:

From there I walked to Somerset House, which one of my friends had recommended.  I walked on King’s Way, which totally got me lost the last time I walked it, or rather  I got myself lost.  But this time I knew where I was on the map and made it to my destination.

It was a beautiful day.

It’s only as I’m nearing my stay that I’ve finally figured out my immediate area.  In the beginning I’d keep walking all the way down Tottenham Court Road, past my turn off so that I ended up looping around to get to Charlotte Street.  Finally yesterday I realized where to get onto Goodge Street, where all the restaurants are.

For dinner I picked up a curry chicken katsu for 4.90 with a side of Japanese pickles for 1.90.  In the morning I had an OJ for 1.50, lunch was Pret for 3.94, and then a snack of Pret yogurt and water for 3.49.  Grand total: 15.73, still under budget.

I spent the evening doing laundry, Skyping with MB, and playing with my pictures.  This morning I ironed my outfits for the rest of my stay.  Today and tomorrow we have an e-publishing conference, and I’m wearing business casual, though I’m not sure what the dress code is.  We don’t have to be there till about 10.

This morning I also Skyped with MB one last time.  He was still up at 3 in the morning.  I heard the weather is awful in New York, rainy and chilly one minute, then rainy and hot the next.  Bummer, but I’ll be so glad to be home.

All London Day 11 pictures.

Jun 09

Two things I forgot

From yesterday.

1) Remember that woman I wrote about who’s not a student but very involved with academic journals?  Well, she was in fine form yesterday.  While we were at ProQuest, she completely took over the question and answer portion of the presentation.

First she asked a long drawn-out question that wasn’t really a question but a comment.  The presenters  responded, then she counter-responded, back and forth, till it was basically like her own personal meeting the rest of us were forced to listen to.  Of course the ProQuest people were too polite to say anything.

Finally Anthony interrupted and said, “Does anyone else have any questions?” and of course someone did.

That woman gets on my nerves.  She has this snotty look on her face all the time and walks around like a princess.  During lunch when she went to get some fruit, she asked, at large, “What are these?” without looking at anyone but with an attitude like she expected everyone to answer.

2) While we were at the pub yesterday in Cambridge, we were sitting next to these young people, probably students, from the area.  There was an Asian woman who was really loud, and at one point she said, “Idaho? That’s not a real place, is it?”

Cambridge – isn’t that in Massachusetts?

Jun 09

London, Day 10

Ten days are more than enough in London. I am so ready to go home.

Today was a good day. We went out to Cambridge and heard presentations from ProQuest and the Royal Society of Chemistry. All were very good. ProQuest talked a lot about their project with the Paley Center, putting the center’s seminars, interviews, and show/movie clips online in a database, all with transcripts and subtitles, and indexed. You can even download clips, edit them, and email them.  It’s pretty neat and launched today, in fact.  I think it’s only available through universities, and maybe the NYPL.

After the talks, Anthony took us on a tour of Pembroke College Cambridge, his alma mater.  It was very pretty.

After the tour, we all went off on our own, basically splitting into two groups.  Of course in library school there are a lot of women.  Today it hit me that I’m used to hanging out with men, between MB, YP, my brother online, hell even my boss.  Of course there are all my other good friends, but I don’t see them as much.

So when I somehow ended up in the group with three men and one other woman in her mid-40s – ie, a grown-up – I felt a huge sense of relief.  I think it helped that there were just five of us as well, instead of a giant group with three or four conversations going on at once.  It was very relaxing sitting there with our drinks and chatting.

For dinner we went to Queen’s Head.  It was a very nice pub.  I got the fish and chips since I’ve been wanting to try it all this time.

It was GOOD, especially after having had a drink.  I got a nice big piece of cod, and the batter was crispy and thin.  The fries were tasty as well.  9.95 pounds.  That plus 2.75 for the wine made a total of 12.70 (they gave us lunch at ProQuest).

While hanging out at dinner was fun, I was ready to go back way before most of the others.  I’m definitely someone who needs her quiet time.  It’s tough to spend a nearly solid two weeks with the same group of people, and to be away from home.

Tomorrow is a lecture in the morning and a visit to the Nature Publishing Company in the afternoon.

All London Day 10 pictures.

Jun 09

London, Days 8 & 9

Now I have to two days to write about.

Day 8

Again I had a leisurely morning, getting up at 8 and fooling around on my computer till I left at 10.

The tube to the Natural History Museum was much calmer than the one to London Bridge. Once I got out, however, I was as always confused about where I was, but managed to figure it out. The next problem: hungry and not wanting to spend a lot, especially after the previous night’s expensive dinner. I was still on a grilled cheese sandwich kick so I got one with a mocha from a café nearby for less than 5 pounds. Not bad.

I meant to go to the Natural History Museum first, but ended up in the Science Museum (which explained why I kept thinking, This is a lot like the Science Museum in Boston). It’s very much for kids, but it was very good. I liked the History of Medicine exhibit, though it starts out chronologically then gets totally mixed up, and the Listening Post, in which bits of real chat room conversation are captured via light and sound. It was pretty neat.

After finally realizing I wasn’t in the Natural History Museum, I headed over there, and was immediately overwhelemed by the zillions of kids. I kind of zipped through it, though I did go out of my way to see the animatronic dinasours, the coup de grace of which was T. Rex:

It was pretty neat despite the mob. One little kid got really scared when he turned the corner and saw what he was in for.

I also wanted to see the Blue Whale, which is touted by my Time Out book. I have to say: an utter disappointment. It’s humungous, of course, but the room is so tiny and jam packed with other mammals. It’s not like the American Museum of Natural History, where you have this enormous room and the blue whale suspended from the ceiling.

Next was the Victoria & Albert Museum. Thankfully there were no kids on the top few floors, only running around the ground floor. I loved looking at the royal collection and all the Victorian-era stuff. It was such a peaceful atmosphere, a huge relief after the madness of the Natural History Museum. My energy waned as I made my way down so that by the time I reached bottom, I’d see yet another wing and think, No more!

There’s a nice courtyard, where I sat for quite some time, eating my Balance bar and chilling.

Afterwards I walked over to Hyde Park, through Mayfair, where I found another nice courtyard to sit in, and over to Picadilly. Used the bathroom again at the Meridian, and was much less conspicuous this time around.

Over the weekend I had suddenly remembered that I regularly read a blog about food in London, duh! Su-Lin’s latest post was on Malaysia Kopi Tiam, which I realized I’ve passed a billion times since I’ve been here. I was excited to try good, reasonably priced food so I made a beeline there after all my sightseeing.

It seemed authentic what with all the Chinese-speaking people hanging around, and, unlike that damned Japanese place from yesterday, there was no minimum. I wasn’t sure what some of dishes were so I went for the menu with the pictures and picked the laksa mee with chicken, basically a mildly spicy coconut curry noodle soup with chicken on the bone and fish cakes.

It was soooo good, and at 7.50 pounds definitely the right price. Since I was well under my 25 pounds for the day, I got a lychee drink too – with real lychees – for two pounds.

My total food spend for the day: 13.49 pounds! A huge improvement from the day before.

Day 9

This was today. Lectures were really boring. This morning’s was supposed to be a discussion but it just meandered and never really focused on one topic. It was really torture, to be quite honest.

This afternoon we went to the Office of Public Sector Information, where the guy talked about government documents. Again: snoresville. I mean, the information was somewhat interesting, but he was such a dry presenter.

I felt so burnt out on sight seeing today that I did absolutely nothing. After lectures I went with one of my classmates back to our dorm, and hung out playing on the internet till we went to dinner.

Finally had Indian food: Diwana on Drummond Street, as recommended by Anthony. It was very good! We shared a chef’s sampling of appetizers for about 4 pounds, got paneer dosas for 7.05, and a mango lassi for 2.

Chefs sampling of appetizers

Chef's sampling of appetizers

The coconut chutney was so good; I’ve never had it before. And the dosa was extrememly filling and tasty.

My total food spend: 16.30.

Tomorrow we’re off to Cambridge.

All Day 8 and Day 9 pictures.

Jun 09

London, Day 7

Writing about Day 7 on the 8th day. I was so tired last night, I got into bed before 10 and slept till 8 this morning. Today’s agenda: Victoria and Albert and Natural History Museums.

Got a good amount of shut eye the night before, from about midnight to 8 AM. I wasn’t sure if there was cafeteria breakfast and I didn’t feel like having it, so I just stayed in my room, drank instant coffee, ate part of an Odawalla Bar and played with my pictures, some of which are up on Flickr. I’ll also put links by day in the earlier posts, and perhaps some actual pictures.

I left around 10. Getting to the subway to take me to London Bridge was absolute madness. There were zillions of people coming and going from the airport, on top of just the regular tourists and Londoners. But the actual ride was super short, about 10 minutes.

From the London Bridge station, I wandered over to Borough Market, as recommended by my brother. It was a lot of fun. There was such gorgeous food:

Plus the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had.

It was greasy and crispy and melty with pieces of sweet red onion. Yum!

Next was the Tate Modern, which I loved. There seem to be just two free floors, but those floors go on forever. I’d think I was done, then discover two more ginourmous wings. Of course I got the audio, though I remember little, except:

• I liked the Richard Long and Robert Smithson pictures. Robert Smithson did the Spiral Jetty, which I was obssessed with when it was at the Whitney.

• Meshes in the Afternoon was a totally bizarre surrealist film, but it actually kind of made sense. I could totally see how David Lynch has been inspired by it.

• Francis Bacon died in 1992. I thought he was much older and that he was a contemporary of Max Ernst. They are actually 20 years apart. I really like Francis Bacon’s stuff though a lot of it is disturbing. Maybe because I love horror movies, and see how a lot of them are influenced by his work, like when a face changes to something horrific for a split second.

• Then there was the whole series of works on the manga character Ann Lee from Ghost in the Shell. I’ve never heard of either, but it was still fascinating – the idea of person as a commodity, of having no identity. Of course we couldn’t take picures but I managed to sneak one in:

After the Tate Modern, I needed a break so I headed over to the Cut, which Anthony said was a cool area.  It looked like a fun place to hang out, but aside from one bookstore, I just sort of walked around, then turned around and headed right back.

I wanted to walk back over to where Dali Universe was but got completely lost. Somehow I ventured off the Thames Path, and ended up in a quiet (too quiet) residential area. I saw signs for the Tower Bridge and followed those, but the signs led right onto the Tower Bridge and soon I found myself crossing back over. Dammit!

I was probably kinda museumed out anyway and just took my time walking back to my area. I passed the Tower of London, but didn’t feel like going in, and found St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Very pretty and peaceful, at least not at the main entrance.  Too bad it was too late to go inside.

Then I just meandered my way back. I was wearing my new Keds, which sort of hurt my toes by the end of the day.

For dinner I tried the Japanese place next to the first Korean place I went to. While the food was pretty good, it was overpriced. And there was a 10 pound minimum, boo! I got tamagoyaki, fried noodles with veggies and meat, and a soda for 16 pounds, almost $30! Way too much. I guess it’s not that easy to find cheap eats around here.

All Day 7 pictures.

Jun 09

Now London, Day 6

It’s only 8:30 but I’m in for the night. It’s rather cloudy and chilly right now so I don’t feel lame.

This morning, after the strange dreams, I got to breakfast a little later and ran into a few people. It was nice to chit chat before the lectures.

The first talk was excellent. Alastair Dunning from JISC talked about digitizing “cultural heritage,” which is complicated by the problems of proper metadata (adding the proper info to, say, thousands of digital photos), data modeling (eg, putting pictures with metadata in Excel – not feasible!), dissemination (eg, trying to play a video from PowerPoint), and accessible files.

He illustrated each with concrete examples – a digital file of his great-grandmother’s postcards, a video link from his presentation that wouldn’t work, etc. It was one of the best talks so far.

The second talk was all right. It was interesting to hear how the university system is set up in Greece, but the whole thing went on too long, especially for a session before lunch.

In the afternoon we went to Thompson Reuters. Some of the info was interesting, but it was essentially a sales pitch. Another proud of myself moment: that division does a lot of work with my company and others like it, so I went up and introduced myself at the end of presentation. Score one for the shy girl!

Afterwards a group of us walked over the Trafalgar Square. One woman wanted to take the train from there, one wanted to walk around that area, and two of us went to the National Gallery, though once we got in, we each went on our own.

I sort of breezed through the museum. I was tired and wanted to get back into time to Skype with MB. (We had an 8 PM Skype date.) I spent about an hour there, then a shorter time at the National Portrait Gallery.

View of Trafalgar Square from the National Gallery

View of Trafalgar Square from the National Gallery

On my way back I stopped for Korean (yes, again!) and ordered the shin ramen, which turned out to be very similar to those spicy instant Korean noodles. That plus dumplings and a soda was 16 pounds, the priciest meal I’ve had so far. I figured what the hell since I spent less than 9 pounds earlier in the day for lunch and snacks.

Skyping with MB was fun, though, like I said, I felt all self-conscious. It almost felt like it wasn’t him, like it was a date with someone very much like him. A virtual date, I suppose.

Tomorrow: the Tate Modern, the Dali Museum, and the South Bank.

All Day 6 pictures.

Jun 09

London, Day 5

I finally bit the bullet and bought a voucher for internet in my room. It was too much trouble running around with my laptop looking for free wireless. At this point I only need a week, which is 8 pounds. For two weeks it’s 12 pounds – well, actually for a month it’s 12, but you can only get either a week or a month.

If you want, you can read about Days 1 and 2, Day 3, and Day 4. Ah the powers of blog backdating!

This morning’s lectures were fairly interesting. Andy talked about the problem of publishing monographs (i.e, very expensive) and how publishing electronically would be an improvement. Also someone from John Wiley & Sons talked about online learning systems, causing some heated debate with our dean who doesn’t like the idea of online universities, despite the fact that this is the only way some people get to earn a degree.

After lunch we to the British Library for a tour.

It’s a beautiful space, but it’s definitely not a public library. You have to bascially apply to be able to use the books, and you can’t just use the space, you have to be using the materials. It’s more like special collections (rare books and manuscripts, art monographs, etc.).

The guide was smart but had somewhat of a superiority complex. He said everything in a joking way, but who knows. He made fun of American English spelling – like dropping “u” from “color” so that a British person wouldn’t be able to find “The Color Purple” in their system – yeah cuz “programme” makes a lot more sense than “program.” He also seemed to have no idea about the Kindle. And he wasn’t old. Maybe in his late 40s.

After the tour, we all stayed to check out the rare books on display, including the Magna Carta. Very cool.

I was going to go to the National Gallery but it was already 5 by the time I left the British Library and I thought it closed at 6 (actually 9 on Thursdays). I just started walking in that general direction, then stopped for a yogurt. Looking through my London book I saw that the British Museum was open till 8:30.

It was very close walking distance, and I spent almost 2 hours there. It reminded me of both the American Museum of Natural History and the Met, but on a smaller scale. I especially liked the exhibit on different clocks through the ages, contemporary Korean ceramics, the mummies, and the Parthenon.

Aphrodite crouching at her bath

Aphrodite crouching at her bath

I got back to my area around 8. I felt like hearty Asian food again – the weather has become quite chilly – and stopped at what looked like fast food Japanese, Sushi and Bento. I was planning on getting udon noodle soup but opted for curry chicken with rice. It was good! Exactly what I wanted, and at 4.50 pounds, not too pricey.

So tonight I’ve been on internetting for hours! I caught up on emails and as you can see, have been updating my blog. I was going to download my pictures, but I am suddenly really tired.

Tomorrow: lectures, then a visit to Thomas Reuters.

All Day 5 pictures.

Jun 09

London, Day 4

Well, I basically got no sleep. At 11 I was in bed but didn’t feel tired, and lay there, tossing and turning, till about 3. Then from 3 to 5, I kept waking up every 20 minutes. The instant coffee and Beard Papa made me feel only slightly better.

A bunch of us met in the lobby and walked to the bus stop, which took a good half hour. It was cool though to see Oxford Street, normally teeming with people, completely empty. It took us a little bit to find our bus, but soon we spotted some other classmates and the Dean, and the bus came rolling in.

The ride was so peaceful. Everyone was quiet, listening to music or reading the paper. I enjoyed the time to myself and being able to take in the scenery, from the different streets in London, to the little towns and suburbs, to the rolling green lawns with cows, horses, and sheep.

Oxford is a really interesting city. You feel like you’re walking through medieval times. There’s nothing in the U.S. like it. Yale is designed in a medieval way, but it’s just a design.

First stop, coffee of course! I got a mocha and despite the custard cream puff, was starving and I got an almond croissant, which was absolutely delicious by the way.

Next we walked to Oxford University Press (OUP). Part of the outside retains that old look, but the rest is very modern. I couldn’t get over how big it is, especially compared to the 2 or 3 floors of the New York office. There were a couple of cafes, and good-sized dining area.

The lectures were pretty good. The most interesting one to me was the revamp of the online OED and ODNB since I studied at least the OED fairly in-depth for one of my classes, and I’m always interested in how online tools are marketed. I have to say the last presentation was a snooze. The content was interesting, but the woman’s delivery was a total monotone. Plus I was so tired, hungry, and bummed that we wouldn’t be doing the OUP Museum tour because the guide was a no show. Lame.

At least lunch was free. I made a bad choice though: ham and chicken pie. I thought there’d be vegetables in the pie, like peas, carrots, and onions, but there were not. So the side of fries didn’t help. Later one of my classmates got sick from the quiche she had, though another woman had it too and was fine.

Afterwards we walked through town and stopped at this pub, The Eagle and the Child. Apparently C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein used to hang out there and dubbed it The Bird and the Baby. I kept asking people what the significance of the eagle and the child was. I had seen a statue of it at Queen Mary’s Park. No one knew. Finally, one of my classmates pointed out an explanation on the menu: the eagle and child are on the Queen’s crest.

I didn’t drink anything since I was so sleepy, and just sat there while everyone else drank. Afterwards we walked more, and stopped at yet another pub, The White Horse Tavern, I think. The sick-off-the-quiche girl and I weren’t interested so we ran across the street and checked out this free museum on THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE. Tall order. It was basically a random conglomeration of compasses, calculators, globes, bones, and early electric stuff. But hey it was free.

Our next stop was the Bodleian Library, where a the head of collection development talked about the complex Oxford University library system, further complicated by licensing of e-resources. She was a very good speaker – smart, amusing, and self-deprecating.

Next was a tour of the library at the New College.

The campus itself is very pretty. We didn’t actually see a lot of the library. Mainly the librarian showed us these extremely old books. One was an enormous Bible, and the other a book in medieval French with gold gild. It was cool to see those books up close and to actually be able to touch them.

Finally, Anthony, the guy who runs the program, showed us more around campus. There was a very nice garden, which we strolled through in the rain, and the dining hall, which looked like something out of Harry Potter: long wooden tables with place settings, surrounded by giant portraits of stern-looking old men.

Most of my classmates stayed in Oxford to check out the Blackwell’s bookstore and maybe try out another pub. The Dean and three of us lightweights headed back. I had thought about staying but was so exhausted. Sure enough, I promptly fell asleep on the bus for a good hour. By the time we got back to London, I felt more energized and decided to walk back to the dorm from Marble Arch, rather than take the subway.

I’ve been looking for dark-colored Keds all summer. For some reason, New York just doesn’t seem to have them. Where do I find them? In a store called Schuh on Oxford Street. I don’t even know how to pronounce the store name. I got black Keds for 26 pounds, which is a bit pricey, but I think that’s how Keds are.

I ate sooo badly today. Let’s recap:

• Breakfast: instant coffee and Beard Papa custard cream puff
• Breakfast 2: mocha and almond croissant
• Lunch: chicken and ham pie, french fries, diet Coke (NO vegetables)
• Pre-bus snack: 2/3 of sausage roll
• Dinner: yogurt and nacho chips

I kind of want some tea but also feel too lazy to go back out.

Tomorrow is a mellow day of lectures in the morning and a tour of the British Library in the afternoon. I think we end early, around 3:30. I may check out the National Gallery.

All Day 4 pictures.

Jun 09

London, Day 3

Whew, it already feels like I’ve been here forever. Now the hallway of our gross dorm has a damp mildewy smell, like they tried to shampoo the carpets but did a terrible job.

I woke up at 5 AM to bright sunlight – my blinds don’t work well – and couldn’t fall back asleep, not even wearing the blindfold Virgin Atlantic gave us. Worried that I’d have to wait for the shower and already starving, I got up at 6:30. Luckily I didn’t have to wait. Someone was finishing up just as I came in.

I also went over to breakfast early since I needed some alone time after socializing so much the days before with people I don’t really know, which I find more tiring for some reason. I skipped the regular sausage and tried the vegetarian one, which was actually pretty good, almost like a falafel.

After breakfast I walked around a bit taking pictures, then stopped in Tesco for some instant coffee. I still had time to kill before class so I went back to my room and read. I was suddenly very tired, even after two cups of coffee, and could have fallen asleep.

Today was all lectures. The guy who runs the program knows a lot and has tons of experience, but he sort of rambles when he lectures. The woman after him, who talked about marketing e-journals, was better once she got warmed up.

By lunch I was still feeling need for alone time so I took off and wandered around. I went to the Muji store, which took me a while to find again, though I’ve passed it a billion times since I’ve been here. I wanted to see if they had any cool mugs, water heaters, or sneakers. They did not. At least there’s a microwave in the kitchen, though it might be disgusting. I ended up getting a cheapo mug from a random supermarket, where I also had a sandwich and chips for lunch.

Very common seems to be sandwiches packaged like the Pret sandwiches – in a cardboard box. They’re absolutely everywhere. There’s also this chain called Eat, which looks almost exactly like Pret.

For the afternoon session, there were three speakers. The first was okay, the second so boring I wanted to gouge my eyes out, and the third pretty good. They were from this company that provides services to publishers and libraries on electronic resources. For instance, they received a grant to provide 30+ e-books of key texts available for free to students in the UK, and they measured and monitored how and how much students used them, and if the availability of the e-books affected print sales at all (it didn’t).

There is someone in the class who’s not a student but involved with academic journals. She kept asking questions that were already addressed in the presentation, which got really annoying by 4:30 when I was totally wilting and itching to get outside. Take it off-line people!

It’s been really beautiful here in London. Today was partly sunny and cool. I decided to take advantage of the weather and walk to London Bridge. Well, tried. I got lost a billion times. The frigging streets go around and around, and turn into other streets without warning. I kept getting out my map. I did end up in some cool parts of town though by mistake, like SoHo.

Eventually I ended up at some bridge. Not the London bridge but it went over the Thames and so I crossed it and ended up on the South Bank. Yay! The Royal National Theater was right there, as well as the Hayward Gallery. In the near distance I saw the London Eye, which my brother recommended.

What is essentially a giant ferris wheel ride is kind of pricey – 17 pounds – but really the first touristy thing I’ve paid for. As I was waiting in line to give my ticket, this large woman and her little son behind me kept trying to cut. I think they were Russian. The woman was big with clothes that were two sizes too small, long dyed black hair, long fake red nails, and tats all up and down her arms. I didn’t want them to cut me, but I didn’t know if I’d have been able to take her.

When we finally got on the car, they and this older Chinese woman all basically pushed me out of the way to get seats. I was not a happy camper.

The ride itself was nice. I took a bunch of pictures. It was much slower than I expected. I kept thinking it was going to be like the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island.

Next door was the Salvador Dali museum, which MB recommended. Unfortunately it was closed so I took pictures of the statues standing outside.

In the distance I saw Big Ben and Parliament, and I headed over to the bridge nearest to that area.

When I got to the other side, I wasn’t sure where I was. It seemed to be lots of government buildings, but unlike in New York, they were really old and ginormous, and where I was at first no one else was around. I felt like I was in an ancient building graveyard.

Eventually I ended up at the Household Calvary Museum (I think), then somehow the right direction back through SoHo, found Oxford Street, and Tottenham Court Road, which leads back to my dorm. I was so proud of myself for figuring it out without a map! I just kept moving away from where I was, following my instinct, and of course the signs pointing towards the roads I knew.

I was starving by the time I got back. I avoided all the touristy eateries and went to Goodge Street, which is near my dorm. There’s a lot of variety at reasonable prices. Feeling a little homesick, I ate a Korean place, not that I’m Korean, but MB and I do that often enough. The bibimbap was 7.50 pounds. With a soda and tip, it turned out to be 9.50. With lunch and dessert (a Beard Papa cream puff), I spent less thatn 20 pounds for the day. Yay!

When I got back, I found some of my classmates chatting and laughing in the kitchen. It seemed they got take out pizza. Wanting to be a little social, I joined them for a while, which was fun. Proud of myself again.

Though I’m having a good time, I miss New York and its perfect grid streets. I miss having my best pal MB to talk to every day. Ah well, it will only make our reunion sweeter.

Tomorrow we’re going to Oxford, hence the early departure. I need to get up at 5 in order to meet some of my classmates at 6:15 downstairs. Ugh.

All Day 3 pictures.

Jun 09

London, Baby!

Writing this in Word since, get this, my room doesn’t have internet. Well, it does, but only via a “voucher” which they ran out of the first day. There were supposed get more today, but haven’t. I don’t even know if I’ll bother. It’s 12 pounds for 2 weeks. I can get free WiFi at Pret and McDonald’s, and I don’t need to be on the internet every day. It’s even a nice little break from being wired all the time.

Sunday, Day 1
The longest day in creation. My flight wasn’t till 9:30 PM so MB and I had the whole day to hang out. I packed in the morning, then for lunch we went to this nice place on Avenue A. I had a yummy omelet with goat cheese, spinach, and tomato.

The weather was so nice (ie, not raining for a change) we decided to take a walk out to the Apple store in Chelsea for a cover for my laptop. The weather held up till we got to the water, then unfortunately it started to rain, so we hopped the M23 back to the east side.

I was dreading having to leave. I mean, I was excited about my trip but hated saying goodbye to MB. This will be the longest we’ve been apart. When he goes to his conferences, the longest he’ll go is a week. The longest trips I’ve taken since we’ve met have been just a few days. But after we finally did say goodbye and I got in a cab, I felt okay. I could focus on my trip more, though these past couple of days, of course, I’ve missed him.

I got to the airport by 7:15 PM. The wait actually didn’t feel too long. I ate some junk and read Eclipse (yes, I’m totally sucked in), and wandered around the airport. We were supposed to board at 8:30 but didn’t get on till almost 9:30. Then we sat on the runway till 11. I was so relieved when we finally took off.

I had no one next to me, but across the aisle was this odd couple. A British woman maybe my age, and a man – maybe from Trinidad? – in what looked to be his 50s. The whole time he kept sucking his teeth, and I think he told the woman to shut up multiple times. I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not, but I didn’t think so. It was very weird, though he was perfectly pleasant to the crew.

Weirdness #2: the woman behind me kept sneezing, and each time afterwards she’d say, “Bless me!” If she sneezed twice in a row, she said bless me twice.

Turns out one of my classmates was on the plane. We were waiting on line for the bathroom, and I thought, This guy looks familiar. I thought, Did we go on a date? Thank God no. He was in one of my classes fall semester.

I didn’t really sleep the whole flight. I dozed off in the middle of Bolt, but didn’t have a proper sleep. I didn’t figure out how to adjust my seat till we were almost there, so I was sort of uncomfortable for most of the flight.

Heathrow finally! We were supposed to get in at 9:30 AM but were about 45 minutes late. My classmate and I connected, and took the Tube together to the dorm. Sounds easier than it was. Both sleep deprived, we had a hard time figuring out a) where a cash machine was, and b) how to buy an Oyster card. We did figure it out finally, and got on the train.

The subways are pretty nice in London, but it still took a year. Then we had to transfer, which involved dragging our suitcases up and down lots of stairs. I was soooo tired, and more than anything wanted to take a shower.

We’re staying in a dorm, and lemme tell ya, it’s crummy. I’ve stayed in some old dorm rooms in my time, but this takes the cake. My feet will go nowhere near the floor, let alone the shower.

I used the men’s bathroom by mistake, thinking it was unisex. It wasn’t till last night, in my daze from returning from a half-asleep pee, that I found the women’s room when I walked past my door. The men’s bathroom was really bad. One shower didn’t work, and the other didn’t drain properly. The women’s bathroom is slightly better, though one shower had only cold water.

Oh my God, I couldn’t live here for more than two weeks. But I guess that’s what you get for 35 pounds a night.

After my shower, I ran out and got groceries from a nearby Tesco’s. I was all set to go out immediatley afterwards, but was suddenly utterly exhausted. I napped for about 90 minutes, and woke up feeling pretty refreshed.

I took the subway to Leicester Square, then realized I could have walked there. I hadn’t eaten much the whole day – a muffin on the plane, and a yogurt – so first stop: Pret for a sandwich. I like Pret back home, and I remember my brother saying it was one of the few places in London that was reasonably priced. An excuse to stick with the familiar.

After I ate, I saw Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus, and walked all the way down Picadilly to Buckhingham Palace.

Picadilly Circus

Picadilly Circus

It wasn’t that far of a walk but just felt that way since I was so tired. I also used a restroom in a fancy hotel, trying to be inconspicuous, but then ended up pulling the emergency cord (thought it was for the toilet), and even after I assured the guy who knocked that I was okay, opened the door to find him standing there.

There was nothing going on at Buckingham Palace. I saw one of the guards walk back and forth, that’s it. Afterwards I walked all the way back to school. All in all, a three hour tour.

I had also picked up an ethernet cable, but was told there were no more vouchers. By this time, I hadn’t contacted anyone to say I had landed and was okay, and started to feel panicky. The guy at the front desk was nice and said that all McDonald’s had free wireless. I remembered seeing one nearby and so, laptop in town, went to find it.

I couldn’t. I wandered around aimlessly, my panic growing, till finally I found a Pret that was still open. Apparently they all have free WiFi too, and there is one practically on every corner.

Sent emails to MB, my parents, and bro. Checked other email, Twitter, Facebook, and people’s blogs. Ate another sandwich and chips, for dinner.

It stays light out here till about 10. I was back in my room and ready for sleep by 9:45, and didn’t think I’d be able to sleep, but it was no problem. I woke up a few times, but had no trouble falling back asleep.

Monday, Day 2
Awake at 5 because of the light of my room. Quickly passed out again till 7.

Had a more pleasant women’s shower stall experience, then went to breakfast, which is included in the 35 pounds. It had been promised as a traditional English spread, but it wasn’t that great. The eggs were fine, but the sausage was strange and the ham fatty. Tomorrow I’ll probably just go for a boiled egg, toast, and lots of coffee.

The morning was lots of administrative stuff, plus a tour of the campus. Before lunch we had a couple of lectures. The first was from David Nichols from the CIBER Research book, who talked about consumers in cyberspace, for instance how shopping in cyberspace changes shopping habits. One thing I didn’t agree with is his opinion that people who use the internet a lot don’t gain any skills.  He’s with the school of thought that searching and reading on the internet dumbs people down, while I think it gives people different skills, like being able to scan quickly for important info and to read with an extra critical eye since the internet is so prone to errors.

For lunch a couple of classmates and I grabbed sandwiches from a café on campus, and ate on benches in the sun. The sun is surprisingly strong here. It’ll be supremely sunny, then suddenly overcast and drizzly. Earlier tonight there was even thunder, but now it’s clear.

Note to self: take pictures of London at night in the rain.

The talk in the afternoon was just a detailed overview of the program. We were done at 3.

I wanted to go see this free exhibit on medical history at the Wellcome Center, but it was closed. So I headed out to Regent Park. Really nice! It’s no Central Park, but Queen Mary’s garden is gorgeous. Roses roses roses, and a nice pond with lots of cool ducks and two black swans.

By the time I finished walking through it and returned to campus, it was time for the 5:30 reception.

At first it was a little uncomfortable, but by the end a bunch of us were just sitting around talking and laughing, which was fun.

Afterwards a small group of us went out to eat. Most of us wanted Indian. Most of us. But somehow minority ruled over manjority. Hmm. We ended up eating Italian, which was pretty good. Cheap definitely. I got a half portion of spaghetti bolagnese for 4.50 pounds, about $7 or $8. (I’m trying to do $40 a day, a la Rachel Ray, which I guess right now is about 25 pounds. Breakfast came with the room, while my lunch was 3.55. Total: 8.05 pounds. Waaay under.) Afterwards a few of us went out for a drink. (Oh yeah, my wine. I think it was 5 pounds. So 13.05 pounds for the whole day, still under.)

I hope I’m not too hungover tomorrow. We start at 9:30, a little later, so I can sleep till 7:30 or 8 if I want, though on Wednesday, we’re going to Oxford, and need to be there by 9, which means leaving at 7, which means getting up at possibly 5:30, which also means leaving before the dining hall opens for breakfast. Tomorrow I will have to get some instant coffee, a kettle or pot, and a cup. There’s a Muji store nearby – an excuse to spend too much money.

Of course I miss MB like crazy, especially when I’m walking around on my own looking at stuff. I know we’d have so much fun doing that kind of thing together. It’s only during the lectures that I’m pretty occupied with what’s going in the moment.

All Day 1 and Day 2 pictures.