Saturday, January 31, 2009


Today was probably my least exciting day here so far. Making this probably the most boring blog post so far.

I went to the library, which is just outside by building, to print off my boarding passes and bus pass. I couldn't log in, so I had to go get a new password. Then I went back up and tried to print, but the paper for the printer wasn't the right size, so it would jam up every time I tried. I'd have to open up the printer and yank the paper out, usually ripping it. I did this for about 15 minutes. Then I came back to my room and realized I didn't print out the return flight, so I went back and did that.

I booked my train ticket to the airport (leaving at 4 am) which means I'm going to leave around 3 to take the night bus to get down there. I don't know how sleep is going to work tonight. My flight is about 3.5 hours (and going ahead two hours with the time zone) so hopefully I can sleep some then.

The weather is looking a lot better, during most of the time I'll be there it's only going to rain in the morning. When I get there tomorrow I should miss all the rain. I'm planning on going to the Acropolis right after I drop off my bag at the hostel.

I went down to Primark to buy the trench coat, but the lines were going to take about a half hour so I decided I'd just come back later. With my foot completely better (although I took a beating wandering around Edinburgh for two days, I decided to buy some insoles for my shoes. One of the best purchases I've made here.

I made another pizza for dinner and then researched how to get to my hostel on wikitravel (one of my favorite website) and read about Athens some more. It sounds like there's going to be a lot more to do there than I thought. I took a little break and cut pictures out of the papers I have lying around and put them on my bathroom door in another effort to de-submarine the place. It's sort of my version of Sgt. Pepper. Dylan, Obama, Mr. Bean, Stevie Wonder, Bruno, just to name a few. I hope by the time I leave I'll have the door covered. I feel like this also makes me slightly closer to becoming a serial killer.

Around 7:45 I left to go get my trench coat and when I got down to Primark, it was closed. I was pretty upset. I guess I'm going to take my peacoat and a hoodie and the combo of the two should be alright there. But it definitely messed up my plans.

I decided to stop and get some Ben and Jerry's out of a vending machine. It was pretty cool, it vacuumed the ice cream out. Pretty crazy stuff. I feel like we have this technology in the States, but I was still pretty excited.

I think I might try to sleep a little before I go and it sounds like wifi is pay over there. If it's cheap I'll update over the next couple days. If not, I'll have another mega posting day on Wednesday. I imagine I'll take more picture than I did in Edinburgh, which is pretty terrible.


I got up and went to Brixton to go to Poundland (British equivalent of a dollar store) for my Devising London class. We had to buy something there to use as a prop in class. I was excited because there were a couple other things I wanted to grab at a store like that, so it gave me an excuse to go. And an excuse to go to Brixton which is like the Harlem of London. It was much nicer than I expected, although I didn't really go that far.

Anyways, I bought scissors, batteries, a shower radio, three boxes of Ritz crackers, 20 hangers, and for class a spinning 'party light.' It's so lame. I'm excited.

For class we also had to go to Harrod's and buy something for a pound as well. Harrods is like the Marshall Field's in Chicago, only if a king lived in it. It is seriously like a museum. Everything is also incredibly expensive. The only things I could find under a pound were marbles and a dinosaur toy. Even a Zac Efron bookmark was £1.50. Naturally I picked the dinosaur.

I took the tube back and bought some gorceries so I'd have things to eat here. I got two frozen pizzas which are really good (and cheap).

Forty years ago today, the Beatles played their last concert ever, which was the rooftop concert. Turns out, the place they did is just off Regent Street, not more than a 20 minute walk from where I live. It looked almost exactly liked it did back in the day. I was really excited to go see it. I talked to a couple that came up from Mexico to see it, they were a little disappointed. I hear that police wouldn't let any sort of reenaction go on, but two impersonators got up there and played "One After 909." In all, it was one of the coolest things I've done here, mostly because of the connection with history and the Beatles and all, but even more so because it's something I could only do in London and couldn't have done had I not been here.

They had a studio in the basement (it was the Apple offices) and I walked down the stairs and looked in. Not much going on, I think the building is empty now in fact. But it looks exactly how it does in the film, which is exciting.

Then I went to Primark's and came close to buying a couple things, and then didn't. I'm going to buy a lighter weight coat (with Athens in mind, I'm not sure how to dress) and I couldn't decide if I really wanted it or not. I also want a messenger bag, they don't really do backpacks here. The one at Primark's is cheap but not really what I want. So I don't know what I'll do about that. Thoughts?

I stopped and got a Starbucks before heading back home. I stopped at 94 Baker Street, the old Apple store that the Beatles painted back in the day. It is literally right around the corner from where I live, I've walked passed it many times. I also never noticed that above the windows on the first floor, there is a plaque saying that John Lennon lived there. That's so cool.

I went down to Old Street to Cocomos with the Americans. It was fun, although loud. They basically teased me about not going to Wales with everyone this weekend and going to Athens instead. Oh well, I can't name one thing about Wales so it's not like I'll miss out on it.

I think I'll end the day with one of the coolest videos ever.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


The first class today was Art and Society and we went to St. Paul's Cathedral. It's just a massive building in the City of London, one of those landmarks of London. It's sort of amazing how heavy the building looks. It's perched up on top of the hill and can be seen throughout most of that end.

It was built after the fire of 1666 that wiped out most of the old part of London, so it's not medieval like a number of the churches I'd been in lately. The inside is huge with massive arches and most notably, the dome.

I didn't particularly love the church, it was certainly impressive, but it was almost so big that it took away from it. Our professor gave us a tour of the place, which was great. I really like the guy, he's very knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions. He never runs out of things to say, and all in a very kind old British chap way.

We climbed up some 250 stairs to get to the stone gallery under the dome of the church, allowing us to look down from on everything below. It was much higher up than I thought, and I struggled to go near the edge.

From there we climbed up maybe 50 more steps to the outside viewing area. It was just an awesome view over London, from what the Brits have told me, it's the best in the city.

I was particularly amazed wit the views back toward the city, there are more cranes there than I've ever seen in my life. I've always thought of London as an old town with short, old buildings, but it's really not the case. With the blitz, 1/3 of the city was destroyed so there are all sorts of very modern buildings going up. It's interested to see, although I'd rather have that old feel to the place.

I stayed outside for a while and caught my professor after class and we chatted about London architecture for a little. He's a really interesting guy.

I had about an hour and a half to get to my next class, and since it was a sunny day, I walked back along the river, this time on the other side. It was a nice walk, there were a bunch of people out running.

I got to class exactly on time. For the theater class a director and actor came in and did a workshop for the class. The coolest part was when the actor was told to recite Shakespeare in different ways, using accents, different characters, different settings, and he did. It was impressive. They emphasized the differences between theater and TV and movies, which I hadn't really considered before.

We lectured about the history of theater, and how much of it's origins are in Greece, so it made me look forward to it even more.


Today I didn't do too much. I got in around 7 and went to bed for two hours before heading to class.

But the first thing I did was get my mail, which had my package from home with Luke's router and the travel guide. I'm really excited about the router, I can finally move more than a foot away from my desk (and now can lie in bed and go on the computer). And the AAA book is surprisingly good.

The first class I had was writing, which was sort of boring, but it went by pretty quickly. We were assigned to write about a character with defined objects, mine was Mario with a teddy bear, scarf, perfume, and piano. I made him into a pianist.

During my break in between class I went and returned my Scotland book and bought an an adapter for the router. Turns out that I already had another adapter and don't really need that one, so I'll have to return it sometime.

Next up was theater, which was incredibly fun. We did yoga and then improv the rest of the time. It flew by and it's really nice that I can get out and do that during the day, it's sort of like recess.

I spent the rest of the day messing around with the internet and trying to get the blog in order. I didn't get it all done, but I got all my pictures up.

Tomorrow I have classes and then maybe going to a comedy show. I don't really have plans between now and Athens, so I can put some good time into it, I'm getting pretty excited.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

27/1/09 You're Up: Edinburgh II

I slept incredibly well last night. After spending some time in the internet room (a poorly named roomed) typing up what I did, I went to the room and three other guys followed shortly. We all turned the lights out, climbed into bed, and I was asleep before I knew it, probably around midnight.

I woke up around 8:30 when other people starting getting up. What they were doing at that time, I have no idea. But the whole place cleared out, so I had my picks of showers. I have a feeling a lot of them are long-term visitors and maybe even have jobs? No idea.

I walked down the street a little to St. Giles, basically Scotland’s version of Westminster Abbey or Notre Dame. The interior had the high vaulted ceilings, tombs all around, but the biggest differences was it wasn’t that big and there was no guide or any sort of landmarks there, so I couldn’t look at the church that long before it just looked like an old church. I stayed probably 15 minutes.

Then I walked down to the Children’s Museum, a disappointment. I think I was too young/not British enough for it to mean anything for me. But it was free and they had a Lone Ranger costume set, so it wasn’t so bad. I didn’t stay more than 10 minutes.

I continued my way down the hill, stopping to walk through closes.

My next stop was at Parliament. I did the usual security check and looked at some displays. I really don’t understand Scotland’s whole government. The parliament voted to end themselves in the 1700s and they restarted in 1999. They built a new building, opening in 2004 with sort of a modern Frank Lloyd Wright vibe.

They weren’t in full session, but they were doing committee meetings, so I went to the European Relations Committee Meeting (my expertise). They had a webcam set up so they could talk to experts who weren’t there in person. I came in at the end of the first session, so I stayed maybe 10 minutes before they took a break. I couldn’t really follow what they were talking about, and it didn’t sound all that interesting. It felt like a city council meeting, except with less people in attendance. I was one of two other people watching it. We sat about 5 feet from everyone, no sound barrier or anything. It was sort of incredible. I've seen more European governments in action than American.

Next I decided to go to the Elephant House, the place where JK Rowling would sit in the back and look at the castle through the window and write longhand the first Harry Potters. It had a writer feeling to it. I got a mozzarella and vegetable panini and Darjeeling tea, and they had a 10% student discount. It was pretty crowded, but I got in the back where I could see the castle over my shoulder. This was probably the highlight of the day. Plus the panini was really good and I’m on a big tea kick right now.

I wandered around for a while, ending up in the Edinburgh Museum (free) and I definitely wouldn’t have paid for it. It was just sort of a chintzy museum, nothing really memorable, although they seem to be big on silver plates and things like that here.

Then I stumbled on the Writer’s Museum, in an old 1600s mansion with artifacts from three Edinburghian writers, Walter Scott (talk about a great name), Robert Burns, and Robert Louis Stevenson. I only knew Stevenson before I got here, and I enjoyed his section. But Scott and Burns are absolutely huge here. Like the Beatles if they were 19th century poets instead. They just had Robert Burns day here on Sunday for his 250th birthday and I guess the whole city had a huge party. I didn’t really see anything of note from them, and they had more of those corny Disney figures at tables. Lame.

I went down into New Town and stopped by the National Gallery, which was surprisingly good. Rembrants, Picassos (including one Olive Tree one I really liked), Raphaels, and Titians that are involved in a big controversy because the owner wants to sell them for £50 million each to the museum or else going to sell them to whoever. So the debate is if the Gallery, publicly funded, should pay for them or not. I tend to think no, but I’m the guy that would buy Tiger Stadium if I won the lottery.

The museum felt like I was inside an old mansion, carpeted floors, ornate seats all around, couches, deep painted walls. It was sort of strange, but at the same time, I liked it. It was a world class museum, unlike the last couple I’d been to.

I wandered around New Town until I came across an old cemetery with a number of notable people in it. There was a huge Washington Monument figure to some judge guy, the biggest gravestone I’ve ever seen. But the museum was in awful shape. Bottles everywhere, stones broken and tipped over, graffiti. Even Robert Burns’ grave site was broken. Pretty sad.

Then I headed up a hill and saw a monument to Admiral Nelson and the starting of a recreation of the Parthenon from the 1800s, but only 12 columns were completed before they ran out of money. Whoops. The rain really started up about now.

So I decided to go inside, this time to the Scottish Museum. It's a very sleek new museum, nice displays, but I just didn't know that much about Scottish history. The most interesting thing was they had Dolly and the guillotine they used for executions, both of equal scientific value.

I decided to look for a place to eat. After striking out at a couple places, I ended up at an Italian restaurant on the Royal Mile. The building dated from the 1700s when it was a tobacco shop that drew huge lines, as it turns out, because they would put cocaine in the tobacco and people would get addicted. So the little bit of history sold me on the place. It was empty other than one other lady. I had a gnocchi with spinach and cheese in a cream sauce with a Earl Grey tea. It was alright. Not the best, and the fact that they played American songs (including the mockingbird song from "Dumb and Dumber") it just ruined the atmosphere.

I had more time to kill than I wanted so I wandered around the Royal Mile and in and out of closes. I bought some shortbread and a miniature castle and went up to the real castle and ate my shortbread. It was pretty good, and it turned into a clear night so I could see for a long ways. It was a nice way to end the trip.

I walked down the steps to the hostel, grabbed my bag, and made it over to the bus stop in about 10 minutes. The bus came around 9:30 and everyone got on, I had another seat to myself. I didn't get to sleep right away (I kept having thoughts about moments in time I wish I could have witnessed. The one that stuck out most to me was, 'Sorry Pete, but we're kicking you out of the band. We found a guy that likes rings.')

I slept the majority of the way back. My first trip a success. I saw everything I wanted, had a great experience with the hostel, and it made me excited for future trips.

And one final exchange rate related photo for dad.

And I can't think of any famous Scottish comedians, but they seem to be pretty funny people.