18. The London Chronicles: Part VII

Sunday, July 30th
After we arrived back in London from Dover, it was only noon. We went to the King’s College library straightaway so Ricardo could borrow a computer. After that, we studied at The Press, which was the really hipster-y coffee shop I fell in love with the week before. Ricardo went back to the library to continue studying; I joined him a few hours later after the coffee shop closed. We both continued studying and writing at the library until late, since our Human Rights & Human Trafficking final was the next morning. We had a nice dinner at The George and went home for more studying.

Monday, July 31st
We were up early and had a good breakfast before heading to Swan House. Since there were more people in our HR & HT class than there were tables, everyone voted Ricardo and I to sit at the same table for the exam. Oh my goodness, that exam was two hours long and handwritten. Thus far, my shortest law school exam has been around 4 hours long and all of them have been typed. To say that two hours for this handwritten test was too short a time is a gross understatement. My hand was cramping so badly by trying to fit so much information in such a short period of time that there were times I literally could not feel my hand or my wrist. But overall I think the exam went well!

After the exam, four of us girls went to go get lunch at Eats while Ricardo went to return the laptop at the library. He joined us for lunch a little later. After lunch, Ricardo and I crossed the river towards the colorful pier we had visited before. We went back to Foyles bookstore so I could go buy the remaining three books in this series that I had been reading called the Onyx Court. I had simply devoured the first book. It was the perfect series to read while in London because it was about the historical court (at least in the first book) of Elizabeth I, while at the same time the intrigues of the faerie court that lay beneath the surface of London.

We walked to the Tate and studied for a time with tea and scones in their tearoom that overlooks the Thames. What a wonderful place to study. The view – six stories up – is simply breathtaking. We also finally did the research to determine exactly which bridge in London was the bridge that death eaters blew up in Pt. 1 of the Deathly Hallows. It was, in fact, the bridge laid out right below us. Watching that scene with Saint Paul’s Cathedral in the back and then looking out across the actual scene in front of us was so incredibly awesome.

I returned to The Press for studying (since I work best at coffee shops with ambient noise), while Ricardo returned to the library (since he studies best at the library). We studied for several more hours in town before returning back home for further studying.

Tuesday, August 1st
Early Tuesday morning, Ricardo left for the library since his paper was due that evening. I studied at home for a while for our Corporations final that afternoon and then eventually left for Café Nero, my typical haunt.

After our Corporations final (multiple choice and so much harder because of it), I walked to the National Gallery in Tralfagar Square since I’d never been. Ricardo had to work on his paper for the rest of the evening so I had the day to wander around. In Tralfagar Square, before I entered the museum, there was a classical guitarist playing music. He was incredible. His name was Tom Ward and he really knew what he was doing. He introduced every song he played with some classical music history. The street artists in London are truly amazing. They are all trained musicians and you know they know what they’re doing. Oh, he was wonderful. It took me a good ten minutes to even leave the crowd listening to him and get to the museum. The National Gallery was incredible, but to be terribly honest, I’d seen so many art museums and museums in general over the past month that I more or less walked through a lot of it without spending too much time in any particular gallery. I did get a lovely snack in the café and got a bit of time to catch up on correspondence with some of my dear friends that I haven’t had a chance to talk to all month.

When the National Gallery closed, I walked down towards Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, got a sandwich at one of the local coffee chains, and spent some time just watching the Thames and taking artsy pictures of the London Eye. I took a photo for some tourists and they all thought I was a London native, which was pretty cool. On the way towards the library, I stopped for a bit in a park and ended up talking to this 17-year-old girl who was going through some issues. I think she honestly just wanted to talk to someone. So we talked for a good 20 or 30 minutes before I headed out again. I talked to Ricardo for a bit at the library and then headed on home to read books.

Wednesday, August 2nd
We got up fairly early and spent a majority of the morning packing. It’s amazing how much you can take over a flat by living there for a month. The thing that was hardest to pack was honestly all the books. I probably had bought at least 10 books myself over the course of the month. Regardless, I’m so glad we spent the time packing then.

As it was our last afternoon in London, we set out for Greenwich and took a tube into a part of the city we had never visited before. It’s a pity we waited so long to venture that direction, because it was really a lovely part of the city. Once we disembarked at the Greenwich station, we found our way to the Greenwich pier, were there was a magnificent ship on land and next to it stood a sweet carousel. The pier itself had flower beds everywhere, including flower beds of mountain flowers from Skyrim. Or at least flowers that looked remarkably like mountain flowers in Skyrim. There was a pub there called the Gipsy Moth, and while we loved the name, they served mainly burgers and it didn’t feel right to eat burgers the last day in London. We headed towards the Greenwich park and found a place called the Spanish Galleon; this was ironic because the Spanish Galleon was apparently the oldest English brewery in the area. We had lovely chicken and leek pies there and it was the best last day feast.

By then it had started to rain. We hurried towards Greenwich park and saw the little church where Henry VIII had been baptized. By the time we got to the park it was pouring rain, so we made our way to the National Maritime Museum on the north end of the park. A giant ship in a bottle stood at the entrance. Inside the museum there were actual figureheads that had really seen history, stories of people sailing to the poles of the earth, and replicas of the White Cliffs of Dover. The gift shop’s selection of books covered so many subjects that I’m fascinated by that I could have easily bought half the books there. But being as we were already out of room for any more books, I had to resist.

We left the National Maritime Museum, picked up our luggage at our flat, and said goodbye to our flat in Whitechapel forever. I am relieved to never have to go back to that particular area of London. I love London and it is my favorite city in the world, but Whitechapel is far from my favorite neighborhood. After leaving Whitechapel, Ricardo and I took a train down south to the Gatwick airport and made our way to Spain!

 

 

16. The London Chronicles: Part V

Monday, July 24th
Okay, honestly, our Monday after coming back from Paris wasn’t all that exciting. We went to our two classes (complete with normal coffee shop stop at Café Nero in the back of the bookstore between classes, as always) and had a lot of homework to work on for the coming week. But since we were hungry after Corporations, we decided to go to the City of Yorke.

Now the City of Yorke is a pub probably four doors down from Swan House on High Holborn. The sign is a golden shield with “City of Yorke” proudly painted in gothic letters. The gothic lettering of the “Y” looks so much like a “D” that the first day we were there, Ricardo called it the “City of Dorke”. And ever since then we’ve wanted to stop at the City of Dorke.

Needless to say, we went in and were greeted by this pub that looks small before you enter but after you make it past the hallway opens into a large room with a high ceiling. There were lots of little cubby tables around the edges and one of these is where we sat. I got a delicious mushroom and goat cheese pie? It was so good.

And then we went home and studied for the rest of the evening.

Tuesday, July 25th
On Tuesday, as we made our way from the Strand building and Human Rights & Human Trafficking up Chancery Lane (the law capital of London) towards Swan House on High Holborn, we detoured and went to this little coffee shop called The Press. I had kept seeing it every day but we had never stopped in there. I’m so glad we did stop that day. It was this little hipster bar with typewriters on the walls and the most delicious chai latte you ever did have. We had a lovely little break with said chai and a flat white (a favorite in London) and pastries.

After Corporations, the law program had set us up a Tour of Parliament. Most everyone in the program went, so we all gathered at Swan House and set off towards the famous Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. (In case of any confusion, Big Ben is the clock on Elizabeth Tower which is part of Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey is adjacent to Houses of Parliament. They look much the same because the same architect built them both, or modeled Houses of Parliament after Westminster Abbey. One or the other. I can’t remember which.) Houses of Parliament was amazing. No photos were allowed. There were portraits of English royalty everywhere and I realized during that trip exactly how much I know of the Tudors and that period of British history. And also how woefully ignorant I am about any other point in British history. The architecture was beautiful. The House of Commons is on the other side of the building from the House of Lords, and the House of Lords is all red while the House of Commons is green. We learned about the voting system there and got to see Theresa May’s box where she receives her daily mail and updates. The whole experience was pretty amazing.

After Parliament, Ricardo and I headed just across the Thames and past the Tate museum to Shakespeare’s Globe. I had gotten sitting tickets for Much Ado About Nothing weeks before. The Globe was so much more than I could have even expected. The outside was full of these semi-artificial painted trees that were so full and rich in their prop production that they simply added to the magic of the whole place, as did the strings of colored lights everywhere. “LOVE” was written in big colorful letters on the side of the theatre as part of the theatre’s Summer of Love theme. (The whole city of London embraced the Summer of Love theme for gay pride; signs of such celebration and rainbows were seen everywhere throughout the summer.) We were up in the very right-hand corner of the second level of chairs. You could get standing tickets for five euros and stand right up close to the stage like the commoners back in the days of Shakespeare, but I was very lazy and wanted to sit for the play.

As soon as we walked into the theatre (which was open to the elements, by the way), the first thing I saw was a giant logo for “Santa Fe R.R.” on the side of a boxcar. Oh my goodness, I found it hilarious. New Mexico even follows me to the Globe Theatre in London. The whole stage was set up in Hispanic Mexican style, as the whole play – all with the original Shakespeare script – was set in the time of the Mexican Revolution. It was absolutely fantastic.

After the play, Ricardo and I walked across the Harry Potter bridge that the Death Eaters tear down at the beginning of Deathly Hallows Pt. 1. Right on the other side of that bridge was Saint Paul’s Cathedral. The cathedral looked so much like the U.S. Capital that I was suddenly very confused about how I’d gotten back to D.C. from London in the blink of an eye. On the other side of Saint Paul, we met up with several of our classmates as it was two of their birthdays and they were on the tail end of having a night out to celebrate. We all walked around for a good half an hour or forty-five minutes together, found that everywhere was closed, and we headed home.

Wednesday, July 26th
Between classes while Ricardo and I were at Café Nero, we decided that we would spend the few extra days we had before I started EIW interviews (since we had three or so extra days) in Madrid. So the entire luncheon time was a frenzy of rearranging flight tickets home, getting tickets to and from Madrid, and booking an Airbnb for Madrid. It was such a great decision.

After Corporations ended, I dressed up quickly and met Julie so we could go have high tea! She’s the only other person (other than Ricardo, obviously) that I knew going into the London program since we were both Section 3ers. A week or so before London, Julie had asked me if I wanted to go get high tea on July the 26th since she had to make reservations a month ahead of time. I’m so glad she looked into it.

The place Julie and I got tea at was called Sketch and I have to say it was one of the coolest, most bizarre experiences I had while in London. You walk into this very modern-seeming place with a piano covered in pink neon lights that plays by itself, you’re ushered into this very pink, very fancy room lined with pink cushiony chairs on all sides, and you look closer at the walls and realize this place is very different from what you first thought. Tons of sketches were framed on the walls on all sides and they said things like “PENIS” with a sketch of a tree, or a T-Rex saying that he’d pooped a lot. The sketches were hilarious and so random and so absolutely inappropriate that it made the whole experience that much more memorable. We had a huge selection of teas to choose from. When they brought the tea to us, the teapots were white with labels of “Ghost” on them while the teacups had “Just forget about it” on the inside. All the ceramic pottery used was the same way. There was a Caviar Man that came and brought caviar around to each table as the appetizer. He was dressed in a pink suit and had a straw hat and waxed moustache. I swear to you I have never seen a man at his job more fawned over than the Caviar Man was fawned over at multiple different tables while we were there.

The multi-layered tray of finger sandwiches, pastries, and bubble-gum-rose marshmallows looked absolutely delicious and tasted even more delicious. I was ready to explode by the time we’d finished eating everything.

And the bathrooms. Oh, the bathroom. So you walk into these double doors and suddenly there’s a large round staircase leading up both to the left and the right while in the middle of the staircase is a small, tucked away bar area. You ascend the staircase and are greeted with a completely white room with stained glass square colored skylights and giant eggs everywhere. You open the door to one of these eggs, walk inside, and go to the bathroom in a giant egg. You can literally poop in a giant egg there. (That thought was so funny to me that I had to write it down.) And then after you exit your giant egg you find one of the many Victorian sinks along the wall. Man, that was a zany bathroom.

After tea, Julie and I said goodbye and I found my way to this giant toy store called Hamlin’s. It just looked too cool from the outside that I had to go in. That toy store was at least five stories tall and had literally everything I have ever wanted from infomercials over the course of my life in there. They also had an entire floor dedicated to the Noble Collection, which I didn’t find out about until after I left. This was all by the Oxford Circus area, so I walked past many a fine clothing store while heading home. I finally made it home to where Ricardo was studying and read books and studied together for the rest of the evening.

Thursday, July 27th
On Thursday, it was starting to get to be crunch time. Ricardo had a paper due on the 1st of August, which was also the day of our second exam. So after we got done with our two classes (we always got done at 3:30pm every day), Ricardo headed to the library to work on said paper and I headed to the Victoria & Albert Museum for the last hour or so before they closed. I spent a good while in a room full of sculptures and sketched a beautiful torso sculpture that was there. I got a scone and a glass of wine and spent a lovely half an hour reading and eating underneath enormous chandeliers in the grand café. I spent a little bit of time outside in the massive courtyard where a wading pool and fountain entertained children and adults alike. The children all waded in the wading pool and splashed around with joy while the adults merely satisfied themselves with putting their bare feet in the pool from the sides. Honestly, I think every person in that courtyard really wanted to go play in the water. It’s such a pity that adulthood makes us so dignified that we can’t go have joyous fun when it’s right there in front of us.

[Rewind to before the Victoria & Albert Museum:] I said goodbye to Ricardo at Swan House and started walking towards the Holborn station by myself. As I was rounding the corner of the street, I saw a man that I thought looked like Benedict Cumberbatch. He was wearing exercise clothing and holding a shopping bag while smoking a cigarette. I was pretty sure it was him. To my surprise, he entered the station right behind me and went through one of the turnstiles right before me. It was most definitely Benedict Cumberbatch. I couldn’t be a creeper and take a photo (and it was obvious he was trying to avoid attention; he kept his head down and kept looking left and right to see if he was recognized), but I wish I could have. We went down the same elevator and both of us got on the Picadilly Line, even though he went the opposite way. That was my major celebrity sighting in London!

Earlier in the day, I had gotten tickets to An American in Paris, which was to be playing at the Dominion Theatre. So I found myself at the nearest tube station and walked through Chinatown (a cool, accidental find) and this Harry Potter themed store that was all about the graphic designers who had designed Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, for instance. It was so cool. I still had an hour before I could even go pick up tickets so I finally found a pub with seating and food and got an appetizer and read until it was time to go to the theatre.

An American in Paris was fantastic. I’ve heard a lot about it but really didn’t know any specifics. It was essentially a musical ballet or a ballet musical. One or the other. One of the two main girls was a beautiful ballerina who did sing a little bit, but mainly danced, while the other main girl was just a singer. The whole thing was incredible and I’m so glad I went. It was especially neat since I recognized most of the places they were talking about simply because I myself had gone to Paris less than a week before. Had I seen the show before that trip, I wouldn’t have understood nearly as much geographically!

Friday, July 28th
Second celebrity sighting in two days! I’m pretty positive I saw Maisie Williams walking past me on the way to my first class in the Strand Friday morning. I’m pretty positive it was her. I really lucked out with celebrity sightings while in London. Did I mention that at some point during our trip Ricardo and I had to stop before crossing the road at a light and wait for a while because the King and Queen of Spain and their caravan of cars and security passed in front of us?

Friday was our last day of classes. A month of classes went by so, so very quickly. Human Rights & Human Trafficking was wonderful since we mainly had a day of questions and answers and threads of topics that didn’t necessarily have to do with human rights specifically but linked up, whether by international law or some other means. I guess I should take a bit of time to talk about the classes now. Our professor for HR & HT was named Klaus, and he is from Berlin, Germany, where he currently teaches and is Vice President at Frau University and is also a judge. He was a wonderful, wonderful professor. I really admire him. He was funny and made everything we discussed in class incredibly interesting. He really cared about our learning and gave us excellent advice for the duration of the summer program on great things to do in London.

Between classes Ricardo and I had our last lunch and coffee/tea time at the Café Nero in the back of Blackstone Books. I bought so many books while in London and read four of them over the duration of a month. That’s a rather impressive amount if you consider how many hundreds of pages of homework we had on top of just being in London in the first place. Regardless, I bought many books at Blackstone over the summer. Perks of having a bookstore/coffee shop a block away from one of your classrooms!

After Corporations, which was a short review day, several of us went to… Petticoat Lane? Some Lane that was close by to go to this café that had Strawberry Champagne ice cream. And true to the café’s word, their ice cream (which also included marmalade and some orange chocolate ice cream) was deliciously yummy. On the way to the ice cream place, Ricardo and I spotted a barbershop, so Ricardo also got a haircut! It wouldn’t be worth mentioning except that we’d looked for a barbershop off and on the entire time we were in London.

After finishing at the café, we all headed down to The Old Bank of England, where the program head (with Klaus’ help) had set up a program happy hour for us all. Being as there were 19 students, 3 professors, and 1 program head, everyone knew everyone by the end of the summer and I really do feel closer to this group than I have so far to any other group in law school. A bit of a digression. Anyways, on one of our first days in London, Ricardo had spotted the Old Bank of England and had talked about maybe opening a bank account there, just for the sake of opening a bank account in London. We walked in and discovered it was not a bank but a pub instead. So I’m glad the happy hour there happened because we had enough time to discover that it was actually a wonderful place.

From the Bank of England, Ricardo and I headed straight to King’s Cross/Saint Pancras to catch our train to Dover!

 

15. The London Chronicles: Part IV – Paris

Firstly, I know I’m super behind on these travel blogs. As of the moment I’m typing this line, I’m already back in the States and will probably be back in DC by the time I post this. So much has happened, but I promise I will get it all down!

(Editing update: I am indeed back home in D.C. at the time of publishing this post.)

This here is a special edition blog on Paris. Firstly, Paris is amazing. Secondly, we were only there for three days. Thirdly, we did a ton while we were there. So hopefully this blog doesn’t end up being too lengthy.

Thursday, July 20th
So the whole Paris adventure starts with Ricardo and I running, quite literally running, through King’s Cross/Saint Pancras to try to get to our train on time. We made it and checked in literally a minute before the gates closed for check-in. We went through two levels of passport control and basic security before finally making it onto the Eurostar. We slept for a good hour or so and read books and wrote the rest of the trip.

We made it to Paris and arrived at the Gare du Nord station late in the evening. We could not find a free bathroom within the station (since they all made you pay euros and we had no cash) and so we went to Burger King across the street and got French fries in France to use a French bathroom. It was a very impressive entry into Paris.

We took the underground Metró to the Marais district where our Airbnb was located. We found a nice Parisian restaurant almost immediately and ordered escargot (which I’ve never had before), onion soup (not French onion, because we were in France), and two coke zeros (our joint soda of choice). The coke zeros came out in glass bottles with accompanying glasses of ice with lemons and long spoons. The escargot came out in a little tray with indentations for the shells – which were beautiful – and had either 6 or 8 escargot all filled with pesto sauce. You pick up a snail shell with this reverse claw grabber and then take this little tiny fork, dig out the snail meat, and then pop the whole snail body into your mouth. Oh my garlic, escargot is absolutely delicious. I could eat it every day. Also, the coke zeros cost more than the escargot did; we found this was a trend in France and eventually started avoiding sodas because they cost more than a glass of wine, for instance.

On the way to our Airbnb, we got sidetracked by the beautiful Hotel de Ville which was lit up in the night. From the plaza in front of the Hotel de Ville, we could see the bell tower of Notre Dame. We immediately beelined our way to Notre Dame. Notre Dame was incredible. Even at 11:30 at night, there were people. After Notre Dame, we walked along the Seine towards our apartment and oh how the bridge lights illuminated the river. As soon as I saw that vision, I understood why France was perfect for the Impressionists. The photo I took of that river and the bridge over it looked exactly like an impressionist painting. The entire picture was complete with a street musician playing an accordion down on the nearest street corner.

We finally made it to our Airbnb. I loved it immediately. You entered through a nondescript green door right in between two shops and entered this hallway that led to this sweeping wooden staircase. Right at the bottom of the staircase there was an open door that led into this little, tranquil courtyard filled with plants and a table and chairs and a fountain. The courtyard was surrounded on all sides by the walls of several floors of flats. Our little Paris apartment was on the second floor. It was a single room divided into bedroom and kitchen by a half wall. There were plants and large windows that opened down into the courtyard. There was no normal door to the bathroom, but instead the bathroom was separated from the bedroom by two swinging saloon-type doors. The little flat was lovely and I fell in love with it immediately. I would move there in a heartbeat.

Friday, July 21st
Friday morning started off with lovely sunlight streaming in the windows. We got breakfast of egg sandwiches, cappuccinos, and a Nutella crepe at a little café and then ate along the bank of the Seine. It was lovely. After eating, we walked back to Notre Dame, which was right across the Seine from where we were staying. The cathedral is even more magnificent during the day and the gargoyles are hilarious. There was such a long line to get into Notre Dame that we decided to not go on; when you have two days in Paris, several hours waiting in line is not a good time investment.

Our next goal was the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower was a bit over two miles away so we decided to walk. We saw the Eiffel Tower and the beautiful park in front of it and it was everything I could have imagined. You always see pictures of these iconic, famous monuments, but I swear to you the Eiffel Tower is so much more magnificent than it appears in photos. After we took pictures with the sunny, blue sky behind the tower, we headed in the direction of the Louvre. On the way, we got lunch at this supposedly fancy French restaurant where we got salmon salad and very, very smelly cheeses with crackers. I can’t way I was a fan, honestly.

After lunch – and on the way to the Louvre – we walked down the Champs-Elysees and got a Nutella crepe (delicious) on the way. We saw the Petite Palais and the Grande Palais from the outside, and I must admit the Petite Palais is by far my favorite of the two. It was just as elegant and beautiful but on a less grand and haughty scale. Ricardo and I sat down in the grass next to a fountain between the two palaces and spent a good hour or two dreaming about the future and what possibilities it could possibly hold.

More walking! We walked through the very large and very beautiful, sprawling Jardin des Tuileries, which were these magnificent gardens with lawn chairs and hedges with secret passages and flowers and a Ferris wheel, all leading up to the Louvre. Then the Louvre. We managed to get there at the perfect time when there was very little line indeed. You know the famous glass pyramid? The entrance is down through that pyramid and into this grand foyer-type area that then leads to many offshoots. The Louvre itself is so huge it sprawls longer than I dare estimate. As the Louvre is so big though, we just prioritized the few things we really had to see. As such, we beelined towards the Mona Lisa, found the magnificent Winged Victory (which is one of my two favorite statues), actually got to see the small but absolutely captivating Mona Lisa, and on the way out saw my other favorite statue Eros & Psyche. The entire museum was amazing, and had we had more than two days in Paris, I would have loved to spend an entire day exploring. Before we headed out of the Louvre, we had a small luncheon at the rooftop café and sat amidst statues of old French kings while looking over the plaza below.

After the Louvre, we headed north towards Montmarte. We passed the Paris Opera House on the way up there and I finally got the chance to see the Moulin Rouge. We got delicious gelato (by courtesy and suggestion of Ricardo’s mom) in Montmarte and saw the Montmarte Cemetery from an overlook on a bridge. We would have actually gone into the cemetery, but it had closed already since sunset was soon approaching. Regardless, the graves and mausoleums all piled on top of each other made for the most beautiful cemetery I have ever seen.

We climbed up a large hill and countless stairs to the Sacre-Coeur, which was a magnificent little cathedral that literally looked out over all of Paris. The inside of the cathedral was lovely, and the view was breathtaking. People sat on that grassy hill right below the cathedral simply to look out at all of Paris laid out below.

We ended our first full day in Paris by getting McDonald’s. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do!

Saturday, July 22nd
Saturday started out with breakfasts of eggs and bread with jam and butter at this little place across the street. Our main goal of the day was to see Versailles, so we got on the metro and took about an hour or more to get to the outskirts of Paris where Versailles is located. We already had our tickets, so we got a small lunch of sandwiches at a tourist trap nearby. After getting into the main gates of Versailles, we spent an hour and a half in line in the middle of the cobblestones surrounded by gilded fences of gold on all side, all to get into the actual palace. It worked well though; I had time to read my book and Ricardo had time to look over some philosophy.

Once we got into the actual palace, it was completely worth the hour and a half wait. Versailles was magnificent. Gilded gold and white surfaces everywhere, marble or wood floors (depending on what level you were at), and magnificent paintings and chandeliers adorning every wall and ceiling. Upstairs there were rooms all colored in themes, so the pink room had magenta pink wall hangings, curtains, and velvet wallpaper, while the green room had all the same items matching, just in apple green. The famous Hall of Mirrors, which I’ve read about so often when I was younger, was breathtaking. Photos simply can’t do it justice. We had a lovely luncheon tea of quiche and this fancy symmetrical cream pastry and wine and tea. I sketched one of the chandeliers in the dining room while we were waiting to eat.

After eating, we ventured into the Gardens of Versailles. And oh, they were magnificent. That day was one of the special summer days of Musical Gardens; this meant some of the largest fountains had shows where the fountain waters were set to grand classical music, and classical music issued from many different hedges and walkways. We explored through some of the different sections of the gardens – for it was divided into large rectangles with themes – like children, I taught Ricardo how to waltz and we waltzed down one of the boulevards, and we pretended to be statutes on an empty statue base. There was a large lake in the middle of the gardens and we discovered that this lake rented out rowboats for an hour. How often do you get to row on a rowboat on a lake in Versailles? So we rowed out and had a really lovely hour in the midst of this quiet little lake, surrounded on all sides by trees and Versailles and little ducks and a family of swans and cygnets.

After disembarking from the rowboat, we got kicked out of the gardens along with everyone else, for security was starting to set up for some large event that was happening there that night. We ran to Marie Antoinette’s estate a good bit off to make it in before they closed and we made it there within 5 minutes of them shutting the doors. The estate was small, but I’m so glad we saw it. When you first enter, there’s this little courtyard and it was literally the closest thing to a fairy tale setting that I have ever seen in my life. Rose bushes and trees filled the open space, while a little bird’s house hung from an overhanging rooftop edge. The inside of the estate was just as stunning, if a tad more simple, than the overly ornate main palace.

We got dinner at this place called the Americain. The menus had photos of some of the United States’ most popular presidents and the outside had vintage tin Coca Cola advertisements. I got the best chicken fajitas I think I’ve ever had and Ricardo got a crazy delicious burger that I think might have been called the Obama burger. We got pina coladas and apple pie for dessert and the irony is that one of our best meals in Paris was American themed.

We took the hour-long train home and relaxed for a bit before heading out to this jazz club Ricardo knew about that was just on the other side of Notre Dame and the Seine from where our Airbnb was located. The place was called Le Caveau de la Huchette and was very much a local secret. (Ricardo had been to Paris several years ago and found out about it then.) This club was two levels: the first level was a bar lit by stained glass lamps and had a couch extending across one whole wall, while the lower level was an underground dance place. The whole building had once been a prison back during the French Revolution and had been converted to a jazz bar. All the walls, especially on the lower level, were the same stone walls with engravings and cubbies carved out from the prison. A live jazz band played on a stage in one corner and the whole floor in front of them was taken over by whomever felt like dancing. The whole place reeked of the clean sweat of people dancing and it was such an experience to get to dance there in their midst to a jazz band while in Paris.

We wandered through a few streets after leaving Le Caveau and got another Nutella crepe on the way. I have to mention the absolutely terrible street artists who were trying to beatbox and dance to it on the corner. They were so bad the police literally showed up to make them stop.

Sunday, July 23rd
We were up early on Sunday to check out of our Airbnb. We left straight to the Musee d’Orsay, which was the Parisian art museum with most of the Impressionists. I got to see Monets, Degas, and Van Goghs, with my most favorites of course being some of Degas’ dancer paintings. Some of them were so tiny!

Afterwards, we met up with one of Ricardo’s old friends who lives in Paris. We had a lovely lunch and I learned a lot about life in Paris and how different law degrees and education is in France compared to the US. Yannis took us on a small walking tour through the intellectual capital of Paris and we got to see cafes where famous writers through the years have worked. The old church the three of us had coffee across from was the center of what would bud into Paris’ intellectual corner. For the life of me I cannot remember what that church was called.

After Yannis departed, Ricardo and I went to the Gardens of Luxemburg. I sketched a scene at the Fountaine Medicis where a delightful quintuplet of ducklings and their parents were swimming to and fro. In the gardens, there was also a very large fountain where children and their parents launched these clever little sailboats with big sticks. The sailboats would sail across the water and the kids would run to wherever their sailboat was going to land so they could push it off in another direction.

From there, we took the metro back to the station and ended up missing the first train back to London. We also missed the second train back because the lines for passport control were so ridiculous. In our defense, a good 30 people, all on our train, all missed the train together, so we got pushed onto remaining room on the train after that. People on that train also missed it because our supposedly booked coach was half empty. The whole system there was very poorly set up. Regardless, we finally made it back to London after a delightful conversation with some fellow study abroad students who were doing communications internships. As soon as we walked into King’s Cross, I felt like I was home. There was a man playing piano in the hall and all was well.

The rest of the evening we spent studying at the Good Samaritan. Thus ended our weekend trip to Paris.

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.

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.