14. The London Chronicles: Part III

Sunday, July 16th
On Sunday, Ricardo left bright and early to attempt to vote. Venezuela, his birth nation, has been in a state of complete turmoil, to say the least. I’m not as informed about the present state of politics or political history of Venezuela as I should, but needless to say, I’m trying to learn. Anyways, an important vote for Venezuela took place across the globe on Sunday, so Ricardo did his best to make it.

We were supposed to meet up with a group of our classmates for brunch and then go visit the Tate late Sunday morning. I made it to the restaurant a good half an hour before anyone else showed up and had a really lovely time discovering these steps down to the shore of the Thames and looking for shells along the edge of the waves. Brunch was a delicious affair of a yogurt/granola/fruit concoction and the best cappuccinos.

After brunch, we all went to the Tate and split up into a few parties. Our party went through one of the multiple buildings and saw a good majority of the free exhibits. Modern art museums are now fascinating to me. I’ve been to more in the past six months than I’ve seen in the rest of my life and I have discovered that I really love seeing how creative people are and what ideas exist out there. After four floors of exhibits, our group went up to the café that looks out over the Thames. The view was absolutely breathtaking. So we had tea and scones and a view of lovely London.

After eating, we all dispersed our separate ways and Ricardo and I spent a good hour on the beach of the Thames collecting beach treasures. We found the coolest stones, an abundance of blue and green sea glass, and a few seashells. It was a really lovely afternoon. Did I mention it was our six month anniversary?

Sunday evening was a combination of studying, grocery shopping, and McDonald’s. London is all about real life.

Monday, July 17th
On Monday, we had a guest speaker between our two classes. He is an immigration and human rights lawyer and gave a truly wonderful and informative talk about human rights and the refugee children of Calle.

After classes, Ricardo and I went to Picadilly Circus with the purpose of going souvenir shopping. There, philosophy discussions and scarves of England intersected, because we are the scarf bystanders. We were both tired and hungry and grumpy and were trying to find somewhere to eat when all of a sudden we stumbled into a Rainforest Café. Just like that, we were transported back to our childhoods and had the best meal there. Who can resist the allure of jungle animals and thunderstorms that occur when you’re eating? We ate hummus and olives and chicken strips. It was such a happy meal. In the Rainforest Café gift shop, we got one of those little bags where you can mix and match little plastic animals and – I tell you – that was the best five pounds spent.

We left the café and decided to walk a little more. We passed a Waterstone Books. I almost didn’t go in because we’ve bought so many books already, but thank goodness Ricardo pulled me in. There in the front entrance hall was a poster advertisement saying Cornelia Funke, author of Inkheart and Thief Lord, was giving a talk and having a book signing at 6:30 on Monday. It was 6:40. We ran downstairs and I ended up getting to sit in on a conversation with Cornelia Funke. She was one of my favorite authors growing up. It was amazing getting to be there. It was so unexpected! No one expects to randomly run into their favorite childhood author. I got a chance to ask her if she bases most of her characters on real-life people (and she does). We got books signed by her and it was amazing.

We got home and watched the first episode of Season 7 of Game of Thrones, as it had come out the night before at 2am and Sunday evening was the first chance we had to watch it. Freaking Ed Sheeran. It was all amazing.

Tuesday, July 18th
Our summer program technically makes us students at King’s College London, but our specific program is actually through the Center for Transnational Legal Studies. Our Human Rights & Human Trafficking class meets in the Strand building on the King’s College London campus. Our second class, Corporations, meets in Swan House, which is up at the end of Chancery Lane about 15 minutes away. My whole point in explaining this geography is that between the Strand and Swan House lies the Court of Justice.

The Court of Justice is this overshadowing, sprawling building of stunning gothic architecture. According to our legal tour guide a few weeks ago, the building was made to intimidate everyone going to court; the Court of Justice is where most civil cases occur. You can go in and tour the Courts after passing through security. So after our first class down at the Strand, Ricardo and I went in and saw the courts. Inside, the building was beautiful. It really was like a castle or cathedral; I suppose you could call the place a cathedral of the law. We wandered around and saw both the display on legal clothing (lawyers in the UK have to wear wigs and robes every time they enter a court) and the Bear Garden, which did not have a bear and wasn’t even a garden.

After Corporations, Ricardo went and met up with one of his old friends that we had bumped into in Oxford. I joined up with them an hour or two later and we had a lovely conversation over coffee about our respective trips in London and Oxford. After that meet-up, Ricardo and I went back to The George and had hummus with olives and toast with avocado and eggs and a good period of very nice study time.

Wednesday, July 19th
Wednesday’s adventures started out after class with Ricardo and I going up towards Camden Market. The entire area is more hip than than area we’d seen in London so far. Lots of younger people roamed the streets and shops and stalls with souvenirs and cool gadgets, fidges, and clothing lined the streets. We first stopped at this pub called The Elephant Head for a delicious tuna sandwich and a light beer. The Elephant Head was definitely the most hippy-ish pub I’ve been in since arriving in London. There were elephant drawings and tads of tie dye on the inside and layer upon layer of flower pots hanging on the outside. There was a jukebox in the corner and our bartender had a ton of cool, artsy tattoos.

Camden Market itself is surrounded by some stream or river and you cross over a charming bridge to get there. The market is a giant, maze-like sprawl of various shops and stalls selling everything from food to jewelry to clothing to used books to antiques and everything in between. Man, it was amazing. There were amazing jewelry artists there. There was a stall with antique cameras. There was a stall of magic tricks. There was a stall with one last, remaining fluffy egg paste doughnut thing powdered with sugar that we bought and ate and the powdery doughnut thing was delicious. We wandered around for a few hours before getting lost on our way out.

Two of the girls in our program are from Italy and invited us all over Wednesday night to their apartment for a night of homemade Italian food. Ricardo and I got to the area early and studied at a little diner for a while before going over to their house. Just about everyone from our program showed up and the entire evening was lovely. I had so many great conversations over the course of the evening. They made two different kinds of pasta and homemade tiramisu. My goodness, that tiramisu (which is already my favorite dessert) was the best I have ever had.

At the end of the evening, we left just in time to get to the nearest tube station before the tube shut down for the night. But when we were close to the station, Ricardo realized he had forgotten his wallet at the house we had just left. (His oyster card – aka the way to get onto the tube – was in his wallet.) We started being followed back by some sort of crazy guy. He was making weird noises and followed us all the way to the gate of the house. When we got to the apartment, we called our friends to come let us in (they live on the third floor), and during that whole time this crazy man leaned on the fence staring at us and muttering in French. He finally left after Ricardo asked him what he wanted. But after that, we just took an uber straight home.

Thursday, July 20th
After class on Thursday, we headed home and packed and left on our way to Paris.

13. Creations

[Pardon this short interjection into the middle of the London travel logs.]

I’ve been realizing over the past couple of months that my core nature is that of a creator. I love creating things. I live for being able to create and participating in the creation of things. Whether that thing is a ballet, a piece of writing, or the full development of an idea doesn’t matter. What I love is being able to create and participate in the creation process. I love being able to build up to something greater than the sum of its parts.

Having realized this, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the future and what I see myself doing in the future. I’m not going to tell you what I’ve decided since I haven’t figured anything out. Pretty much the only thing I have figured out is that regardless of whatever I’m doing, I’m going to have to figure out some way of incorporating creativity and the creating of something in my daily life. Creating is what fills my soul with joy and what satisfies me in a way that nothing else can.

I have at least two or three actual projects I am currently working on. Don’t hold your breath; I have no idea how long it will take me to finish these projects. But I have hopes. And I’m going to keep trying. I have so much to learn and do and make and figure out. But that’s exactly where the fun begins.

12. The London Chronicles: Part II

Alright, it’s been a bit over a week, so here is a travel journal of the past week!

Saturday, July 8th
We had a nice, lazy Saturday morning and by the end of the morning we headed in the direction of the British Museum. On the way from the tube station, we happened by a bookshop. Of course, us being us, we were immediately drawn in because books; turns out the bookshop was called the Atlantis Bookshop and dealt with all subjects magical and metaphysical. As Ricardo is the only other person I have ever met who also collects books on magical artifacts and creatures, it was fantastic to browse the store and choose a book on weird artifacts with him.

We then made it to the British Museum and had to walk all the way around to the back of the museum before we could get in. Security all over London has been increased because of the recent terrorist attacks, so all the museums have large back-checking security stations set up. After our backpacks were checked, we made it in. We bee-lined our way to the Egyptian area and saw mummies and scarab beetles and jars of human organs. We then journeyed through the bronze age and medieval and Renaissance Europe and marveled at the artisan abilities of humans of long ago. Seriously, the absolute marvels of the craftsmanship from hundreds of years ago are so beautifully done that it’s hard to know whether or not people are capable of such craftsmanship these days.

After relaxing at home, we headed out to Covent Gardens to either go eat or get a drink or dance; what we were going to do, we weren’t really sure when we headed out. The Gay Pride parade had happened earlier that day, so the streets in the area were still swarming with people decked out in rainbow colors and sparkles. It was hard to move in some areas because there were so many people. At some point, we found a book/movie/music store with a sale of two books for five pounds. Of course we both bought a book. I swear, most of our souvenirs are books at this point. We had a deliciously lovely meal at this bright Italian restaurant. We got off the tube at King’s Cross to look for a nice pub, but ended up not finding anywhere and spending twice as long to get home since most of the tubes were closed for the night.

Sunday, July 9th
Our Human Rights & Human Trafficking professor suggested the Columbia Road Flower Market, so Sunday morning we headed about a mile and a half north of our flat in Whitechapel. The market was absolutely incredible. Flower stalls lined both sides of the street and musicians’ music and the smells of coffee and flowers trailed through the air. A side street had more food, an amazing olive stand, antique stalls, and more musicians. We bought the best olives, lovely pastries, and delicious chai tea. We browsed little shops and found ourselves surrounded by bright, lovely flowers on all sides. It was definitely one of my favorite experiences in London so far.

We spent the afternoon wandering around Embankment. We had a lovely lunch and study time at the Sherlock Holmes pub; the music was 80s music and the display and décor was all based on either Sherlock Holmes or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself. We spent the evening studying at the Good Samaritan, this lovely, nice little pub we found not three blocks from our flat. The pub has lovely tea and coffee served with biscuits.

Monday, July 10th
After our first class (Human Rights & Human Trafficking), Ricardo and I sat at Starbucks studying and found out around 1pm that our second class of the day (Corporations) was going to be cancelled. Suddenly we had a whole afternoon in front of us, so we headed to the Museum of Natural History. Unfortunately, the main Great Hall was closed since they were installing a giant whale skeleton. This is part of the Museum’s attempt to be a part of a more modern movement of museums to be involved in current issues. (Yay, ocean awareness!) So after 20 or so minutes we left with the hopes of coming back at a later time.  We then hopped over to the Science Museum next door, got some food, and decided we weren’t in the mood for museum-going. So we went home and spent the rest of the evening studying at the Good Samaritan again.

Tuesday, July 11th
Tuesday was the first day of rain we experienced this trip. Every day until Tuesday has been sunny and bright. Luckily the rain never came down too, too hard while we were outside. We did get caught in the rain on the way to our second class at Swan House though.

Over the weekend, Ricardo and I got tickets to this thing called Alice’s Adventures Underground. So we headed towards Waterloo come evening and found our way to The Vaults, as the location was called. We walked into the most fantastical, whimsical area. There were painted wooden trees everywhere and Alice in Wonderland themed things like giant Eat Me and Drink Me tags. The actual Alice Underground part was a 90-minute interactive adventure; that’s the best I can describe it. Our group got separated into two via an eat me/drink me choice and then got further split into four parts total, with each group being assigned a card. Somehow, we managed to get the heart suit and Ricardo got chosen to be the head of the group as the Ace of Hearts.

The whole experience was magical. It was full of actors dressed up as frogs and cards and the White Rabbit, and all of it was a story that we, as cards, were intimately a part of. It was a really neat experience. Each group gets a different storyline, and apparently there are up to 38 storylines within the place?  After the whole experience culminated in a grand finale, Ricardo and I got and shared two delicious Alice-themed cocktails. My goodness, Earl Gray flavored drinks are yummy.

Wednesday, July 12th
There were no specific plans for Wednesday, so after Corporations, several people from our class were going to go a block down to the Old Red Lion. There are only 19 people participating in our whole program and problem 15 eventually made it over. It was a ton of fun. We all just got the chance to talk and learn about different cultures. Even though the Georgetown London Summer program is through Georgetown law, it’s also one of the only study abroad summer programs for law students. Three of my fellow students are Italian and study law in Italy. I found out on Wednesday exactly how different Italian law schools are from law schools in the US. Essentially, it seems like the US is actually the only country where law school happens post-college. Regardless, it was fascinating to learn about other cultures and schools and everything of the sort.

Ricardo and I have been trying to do at least one new thing a day since we are in London. So after the Old Red Lion, we headed to Hyde Park. We got a corn cup from a local vendor. A corn cup is exactly what it sounds like: roasted corn in a cup. And we walked through Hyde park until we couldn’t see a single building or street and were surrounded by trees and grass and flowers on every side. It was a truly lovely break from the hustle and bustle of city life we’ve been surrounded by for the past several weeks.

Thursday, July 13th
Thursday’s big event was one of our fellow classmate’s birthdays. The entire evening was so much fun. The main event was a pub crawl. A few things of note: Ricardo buying three whole pizzas when he thought he was buying three pieces. Latin dancing. A random guy who trailed along with our party for a few hours. Hilarity everywhere.

Friday, July 14th
Everyone showed up to our 9am class on Friday. No one really spoke up in class. Nonetheless, that’s still an impressive record, considering how late people were out the night before. After Corporations (second class of the day), Ricardo and I got pastries from Paul and had a nice little picnic at a nearby park called Lincoln’s Inn Fields. From there, we walked to the Thames and crossed over a bridge to the south bank. There, we discovered a street book seller booth, delicious food truck burritos, a graffitied and awesome looking skate park, and a sandbox area that doubled as a beach since it was right along the Thames. Of course we also discovered another bookstore. We walked back towards Big Ben and had the perfect Friday early evening.

Saturday, July 15th
Saturday consisted of a day trip to Oxford planned by Georgetown. We all met up for a bus at 9am, drove to Oxford, and got a quick coffee right before a tour of the general place. Oxford is amazing. During the tour, our tour guide pointed out multiple places where Harry Potter had been filmed. Most notably, we found out the library we were at was the same library that Harry had looked for books in the restricted section and Hermione had brewed the polyjuice potion. It was amazing. Did you know that, in Oxford, there is an actual lightpost and a statute of a faun that inspired Lucy’s entrance into Narnia in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?

After the tour ended, Ricardo and I saw one of the college churches, the Museum of the History of Science, and the Bodleian Libraries. Incidentally, the library turned out to hold some unexpected surprises in store; Oxford, of all places! After the two-hour bus ride home, we had dinner at a pizza place in Waterloo, and thus ended Week 2 of London.

11. The London Chronicles: Part I

I know, I know. I’m many multiple days behind on writing a blog. Since there is so much going on while here in London, the next couple of blog posts are simply going to be adventure journals of our time in London.

Saturday, July 1st
Ricardo and I left NYC about 6am for a plane that departed around 10:30am. We finally arrived at Heathrow Airport in London around 10:00pm. After passing through customs and getting our passports stamped, we spend a solid two hours wandering London on various tube systems trying to reach our destination of Whitechapel. We would have gotten to Whitechapel much sooner except for the temporary – it was the weekend and late at night – suspensions of tube service between multiple stations.

We finally made it to Whitechapel and made it into our flat after a long search for the keys. Our flat is tiny and cozy and absolutely lovely: it’s all wood and shades of red and white. There’s a large painted canvas of a Boston terrier on a red background on one wall and a black and white poster with a red double decker bus on the other wall. We discovered we are on a noisy intersection that night, but alas. The noise is more than a fair price for getting to live in London for a month!

Sunday, July 2nd
Sunday consisted of our program orientation at the Swan House right at the end of Chancery Lane. We got our official King’s College London IDs and are now officially King’s College students (at least for the summer). After the orientation ended, we wandered down Chancery Lane and accidentally wandered upon the magnificently beautiful King’s College library. We then proceeded to get our first British pub beers and avocado toasts at The George, a lovely and old pub that we took to very quickly. We then proceeded to try to see Tralfagar Square, but as there had been a festival in the Square over the weekend, we couldn’t see the lions or fountains amidst all the tents being taken down.

Monday, July 3rd
Our classes started! We have Human Rights & Human Trafficking from 9-11am every morning and then Corporations from 1:30-3:30pm Monday-Friday. The times are slightly inconvenient as we have little enough time during our break to go sightseeing and get out too late to really get to spend several hours at museums while they’re still open. The classes were fantastic.

After class, we wandered down to the Thames and walked to Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. We saw the London Eye from a distance and had a lunch of fish and chips, bangers and mash, and cider at a pub called the Badger right across from Westminster Abbey. After that, we wandered around some really nice neighborhoods and decided we would love to live here, if we ever decided to proactively pursue that end. We also walked to Buckingham Palace and sat in front of the Queen Victoria Memorial for some time before finding our way home.

Tuesday, July 4th
Since it was the 4th of July, several of our classmates decided to go to an American pub in Covent Gardens. We all got burgers (mine was absolutely delicious) and the waiter delighted in the fact that we were “genuine Americans”.

Since that took some time, Ricardo and I stopped briefly by King’s Cross before heading home. At King’s Cross, of course, there is Platform 9 ¾ and the Harry Potter store, where we bought an Alohomora doormat for Casa Scrumptious.

Wednesday, July 5th
After class, we – and by we, I mean most of the Summer program students – went on a tour of legal London. Swan House, where our Corporations class meets, is right at the end of Chancery Lane and as such is in the heartland of what they call “Legal London”. We visited all four Inns of Court, which are essentially the lawyers’ versions of Hogwarts. The four Inns are respectively named Lincoln’s Inn, Middle Temple, Gray’s Inn and Inner Temple.

After the tour, Ricardo and I spent a few hours studying at Starbucks and then returned to the George until dark. Since it’s summer, the sun doesn’t set until 9pm every night. Have I mentioned that you have to spend several hours every night on homework and readings when you have four hours of classes every day?

Thursday, July 6th
Since the British Library is open until 8pm every night, Ricardo and I decided to go visit after class. On the way, we discovered this little hole-in-the-wall Italian/American diner where we got very cheap and very delicious breakfast platters. On the way, we also found and stopped in the Church of Saint Pancras.

At the British Library, we applied for and got official British Library reading cards which allow us to go to the reading rooms and do all the research we could possibly desire. I don’t think we will actually do so, but nonetheless, we have the power! We also saw their vaults with old manuscripts and books ranging from doodlings by the Beatles to illuminated Bibles to writings by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Friday, July 7th
Our second class of the day, Corporations, was switched with the Negotiations course, so we got out of class at 1:15. As such, we had a whole day. So, naturally, we went to the Tower of London. Real castles are hard to come by in the United States; we might as well take every opportunity to see them while we’re here.

The Tower of London was amazing. We got to see the crown jewels, the ravens, the barracks, and a dragon made out of shields and weaponry from the armory. After the Tower of London, we were starving and had the most disappointing Subway experience ever. But that’s another story.