Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Food of England

London: The Food

For those of you that don’t want to read through all my witty humor and details please scroll to the end.  There you'll find a sparknotes version of this post.  For those of you who don’t know what sparknotes is, it's the short version that just gives you the highlights.  That way you can pretend you read the whole thing if I were ever to quiz you.
                                      The Food of England
Contrary to popular belief England actually has really great food if you are willing to try things.  The traditional English food can be very tasty if done right.  The real jewel of London’s culinary scene is all the ethnic food they have.  London is to the UK like New York is to America, all sorts of people from around the world want to be there, and they bring their traditional food with them.  I’m excited to do a whole post on food because it was a big part of my trip.  For the four and a half months I was in England I forgot about counting calories and decided to try as many different kinds of food as possible.  I tried so many things in fact that I gained almost 20 pounds in England (9 kg if you’re on the metric system)!
To tell you the truth it was worth it.  For my four and a half months in England I was on my own version of a food network show.  I was such an epicurean during this trip that is a good thing I got out when I did.  Otherwise my 5’ frame would have had to have been rolled onto the plane.  I also told a few of my friends that food was my boyfriend during this trip.  I’m going to tell you the honest truth knowing that it might make me sound completely lame.  I enjoyed myself way more when I was eating the chocolate hazelnut/tiramisu gelato from Scoop than I did during any of the make out sessions I had with British guys (all on different occasions of course).  My time with the gelato was something I look back on much more passionately and memorably.  Now I’m going to go into some more detail with this amazing gelato.
The begining of the end: This picture is from my first week when Jess and I went to an Italian place in London and I got a whole pizza.  I ate half of it on the train ride back.
Scoop: gelato so good it makes you want to break dance in the streets. 
Scoop was one of those places I kept seeing in travel books and magazines as a must go to.  One day when I took a solo day trip to London I found myself right outside of Scoop and recognized the name.  I went in and ordered a large chocolate dipped cone with nuts, and alternating scoops of chocolate hazelnut/tiramisu gelato.  It was heaven.  It has to be one of the best, if not the best thing I have ever eaten.  It was so great I made sure to go back there again when my mom visited.  If you are ever in London and you like ice cream, go to Scoop, and thank me later.
Traditional British Food   
Fish and chips: Fish and chips are more than likely the most stereotypical British food.  Fish and chips consist of deep fried cod and a severing of very thick french fries.  For those of you that don’t know, the British call their french fries chips and they are almost always thick cut.  The only place I saw shoe string fries was at American fast food places like McDonalds.  Fish and chips is traditionally severed with mushy peas as well, which is exactly what it sounds like: mashed up peas.  I had fish and chips a few times but never found it that great, it was too much grease on one plate for me.
Bangers and mash: First of all, bangers and mash is just fun to say.  It’s a meal that is made up of large sausage links on a bed of mashed potatoes with gravy and onions on top. 
Cider:  Hard cider is really popular in England.  The most popular brands among college students seem to be blackthorn and strongbow.  I did enjoy a pint of strongbow on many occasions and I really miss it, though I know it accounted for at least a few of the pounds I gained.  Cider black is also really good; it’s hard cider made from the fruit black currant.  Pear ciders are also a nice treat.
Stef and me, I'm drinking a pear cider.

I got my mom to try Stongbow when she visited me

Meat pies:  I was a little afraid of them at first but they very yummy.  I really enjoyed one filled with chicken and mushrooms.  Meat pies are different from pot pies because meat pies use a flaky pastry crust while pot pies use a pie crust.  There are also cornish pastys which are another type of meat pie that is worth trying. 

Family friends Sue and Mike!

Different meat rolls and pies.

Jacket potatoes: Or what American's would call baked potatoes.  The English top their potatoes with a few different things that I was not used to.  Popular jacket potato toppings are tuna/mayo/sweet corn or baked beans.  Also, baked beans seem to go on top of anything in England.

English Breakfast: Is a plate of mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs, bacon, sausages, baked beans, and sometimes toast.  Other popular breakfast choice is spaghetti hoops, or what we call in the states spaghetti-os .  When I told one of my British classmates I thought this breakfast choice was a bit weird she said, “well you guys eat pancakes for breakfast.”  To her American's are weird for eating such sugary foods for breakfast, waffles and pancakes are dessert over there.

Spotted Dick: A dessert, a spongy/ pudding type of cake with dried fruit in it.  It's often served with hot custard on top.  I noticed that in England hot custard is kind of like how American's view ice cream.  American’s seem to put ice cream on top of a lot of other desserts or with cake just like English people do with hot custard.

Sticky Toffee Pudding:  This creation is something you must try if you go to a place that makes it well.  It’s similar to spotted dick because it too is a very moist sponge cake with finely chopped dates and prunes in it.  Yet with sticky toffee pudding they cover it in hot toffee sauce and it that was not good enough you can add villain custard or heavy cream.  Is it any surprise I gained so much weight over there?

Don't tell me you wouldn't eat that right now if you could.
Other popular British food: Rice pudding, Sunday roast, biscuits, English breakfast tea, and amazing chocolate that is far superior to mass produced American chocolate.  Also, since there are so many people from Indian in England curry and other Indian food is all over the place.  People will “go out for a curry” a lot.  Curries are even served in pubs.

Best Things I Ate Abroad

Indian food: I never thought I liked Indian food until I tried it in England.  I went into Indian restaurant, and asked them to put in my order for the dish they made best.  I ended up with a red chicken curry dish that blew my mind.

Thai Food:  I had never eaten Thai food before a few months ago and now I love it.  The curries and flavors with Thai food are so different to Indian spices.  Thai food is a lot lighter and uses a lot of sweeter flavors like coconut milk while Indian curries seem to be a lot heavier.

One of the best meals I had was black bean chicken with special fried rice in the China Town of London.  I got it to go and ate while walking around the city.  It was a good day.

At a place called Sally Lunn’s in Bath I got a hot cinnamon butter bun that was worth the trip.  This place had been around since 1482 and is known for their buns for a good reason.

I had two slices of pepperoni pizza at a place called American Pizza in Liverpool and it tasted exactly like the pizza in New York, it was perfect.

Nando’s:  I wish we had this chain in the states.  It’s a Portuguese style restaurant that specializes in chicken with peri-peri seasoning.  Since I love spicy and heavenly seasoned food it was ideal.

Pizza Express:  This is also a huge chain.  Their pizza is a lot nicer than a place like Pizza Hut but not so fancy that is like some frilly girly pizza.  I’m glad I gave in and went.

Street Food of Camden Town:  Camden Town Market is a huge market area that is open every day.  It’s literally the size of at least three football fields.  Some is inside as well or in covered areas, but it all has the feel of an outdoor market.  Camden Town had at least a hundred different food vendors and resturants.  Since street food is an addiction of mine I went there often.  Camden had everything: cupcake places, Indian Food, Mexican Food, Chinese, Italian, handmade churros that will take your breath away, mead, and much more.
Best Churros ever!  They made them right there.
nutella and strawberry crepes
Very fab burrito
To sum it up: I had a blast trying different foods, but I'd never do that to my body again.  Since I was going out to eat by myself most of the time and didn't have a fridge I ate ungodly portions.  I wouldn’t take back trying all the thing I did; I’ll just have to make sure to do it in a healthier way next time!
                                             Sparknotes Version! 
London has really good food contrary to popular belief, so good in fact that I gained 20 pounds in the 4 ½ months I studied abroad.  I now am on a strict diet and exercise plan to get it all off by the end of summer and have lost 10 pounds already!  I have not eaten a simple carbohydrate or sugar in 3 weeks so now when I see a doughnut or cookie I have to walk away like it has a gun and is about to take fire at my head.

I made it a point to try as many new foods as possible while abroad, and I went out to eat a lot too.  I decided food was my boyfriend for the trip because I would rather eat incredibly indulgent gelato in my free time than listen to a guy talk about stupid crap I have to pretend to be interested in.  Also, creme brulee does not try to cuddle with you in the middle of the night when you are trying to sleep and then get offended if you roll away.

British Food List:
Fish and Chips = greasy
Bangers and Mash = just fun to say
Hard Cider = many memoires
Meat Pies = not just for the demon barber of Fleet Street
 Spotted Dick = another fun name for a dessert
Sticky Toffee Pudding = just plain good
English Breakfast = might give you a heart attack
Jacket Potatoes = the same thing as a baked potato, except with topping like tuna and sweet corn
Their Chocolate = make ours taste like vomit
Best Things I Ate Abroad:
Indian Food, Thai Food, Chinese Food in China Town and I loved the chains Nando’s and Pizza Express.  Also Scoop’s gelato was so good it made me want to thank God for being alive.
Trying all those different food was really fun but if I ever let myself gain that much weight in that short of time again, please come up and slap me, unless I gained that much weight because I’m pregnant, in which case shame on you for slapping a pregnant woman.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Theatre Learning Moments and my Manchester and Liverpool Adventure!

So I have not updated in about a month and I’ve had many an adventure since then.  So this post is not so long it makes people reading it feel like that have a homework assignment I’ll just stick to my trip to Manchester and Liverpool for now.  I do go off on some tangents during this but this trip was a big growing experience for me so that’s why.  As well as my other post, at the end of this I have a sparknotes version for those of you who care about my life but are also feeling lazy today; enjoy!

My solo Manchester and Liverpool Trip!
Well, I did it!  I took a four day, three night trip to Manchester and Liverpool completely solo.  I was really proud of myself for doing all the planning for this mini trip without any help.  Manchester and Liverpool are both major cities in England.  They are only a short train ride away from each other so I knew I could do both in one trip.  Also, they both take about three and a half hours to get to by train from Twickenham so I knew this would not be a day trip.  This trip was a pretty spontaneous thing for me.  I had an extra long weekend and was inspired by my friend Jess who took a trip to Italy by herself and thought, if she can go to a different country by herself I can at least go to a different part of an English speaking country by myself.  I wanted to use this trip as a tester trip for me to see how I would do with traveling completely independently.    I consider myself an independent person but I have to admit that I’m usually the lazy one when it comes to planning the trip.  I end up letting others take the lead when it comes to planning things like where we will stay and how we will get there.  So when I decided this was something I wanted to do I sat in an internet cafĂ©’ for five hours one day and planned out everything.  I found a cheap and well rated hostel, looked up train tickets (though I know now I could have saved money by taking a bus) looked up cheap restaurants that were well rated, tourist attractions, and of course theatres. 
Manchester Day 1
Getting to Manchester went very smoothly.  Plus I got to ride a nicer train for of the majority of the way there so that was kind of fun.  I spent a lot of this day just wandering around, I went to their tourist information center and got a map of the city center, which is the main area of Manchester in which I stayed, and was a live saver during my short time there.  Manchester was super easy to get around and very touristy friendly.  They are really trying to get known for being a tourist hot spot so everyone was very keen to help and the street signs even kept me from getting lost, for anyone who knows me, this is a huge accomplishment.  The city was really clean and felt very safe.  It had the city feel yet was so much more manageable then getting around London, plus everything was right in the city center and within walking distance.  I went to The Royal Exchange Theatre and ended up getting a free ticket to see their show Mogadishu, which is a new work.  It takes place at an inner city school in London.  In the play a white female teacher breaks up a fight students and a 15-year old-black male student shoves her during the fight.  Then the teacher does not want to turn the student in because she knows it could ruin his life to get expelled but the student spreads rumors that the teacher shoved him first an called him a black bastard.  So then the teacher gets suspended and there is a lot of other stuff that goes down as well.  It was really interesting, and I really love seeing new works.  The theatre space was incredible.   It’s a theatre in the round space build inside an old historical building.  It is hard to explain how amazing it looks so I’ll just have to add pictures.  I did have a great “theatre learning moment” during this show as well, that might only be interesting to other “theatre people and other performers” but I feel like writing about it anyway. 
outside of the theatre

The Royal Exchange Theatre space inside the theatre

My “Theatre Learning Moment”
Before the show they had an hour long concert in the lobby with a girl and boy about my age.  The girl sang contemporary and classic songs in an Adele style while the guy played guitar and piano.  The girl’s voice was incredible but she was so annoying to watch.  I had about an hour to think about why she was this way.  Meanwhile, the guy was good, not amazing, but really interesting as a performer.  The girl just seemed like she didn’t believe in herself, and she didn’t seem like she was having that much fun.  As an audience member it was aggravating to watch her when she was acting like she hardly even deserved to be up there.  It was the perfect example of somebody apologizing for being on the stage.  I have never watched someone perform for that long of a duration which such an attitude of apology.  If I was a casting director I don’t know if I would have wanted to work with her, even with how beautiful her voice was, because it would be such a huge risk to hire someone who didn’t think they were good enough.  It made me realize how hugely important it is to fully commit to everything you do on stage, because it is always more visible than you think it is.  It also made me realize how important the piece of advice I got from the acting coach Chambers Stevens is, he told me “Never apologize for walking into a room.”  He was referring to the fact that on stage I’m really confident but I needed to learn how to carry that attitude with me through every aspect of my acting and just being a person in general.   To this day I think that is the best theatre advice I’ve ever gotten, which was reinforced so many times over while watching this girl sing for an hour.  I just wanted her to break out of her shell and enjoy what she was doing so much, because she really had a breathtaking voice.   
On the other hand, the guy that was playing the instruments was one so confident and relaxed in his own body that I felt like some theatre god was sending me a teaching aid through these two.  He had this attitude of complete confidence without being cocky.  He was just doing his thing and really enjoying it, and you could tell he was having a good time sharing his love of music with people.  Yet there was nothing showy or pushy about his performance.  He had this air about him that he could have played naked and still been completely confident.  It was just very refreshing to see this in someone.  He was just being himself without judging what he was doing or over complicating it.  This made me want to know more about him and see more.  It was one of those moments where I really realized that if you don’t believe in yourself as a performer, it dosn't matter how good you are, and others are going to wonder why they should believe in you.  Also, what is the point of performing and not letting yourself enjoy every second of it?  It’s not selfish; the audience wants to see you enjoy yourself.
Back to Day part one in Manchester
I was feeling really lonely that night and slightly regretting my decision to do this solo until I talked to the other people in my room at the hostel.  I met a really nice girl from Greece named Eva who was in Manchester doing her residency as a dentist, and she had not found an apartment yet. I also met a woman who was about my mom’s age who was an artist taking a week long print making workshop in Manchester.  I went to bed feeling much better, and realized I just needed some human interaction after a full day of having hardly any.
Manchester Version of the London Eye
Manchester Day Two
I spent the first part of the day hanging out in the lounge in the hostel and just talking to different people all from different countries and hearing their stories.  This is where I met the first of three Canadian teachers in Manchester because they said it is nearly impossible for teachers coming out of college in Canada to find work, so many have resorted to teaching internationally.  I ended up going to the Manchester Art Gallery with Eva from Greece this day, and it was fun to hear her stories.  The art gallery was amazing, especially for me because they had a large amount of Pre-Raphaelite paintings which is one of my favorite eras of art.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Astarte Syriaca
Willian Etty's The Sirens and Ulysses

Eva had to leave to go look at an apartment so I spent the rest of the day wandering around the city and just enjoying it.  I spent a lot of time in China Town, and went to a Chinese bakery where I had a lunch of green tea cakes and a custard filled bun, both of which were great.  I also made my quest to walk to The Whitman Art Gallery, which took a long time to walk to but I was enjoying just seeing the city.  This is where I had my second “theatre learning moment”
Part Two “Theatre Learning Moment”
The Whitman Art Gallery had a huge exhibit on Mary Kelly, who was a big feminist artist.  The only thing was is they didn’t put a lot of it in context.  They did for some of the pieces but not for all of them.  My theatre professor Janet is always telling us how important it is to put things in context (they all tell me this, but she pushes it the most.)  There was a moment where I walked into a room and it was filled with these single pieces of framed paper.  Each sheet of paper had typed up on different kinds of food which I assumed is what she ate that day and medication she took, or something like that.  I was trying to find some information to put this in context but couldn’t.  Then I saw some really stereotypical artys people looking at these sheets of paper like it was so important and I started laughing.  I realized that if you don’t put stuff in context you are just staring at in confused while other people look at you like “shame on you this stuff is important!” Well, why is it important?  Because from where I’m staring I see a framed sheet of paper on it that says mashed potatoes and don’t really give a damn.  We can be so snooty as artist sometime about why what we are doing is important but if our audience does not get it what is the point of doing it?
Back from my tangent and on to the rest of Manchester Day 2
While walking around this day I also paid visit to The Gay Village, which is just what it name states, a whole area full of gay bars and clubs, which was a little uneventful during the day but I wish I would have seen a drag show their at night.  That night I deiced to do a pub crawl that the hostel ran.  The pub crawl was fun but without a wing woman it was a little weird.  There were about 25 of us on the pubcrawl and there was not even one other American, but it was actually really nice since sometimes I only hang out with the other Americans at school and need to meet some people who are not from my own country.  I ended up talking to the two super tall girls, they were literally about 5’11 and wearing heels and made me feel like a midget, one was from Sweden and the other from Norway.  They were fun but I got annoyed hanging out with them because it loud bars their conversations were a foot above my head and I couldn’t always hear what they were saying, these are real life issues of the vertically impaired.   There was also a group of Spanish guys who were fun but one decided I was his aim for the night or something and kept putting his arm around me and trying to flirt with me, so I avoided him the rest of the night, because without a wing woman, (aka Lisa Michaels, the best wing woman ever, I hope you are reading this) flirting with a guy in a bar just did not seem right.  I was at the Irish Pub when I met the two over solo traveling girls and that is when I really started to have fun, plus neither one of them was above 5’4, score!  One was from Germany and the other one was from a small town near Manchester I think and just visiting for the weekend to go shopping and have fun.  This is where there was a live band and this 75ish year old man dancing and really getting into it.  He reminded me of David Hennessey from the Commonweal with the way he loved to dance, if you ever get a chance to dance with David from the Commonweal Theatre, please do, it is very fun.  Anyway, this guy was really going for it and dancing with the three of us but especially with me and I thought he was just being fun grandpa type until when we were leaving.  He tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was going and asked if I was heading out and seemed really disappointed that I was.  I hope he was just having fun dancing with some girls who didn’t mind goofing off but he said it in a way that made me think grandpa was trying to flirt with me.  The final stop of the pubcrawl was a nightclub that played really odd music.  The girl from Germany and I had a lot of fun dancing in it was really liberating to just really go for it on the dance floor with someone I just met an hour ago in a different country where no one knew me.  After this I have not cared what I look like when I dance when I go to clubs because as long as I am having fun I don’t care if I might look a bit silly.  I am a dorky white girl, and that shows when I dance but I find dancing fun so who cares!  Life is too short to not put yourself out there.

pubcrawl group
Liverpool Day!
It might have not been the best planning decision on my part to get up early to go to Liverpool the next day after the pubcrawl but that’s the way it went.  I went straight to Albert Dock in Liverpool since I knew that is where I would sign up for The Beatles Tour.  By the way, Liverpool is very beautiful, but very cold and windy since it is right next to the water.  I did The Beatles Tour right away and that was pretty sweet, it was fun to get my picture taken at Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane. I really liked hearing how the band got their start and all met too.

In Liverpool I ended up just walking around and looking at the city a lot, I walked to The Liverpool Cathedral, Albert Dock, The Tate Liverpool, and The Cavern Club.  I was really tired and it was so cold that I ended heading back earlier than I thought I would.  Liverpool had a more confusing layout as well so it took me a really long time to find stuff.  I did find a pizza place called American Pizza and had 2 slices of pepperoni pizza that tasted like they were from New York City, it was amazing.  I got back to the hostel and realized that even though I can take trips solo, it’s not as fun as sharing the experience with someone.  I do grow a lot from doing things by myself and I am really not one of those people who needs someone with me all the time, but I don’t think I would want to plan a solo trip that was longer than a week.  I have been wondering if I am the type of person who would have fun backpacking through Europe alone for a summer and this trip made me realize I would want at least one other person with me.

Liverpool Cathedral
The Tate Liverpool which is on Albert Dock
Maillol's The Three Nymphs
The 4th and final day
    I got up early this day and really embraced the city of Manchester.  The feeling that I was going to be able to sleep in my dorm that night gave me a certain buzz throughout the day.  I left the hostel around 10am and until my train left around 5pm I just walked around the city hitting all the major spots I had missed.  I did a lot of shopping because the northern quarter of Manchester is a vintage shoppers dream.  There is a mall there called Afflecks Palace that is all vintage shops, fancy dress (or in America we would say costumes) shops, and independent fashions designers stores.  I got three dress from here for only 46 pounds!  I also went to The Ardale Market which had a lot of good food stalls in it, Printworks, The Triangle (neither  of those two were worth it) The John Ryland’s Memorial Library, which has some really cool stuff like some pieces of the text that made up the bible and other historical, books, and The Manchester Chapel.  I just wondered around too and got my head out of my map which is when I ended up just running into a lot of cool stuff as well.  I got on the train back to Saint Mary’s feeling really good and wiped out at the same time.  Even though it had only been four days I realized I grew a lot from doing this.  It was not so much the city as it was me being independent and putting myself out there. 

*I had a long weekend so I decided to take a 4 day, 3 night trip to some other major cities in England, Manchester and Liverpool and stay in a hostel.  I wanted to take a trip where I had to be independent. 
*I went to a lot of places in Manchester like a mall there called Afflecks Palace that is all vintage shops, fancy dress (or in America we would say costumes) shops, and independent fashions designers stores.  I got three dress from here for only 46 pounds!  I also went to The Ardale Market which had a lot of good food stalls in it, Printworks, The Triangle (neither  of those two were worth it) The John Ryland’s Memorial Library, which has some really cool stuff like some pieces of the text that made up the bible and other historical, books, and The Manchester Chapel, The Manchester Art Gallery, The Whitman Art Gallery, The Gay Village, and China Town .  I also saw a play called Mogadishu at The Royal Exchange Theatre which is a really cool space.  The city was very tourist friendly and easy to get around.
*The hostel I stayed at, The Hilton Chambers, was really nice, and I met a lot of people there but not even one other American.  I did a pubcrawl through the hostel which was really fun and I hung out with tall girls from Sweden and Norway at first but could never hear what they were saying because I was a foot below their conversations and bars and clubs are loud.  At an Irish pub a 75 year old man danced with me and I’m not sure if he was trying to flirt with me.  I met a girl solo traveler from Germany and we danced at the club and it was really liberating to just have fun with people I didn’t know in another country.  Also one of the Spanish guys was freakin me out during the pubcrawl so I hid from him.  I did have a lot of fun just talking to everyone and hearing their stories.
*I went to Liverpool and it was pretty but cold.  I did The Beatles Tour and got lots of cheesy pictures and also went to The Tate Liverpool, The Liverpool Cathedral, Albert Dock, and just wandered and had the best pizza I have had in ages.
*I had some “Theatre Learning Moments” during my trip that reinforced what I have been learning about never apologizing while on stage and putting things into context.  Basically, I watched a singer and musician perform together and the singer was great but didn’t seem to enjoy being on stage or feel comfortable in her own skin.  The musician with her was very comfortable in his own skin and therefore much more interesting to watch.  As an audience member it was very annoying to watch the singer not own what she was doing.  The putting it into context lesson came from looking at modern art with and without having the information beside it to put it into context, without it you are just staring at a blue canvas saying, “really, and I care why?”
*I loved this trip and learned a lot from it but realized I don’t want to many trips longer than a week solo because certain things are just more fun when you have someone to share them with.
Next time in Alyssa Takes London (don’t I sound fancy), I need to cover my trip to Stratford Upon Avon (home of Shakespeare), all the 4 shows I’ve seen in the last month, London Zoo (which was amazing) and The Decemberists Concert I’m seeing tomorrow (They are my favorite band)!  Those have been the biggies of my last month here!   To all my friends and family reading this, I miss you loads, and wish you were here sharing in my adventures; it’s not the same without you.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Theatre, Camden Town, Bath, Stonehenge, and a whole lot of other randomness!

Arcola Theatre
Ensemble 52 presents, As We Forgive Them
by Richard Vergette
Directed by Andrew Pearson

Cast: Michael Anthony-Brown, Joe Sims
This was a really great new work.  It was at this little space that the theatre just moved into so it was not completely ready yet.  It was opening night of the show in this space and there were only about 20 people in the theatre, but it looked like it could only seat around 60.  The show was about an American congressman who supported the education of people with life in prison and was against the death penalty.   Then is daughter is murdered and so he is not a hypocrite he agrees to personally educate the man who killed her.  The show was an excellent example of stakes and status.  It was only two actors the whole show and they were both so committed.  They both had very distinctive idiosyncrasies that were constant though out the whole show.  It was my favorite play that I have seen here so far.  It was exciting to see such a new work from an upcoming company.  It was a play that really had you walking away with a lot of questions, and made you think for yourself.  If the theatre didn’t take an hour and 45 minutes to get to I would go to their other show there.  Plus on the train ride back one of the actors was on out train so we got to chat with him about the show, it was really fun.

The Palace Theatre
Pricilla Queen of the Desert the Musical      
This was a fun feel good show.  It was based off the movie and was about three Australian drag queens touring Australia in a bus they named Pricilla.  I don’t have as much to say about it.  It was a wonderful piece of fluff theatre.  The costumes were to die for and I’m glad I went. 

 The Vaudeville Theatre
An Ideal Husband
First of all, seeing Oscar Wilde in London is just plain cool.  Their wit seemed so smooth and effortless.  Everything they said was so high class yet casual.  It was funny yet it was very dry humor, but it was precise.  The battle of the words was quick and cunning. I loved listening to the langue of the actors when they were in a fight.  There was an air of superiority about everything, and it was not very often that they let the others see them loss their cool, at least the true wits didn’t.  I felt like I was being given a perfect example of how to pull of this style of humor.  It makes so much more sense seeing it after studying restoration comedy, Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward.  Now I just can’t wait to apply what I learned to some of my own work.

The London Comedy Club
Inkey Jones
Okay, so this was not a play but I’ll just stick it in this category.  I love standup comedy and this guy was great.  The “comedy club” was a room in a hotel that they rent out, but it was still a good time, plus it was only 7 pounds.  The guy was an insult comic and he picked on our group of American’s the whole time, me in particular.  He had about 5 people he came back to throughout the show to really pick on and I was one of them, and it was really fun.  He asked who my name was, and when I said “Alyssa” he decided I had a low and manly voice and decided to refer to me as “Ahhhhahwaa” for the rest of the show.  He then proceeded to ask me about my dating life and the decided that all the single guys in the club had to tell him their job and whoever had the coolest one would win Ahhhhahwaa.  He, of course he made fun of all the people’s jobs.  He deiced that the person who should kidnap me at the end of the night was the 30 something guy who also laughed about it but who I awkwardly smiled at and avoided after the show.  He told a lot of American jokes, like the fact that we teach our children to stop, drop, and roll if they were on fire.  He said that only in America would somebody be dumb enough to set themselves on fire and then try to continue to do something.  He also picked on a couple that had only been going out for a few months, a Belgium guy and his younger girlfriend, who he then decided that he was a pedophile and she was twelve, a guy at his stag party who he kept making gay jokes about, and a really posh girl.  It was a night to remember and reminded me that even though I’m a theatre major I was to see a lot of forms of performance art while I’m here, and at least a few more comedy shows.

Student Shows at Saint Mary’s University
The two shows that I’ve seen done here are put together a lot differently than back at Viterbo and I think there is a lot to learn from that. The first show I saw was called the A Political Cabaret and it was put on by the second year applied theatre students.  This was their show from last semester but they put it up again on campus to try to raise some money.  It was about an hour long I think and it was all sketches they wrote that had to do with politics,  most of them were funny but a few were more serious.  It was really cool because they devised it themselves which is something we don’t do that much of back at Viterbo.  There are advantages of working with a set script but this was something that got a whole different set of skills working that was very interesting to me.  I knew after seeing this that I was on the right track here.   
The other show I saw here was two student directed plays done together called Bouncers, and Shakers.  It was a fun bit of theatre in which both plays each had 4 characters, Bouncers being 4 men and Shakers being 4 females, who all played at least 3 roles in the show they were in.  Bouncers was in a club, and Shakers was in a cocktail bar.  I have to say that I’m really impressed with their student work here.  I think that the fact that they are more student run in their classes makes it easier for them to work on their own as students.  I think this is something Viterbo could improve on, here that have their own Drama Society which is constantly doing student run.  I know Viterbo has been trying to do something like this but it just seems to keep falling through and I hope my senior year it gets pulled up a little, or a lot.
New Things I have learned
·         I really enjoy little theatre’s doing new works more than the big skeptical shows.
·         I need to see more comedy here.
·         I want to do more student run work when I get back to Viterbo next year, and I’m already in talks with Sadie about doing a one woman show, this is just getting me more pumped and confident for it!

Museums and Art Galleries
The Victoria and Albert Museum
I’m not going to lie; I was really disappointed by this one.  I got so built up to see their fashion exhibit only to find out they were redoing it before the Olympics comes here in 2012 and it will not be open during our entire stay.  I wanted to see my costume history project in person, and had been looking forward to seeing this exhibit for months!  The museum was still interesting, but I was so let down about the fashion exhibit being closed that I didn’t really enjoy it. 

<The Chelsea Carpet from Iran made in 1500

The National Galley
I didn’t know what to expect going into this one but I absolutely loved it!  Some of my favorite paintings were: A Nobleman Kissing a Lady's Hand, by Longhi because I loved the dress in it.  Also, an allegory with venus and time by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Three Dancers in Violet Tutus by Degas, Ophelia among the flowers by Rendon, but seeing  umbrellas by Renoir was really cool because I used this painting in a design project of mine and seeing it in person was a little surreal.  Seeing a lot of these famous works in person was mind blowing to me.  There were works by Picasso and Monet and being one foot away from these works of art gives you such a different feel of them then any picture can emulate.  My next mission is to hunt down some of Watteau’s work when I go to Paris since he is one of my favorites!

< A painting I used for a disign of Hedda Gabbler and then saw in person, it's Umbrellas by Renoir
Camden Town!
This has been one of my favorite places by far!  Camden town is this market area that is a cross between a china town, huge farmers market, and something all its own.  There were so many sweet different areas with things to see, from punk rock shops to fake designer purses, from fancy cupcakes stands to Indian food, there were also free standing store, restaurants, pubs, comedy clubs, and even an art gallery there.  It was such a fun area and I will be going back there for sure.  Some of the places even offered student discounts!  I went with a group but ended up going off on my own, which was a good choice because there were literally hundreds of different shops and it was nice to be at my own pace.  My regret is not eating there because I had a miscommunication with the rest of my group and thought they wanted to eat later together in central London.  There were so many food stands there, and there was even Mexican food that looked good, and I haven’t had Mexican in over a month so I need to go back for some of that! 

<Fell in love with these watches!  I got two and am planning to get more, they were only 5 pounds!

Is one of those places I’m really excited that I got to see.  It was so windy that day that I felt like if I jumped up in the air I could have blown away.  I have to admit that it wasn’t my favorite place to see, but it was pretty cool.

 This was a place that surprised me a lot!  I didn’t really even know anything about Bath before I went there.  I did a tour of Bath the same day as Stonehenge since they are only about an hour apart.  It is a really cool city that was built around these old Roman baths.  It was build around the 40 AD and the Romans set up this grand temple at as a large social area with pools, hot springs, and work out areas.  Then the city was built around it and the architecture if beautiful there.   I also had one of the best things I have ever eaten in Bath at Sally Lunn’s Bun’s.  It is this place that is 300 years old and had been known for the bread since it opened.  I got a large bun with cinnamon butter on it and it tasted like a gourmet cinnamon roll.  This was also a time where my independence here has gotten even stronger.  Nobody else wanted to go to this restaurant to I went by myself to it, even though it was a nice sit down place.   

<The main Roman Bath, Pool

 Random Section!!!!

*Since then I have been doing a lot more by myself and it is actually really nice.  I am now taking a whole weekend trip by myself to Manchester starting on the 18th of Feb!   I'm leaving on Friday and getting back on Tuesday. I'm staying in a hostel has got really great reviews and is in the center of the city.  Manchester in England's 3rd biggest city and I'm so excited to explore it.  I know I have to be safe, but it is going to be such a good growing experience for me to do this by myself!

*My hair does really well here, the humidity makes it really wavy, which is really nice because then I never have to blow dry it or straighten it.

*I have put on a few pounds here due to the amazing desserts and going out for drinks a lot more.  So this past week I have been jogging and started doing work out DVDs in my room.  I am surprised at how much I enjoy jogging outside; I used to be self conscious about jogging someplace that was not a gym but it is actually really nice to be outside.  I don’t care if people see me here because I don’t know them.  Plus it is such great weather for jogging here because it is about 40 degrees which is enough to keep you cool when you start running!

*I miss everyone from back home but there is so much to do here that I don’t know how I could ever go back to living in a small town, or even La Crosse.  Living so close to London makes me want to live in New York.  Even a place like Chicago seems too small after living so close to the city of London.

*I’m really growing as a person here, and I have only been here 5 weeks.  At the same time, I have already been here 5 weeks, and I only have 14 left, I’m already ¼ of the way done.  How do you go back to your regular life after being here?  I guess senior year will be crazy busy and then I will be thrust out into the real world, which is crazy to think about.  After I get back home I only have one year left till I am thrust into the ‘real world’ or as much or a ‘real world’ there is for a theatre major.  I better enjoy every second of this even more now after that realization!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Walking tour of London, classes, clubs, Cambridge and theatre, oh my!

Again, this is going to be a very long post so at the end of each section I will have my “Sparknotes” version of what was the most important thing from that section!  It’s a cheat sheet called New Things I Learned!
Pubs and Clubs!
They are crazy here.  I have been to two so far and I now realize why all the British girls that go to Viterbo get so bored with our down town bars.  The first club I went to here is called Oceana and I went on a Monday, which is a big night for Uni students, (university students) to go out here.  This club has multiple rooms for dancing with different music in each but I was only in the 80’s room and the ballroom, which is the biggest room with the hot music of right now.  I have to admit that this place was a little overwhelming to me since I don’t really go to clubs at all.  There were so many different rooms that when I was leaving I got lost trying to find the coat check.  It’s a place I wouldn’t mind going back to but I much preferred the other club.  
<Ballroom at Oceana

McClusky’s is the big club to go to for Saint Mary’s students on Wednesday nights.  It only has one room and a pretty big bar area as well.  It was a little more laid back there and there was more room to dance without bumping into people.  I will for sure be going back there again, but I know I don’t have the cash or the motivation to do it every week.
There is also a pub on campus that is owned by the school that is fun.  They have events almost every night and it is really relaxed and had a fun atmosphere.  Not a lot of people go but the international students go a lot and I’ve had a lot of good laughs there so far, especially on karaoke night!
New Things I Learned-
*I like smaller clubs better, and I really enjoy pubs to clubs.
*I have such a bad sense of direction I can get lost in a big club, even though I was not even drunk.
*The people dancing the most suggestively in the clubs were the Americans; I didn’t even see that many British people grinding which surprised me because in the States that is what a lot of people dance like in the clubs.
Walking Tour of London
Amazing, just amazing!  The only thing is I saw so much, and learned so much in such a short period of time I don’t think I retained a lot from this day.  We did the Westminster Walking Tour, and I’ll just type out the description of the day as listed in the pamphlet:
[St Mary’s and Proscenium welcome you with an introductory tour of London that includes all the best sites in the West End, including Westminster Abby, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square. ]   The tour guide gave so much information that I can’t even remember it all.  I know I need to go back during another day and really take my time with all these places and go into them, well not go into all of them because I would get in a lot of trouble if I just tried to walk into Buckingham Palace!  This was a fun day and there was so much to see it was mind blowing.  I want to get to know this area very well!  The history of London is so alluring to me, and I can’t wait to find out more.

<Big Ben/Houses of Parliament

<me with one of the fake staute guys

<Houses of Parliament
<Buckingham palace
New Things I Learned-
·         That there is so much History within a few square blocks here it will blow your mind.
·         I learned about so royal family drama!
·         That big ben is the name of the actual bell inside the clock tower, and that noncitizens can’t even go see it, only high up there people like Michelle Obama get to see it.
·         That the guards black fuzzy hats they wear are made out of female bear fur!
Talk about beautiful!  This was a great place to see and I would highly recommend it as a stop for others if they get the chance!  There was so much medieval architecture that was stunning.  There are actually 31 colleges that make up Cambridge University which I didn’t know.  Some of the most famous of campus are Trinity and King’s College.  I went to the Round Church here which is one of three left in England.  I also went into The King’s College Chapel which was so beautiful it took my breath away.  It was this huge church with amazing architecture and lots of stain glass windows.  The ceiling was even gorgeous.  There is a video of both of these churches on my facebook, and the King’s College Chapel one turned out pretty well.   I also went punting while I was at Cambridge which was really fun.  You go in this punt boat since the university is right on the River Cam.  It was a fun way to get another look at the campus.  I was surprised that Cambridge Univeristy has this whole mini village around it; there was a street market and everything.  There were a lot of cute little shops and a lot to do.  The last thing we did was go into the Cambridge museum of Zoology which had a section devoted to Charles Darwin since he went to Cambridge.  We even got to see the real finches that Darwin collected in the Galapagos, along with other things he collected there.  
<Punting tour, that is the guy that drove the boat standing up

<-King's College Chapel

If this video works it will be the one of King's College Chapel!

New Things I Learned-
·         Cambridge is made out of 31 different colleges.
·         King’s College Chapel is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen

Classes are run a lot differently here.  I switched out of my theatre theory class and decided to take one nontheatre class.  So I only have class on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I am in class a lot more often than I thought I would be!  The theatre classes I’m taking are practical theatre classes which means they are performance based.  On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I have theatre classes from 10am-4pm with an hour break for lunch.  Then on Thursday I have a two hour lecture from 4-6 that is an English class gender and society in the 19th century novel. 
I really love my theatre classes but they really wipe me out.  Two of them are going into being in a show because the class is the rehearsal for the show.  This is really nice because you are automatically in the show and then you don’t have extra rehearsal in the evening on top of your classes!  I am really exhausted at the end of these classes because it takes a lot of effort to always be putting yourself out there with new people.  I always make sure I volunteer to be used for theatre exercise and always offer to demonstrate what I did during different acting challenges but it is starting to wear me out.  It has been really fun and I’m learning a lot but I’m a little mentally drained after class because it is so much more effort to learn when the classes are so different and new. 
The biggest difference in the theatre department here is that it is a lot more student run.  The professors are there more as a guide and they really let you make your own mistakes.  They don’t give as much of a direction at all because they see it as more beneficial for you to fall and have to pick yourself back up and figure it out.  It is really good and frustrating in a way because sometimes you can feel something you are trying going really badly and I’m used to the professor stepping in at this point and telling me how to fix it and here you just have struggle a bit more.  The time it is the hardest is when you are working with a group and I’m used to the professor being the mediator when something the group is doing is not working but here we usually don’t get any direction till the final showing.  They want us to feel like part of a mini company more than a professor and student relationship.  Two of the classes I’m taking are going into touring a production of The Canterbury tale.  The class is adapting the stories and we are writing a modern version we can do as a play.  We are doing everything for this so for the most part which is a lot different from Viterbo.  I’m used to auditioning for an already set show, being cast in a part I know is mine, and then working under the directors guidance.  I suppose I usually have a more traditional theatre experience of getting cast and here it is more like we are our own company.   Both situations have their pros and cons so I’m thankful I’ll get to experience both while I’m doing my undergraduate. 
New Things I Have Learned-
*Putting yourself out there with new people is freakin exhausting. 
*Even in London it is nice to have one muggle (nontheatre) class for a break from the theatre lifestyle.
*Even though I’m doing  a lot of the same acting games I’m doing them with different people and a different teacher which means I’m getting a lot out of them.
*Theatre people at all schools are a little more out there then the rest of the students, it does not matter where you go.
*Even though I love this school I really do miss my Viterbo people and my theatre classes back home!  Though that does not mean I wish I was there right now, I wouldn’t trade this chance for anything!
I’ve been to two shows here so far at professional theatres, and two shows done by Saint Mary’s students but I will talk about that next time.  Right now it’s time to cram a bunch of international students into one dorm room to watch 500 days of summer on somebody’s computer.