Tuesday, July 22, 2014

London, week 2: Book of Mormon! Olympic Park!

The second week started with work, work and more work. After all, that's what I'm here for! Because of my incompetence (and lack of experience) it took me until 6 pm every day to finish everything I had to do. However, on Friday, as I was checking my emails first thing in the morning (it's an awful habit, checking emails in bed, but I can't help myself) I realized I had received an email from my supervisor, telling me to take a day off. Yay!

I didn't have any plans, so at first I was worried I'd be bored, but looking inside my mailbox revealed that my shiny new student Oyster card had finally arrived! Yay! So I had to take it out into the world and show it around the city a little bit. I know, I know, I'm ridiculous, but during my attempt to save money I only took the bus to and from work, and had to walk everywhere else, which resulted in not-going-anywhere because places are far apart, especially if you're visiting them after eight hours of non-stop standing.

I went for a walk down Regent Street and did some window shopping. And then, in the evening, I remembered that the Book of Mormon theatre is pretty close to where I am. Which means.. the ticket lottery! And then I played it. And didn't win. Boohoo.

On Saturday morning I decided to try to win a ticket for Book of Mormon again. Since it was a Saturday matinee, I figured it would be less crowded and I'd have a better chance of winning.

I was there at noon, filled out the lottery sheet and then left for a very nervous 30-minute break, because they select the winners at exactly 12.30. When I came back, the hopeful crowd had already gathered in front of the side entrance and the mood was very, very tense. Everybody had someone to go to the theatre with; I, of course, was all by myself. And the next winner is... from Australia... From London.. damn. One ticket for Tanja... from Slovenia! Oh my god. That's me! I let out a squeak, showed them my passport and collected my sign-up sheet, so I would be able to buy the ticket. My hands were, quite literally, shaking. It was probably hilarious to witness how much time and effort it took for me to get the money out of my wallet and pay for the tickets. What I hadn't realized was that the tickets were actually for the front row! Now, I know some people might not like that and that's the exact reason why they're cheaper, but for me, front row is perfect. It's definitely my favourite place to sit, especially because it's so close to the stage you can see EVERYTHING. Plus, I can't afford premium seats and would otherwise be stranded somewhere in the dress circle in the cheap seats, which are approximately 35.5 miles away from the stage. (Who needs to see the actors' face expressions anyway, right?)

With two hours until the show, I didn't feel like I was dressed appropriately for West End (I suppose I'm the only person in the world who gets these kind of feelings), so I went to Primark and bought a necklace. Or maybe I just needed the excuse? We'll never know.

All I can say about Book of Mormon is - it was amazing. I'm a huge fan of South Park and Family Guy (and poking fun of everything. And sarcasm.), so this was the perfect musical for me. My whole face hurt from laughing so much from start to finish.

On Sunday, I went on a trip with ISH - the International Students House. It was a little underwhelming, because I was expecting it to be a huge event, but only eight people (including me) showed up. It was a trip to East London and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, including the ArcelorMittal Orbit!

I was hoping for it to be an easy way to meet new friends, but, as you can imagine, when only 7 other people sign up... it's a little bit weird. We walked through Whitechapel and Brick lane, and then had lunch at one of the food markets. I was feeling extra adventurous, so, after trying a couple of different cuisines, I settled for Vietnamese. It was incredibly spicy for my taste (I don't eat spicy food, ever), but - adventure!

Now I can finally say (not that this was what I had always aspired to) I've seen an original Banksy. Yay! And lots of other street art as well.

After lunch we walked around the City a bit and saw a commercial being shot. Possibly with a famous actor. I just have no idea who he was.

Obviously, the first thing I had to do after taking the tube from Liverpool Street to Stratford and walking to the Olympic Park was to take a selfie in the selfie ball. Of course. (I have no idea what it's called or why it's there, but its reflective surface makes it very convenient for selfie-taking and that's exactly what everybody does).

The park itself is absolutely gorgeous, even if you have no intention whatsoever of doing anything sports-related.

Even the ads (that are probably hiding an ugly construction site) are beautiful.

The main reason I went on this trip, however, was the ArcelorMittal Orbit. It's a kind of an observation tower and a piece of art, all in one. It's Britain's tallest sculpture and largest piece of public art. It opened just a day before we visited! And it's quite expensive to visit. Just like everything else in London, apart from the free museums.

The view wasn't as cool as it is, I imagine, from the London Eye, because it's in East London. But it's still a fun place to visit because of the funky shape and the giant steel mirrors that you get to see on top. Do not touch!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Weekend trip: Brighton

My first trip was scheduled just five days after I moved to London. I wasn't planning on this originally, but here's the story: in January, a friend sent me links to a few music videos by Banks, a singer from California. I didn't listen to them at first, but then I noticed she had a concert scheduled in London. I watched one video, liked it and, just like that, decided to buy a ticket. But the London gig was sold out. What to do? I checked out other places she would perform at, and found Brighton, on a Saturday.

Brighton is fairly close to London and is a summer resort kind of town for Londoners (and the rest of the country). Since bus and train tickets are cheap I decided to make a weekend trip out of it.

Then came the hard part. Accommodation. Hostels were too expensive, so I resorted to Couchsurfing. I had created a profile for myself last year, wanting to host people in Ljubljana, but I never got around to actually doing it. So I had no references and no friends. I found three girls who looked normal and wrote them very personalized requests. I got two replies, one was positive! So, the adventure began.

Trips like this one are not much fun when you're traveling alone, but I did my best. I walked on the famous Brighton Pier, I did quite a lot of window shopping (and real shopping, because the city is so small and convenient and all my favorite shops are so close together!), walking along the beach, and, in the evening, I went to the Brighton Concorde 2 and had an amazing time watching and listening to Banks... from the front row. YEAH.

After this awesome gig I walked back to the centre of Brighton and called my host with 2% of my phone battery remaining. Luckily, she answered quickly and I managed to find the huge red house she lives in. It was, by far, the weirdest and the most awesome house I had ever been in. You could tell that artists live in it. In fact, the morning after my host told me that if you live in Brighton, you're either in a band, an actor, or you have a mustache (this only leaves two options for the girls, doesn't it?). I loved the vibe of the city, which is full of art and artists and buskers and friendly people (it was a Sunday though) and so laid back and amazing. 

It's also where I had my first fish and chips. I know, right? 23 years old and I've never had fish and chips before. Well, Brighton to the rescue. I chose Harry Ramsden's, which is a world famous restaurant that has been serving fish and chips for more than 75 years. 

Obviously, I had the takeaway option. It was delicious and I'm now in love with fish and chips. I can't believe I spent 23 years without this delicious dish in my life.

After lunch, it was time to go back to London. Air-conditioned bus, leather seats, what more could you want for five pounds? Plus, a free ride through the city, seeing the London Eye for the first time since I've been here... it's priceless.

By the way, did you know that the London Eye is three times as high as the Brighton Wheel? I sure didn't! They both look equally humongous when you're standing below them.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

London, week 1: settling in

Jubilee walkway sign

So, it has started. I live in London.

It's huge. It's loud. It's busy. It has a whole magazine dedicated to the events happening here (I LOVE TimeOut). It's just what I wanted.

It's so much different than being here as a tourist, though. I'm exhausted all the time. Normally, I would return home after a week of this kind of life and get some well-needed rest. But this time around, I just have to keep on going. One of the reasons why I'm so tired is because I'm too cheap to pay for the tube, so I take the bus to the university and back every day, eagerly awaiting the day when my student tube card comes in the mail. Don't judge me. It's so much cheaper to take the bus and the station is a two minute walk away from home, as opposed to five minutes from the tube station. Plus, money not spent means more money for trips, food... and more food.

Everywhere else, though, I have to walk. I think I have walked more in the past week than in the past three months altogether. No kidding. This is how I find beautiful houses and parks that I never would have seen if I took the tube.

I see interesting fauna too. Yesterday, I saw a squirrel crossing the street, and a goat munching on a tree branch. All that on my way to ''work''.

What am I here for? I'm doing research for my master's thesis at the UCL School of Pharmacy and using the rest of my time here the best I can. Which, on most days, consists of coming home around 7.30pm and staying in because I'm so tired. But, fear not! I have bought tickets for more than 10 shows - gigs, ballets and musicals that I'm going to in the next few months. That's a good thing, because right now I have absolutely no time - or desire - to search for cheap tickets. Which is exactly what I had anticipated.

Blue door

So far I've only been to places that I was either required to go to (the UCL Portico, for example), or had to go to in order to put myself in a good mood (yes, I'm talking about Oxford Street). Other destinations will have to wait until I get the discounted tube card. Sorry, London. You're too expensive.

I stumbled upon King's Cross yesterday while walking to a McDonald's to have a really quick lunch. I just looked at it and thought: I have no time to deal with this right now. I need to eat.
My priorities have, understandably, changed. It's really cool to have King's Cross a five minute walk away from where I work, but it's not like that means I'll visit it any more often.

If there's any readers out there who would like to meet for a, say, cupcake, let me know! I literally don't know anyone here. Well, except my roommates now, but we live together, so what are the chances we'll ever go out together as well?

Cheerio, until next time!