Friday, January 11, 2013

The Magic of London

Hello! My name is Tonya Pell and I studied at Kingston University in London, England in the fall of 2012. Ever since high school I have dreamt about studying abroad once I was in college, specifically in London. I have always been fascinated with British history and literature and there was never a doubt in my mind that I wanted to study there.

 Many people have asked me since I've returned home what was the one place I visited or one moment I had while I was in London that was the best. While it is obviously hard to narrow it down to just one experience, I would have to choose my trip to the Warner Brothers Leavesden Studios Tour: The Making of Harry Potter. I have always been a huge fan of the Harry Potter series and when I heard about the studio I knew I had to go there. Leavesden Studios is where they filmed all eight of the Harry Potter movies and they set up some of the actual sets from the movies in the studio, along with costumes, props, and more from the years of productions.

I went with my friend Kelly and the whole day was an absolute blast. We took a double-decker tour bus to the studio that was also Harry Potter themed, which was the perfect way to get there. Stepping into the studio there are giant pictures of the major characters up on the walls. One of the many Ford Anglia's was hanging from the ceiling as well! The first set you see right before you enter the real studio is the cupboard Harry lived in for the first eleven years of his life. It was incredible walking into the studio with all of these things surrounding me. It really hit me then what I was about to see for the rest of the afternoon and I admit it, I had to hold back tears a little. 

For the next three hours Kelly and I walked through two studios and the back lot where we were able to see so many incredible sets, costumes, props, concept drawings, special effects and more. We purchased the audio guide that was narrated by Tom Felton, the actor who played Draco Malfoy, and he told us stories and secrets involving the movies. We were able to see how Quidditch was filmed, tasted Butterbeer, and even see the real Hogwarts.

 While I saw so many incredible sites and visited a lot of great places while I was abroad, the Harry Potter tour was my favorite because it was something very personal for me. I grew up reading the books and watching the movies and being able to see first-hand the magic behind the movies was truly an incredible experience. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

a new dream.

Tomorrow, I am hopping on a plane and heading back to the good ol' States. As excited as I am to see my friends and family I am also not ready to say goodbye to London and the UK. This was an experience I've been dreaming about for years, and it's almost over.

I've seen Big Ben and went on the London Eye. I've visited Westminster Abbey and saw Queen Elizabeth's grave. I visited Leavesden Studios and relieved the magic of Harry Potter. I saw The Phantom of the Opera on stage. I visited Berlin for a week and caught up with Kubie after two years. I visited Hampton Court and walked the same hallways King Henry VIII did. I toured the Guinness and Jameson Factories in Dublin. And so much more. I keep saying this, but this trip has literally been a dream come true.

I couldn't have done this without so many people in my life, that have supported and helped me.
My parents, for the guidance and advice, and giving me the okay to follow my dreams.
My siblings, for all the laughs, and support. I can't wait to see you guys and go on lots of icee runs when I get home.
Anna and Meagan, I couldn't have done this without you guys. So looking forward to next semester and the shenanigans we'll get into!
And for Kalee, Kelsey, Kelly, and Cat, you girls are the best and I am so happy we all came here. I can't imagine what this trip would have been like without you girls here with me!

In some ways, leaving London is more terrifying than when I came here back in September. I've finally fulfilled something I've been dreaming about for a very long time. I don't really know what to think or even what to do... but, I guess it's like what Eugene Fitzherbert said, "Well that's the good part, I guess. You get to go find a new dream." :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Traitors, Beheading, the Crown Jewels and... Fish?

Today I was able to let out my inner history nerd by visiting the Tower of London, and my inner child later when I visited the London Aquarium!

I went to the Tower by myself, since all of my friends visited it during Reading Week when I was in Germany. I really enjoyed the walk to the Tower, because I was able to walk on the coolest bridge in London (my opinion, at least).

I purchased an audio guide for my visit of the Tower, which I really enjoyed. There were five tours that you could listen to and they delved into the history of the different parts of the Tower, like how it's been used as a jail, castle, and storage area. Speaking of, I got to view the Crown Jewels today and let me say... they are just as beautiful as you'd expect! I walked around for a good two hours and saw and learned so much. 

This is Traitor's Gate, where prisoners would arrive by boat to be put in the Tower. Anne Boleyn would come through her the day before her coronation and only three years later, as a "traitor" to her husband.

This is a statue of a King Henry III's polar bear. 
Yes, the king had a pet polar bear.
He kept it on a long leash so it could go fishing in the Thames.

King Henry III's throne that stands in the meeting hall of St. Thomas's Tower. Henry and his son Edward I built the medieval castle that is part of the Tower and was used by many monarchs as a place of residence and business.

This is a monument honoring those who were executed in the Tower itself. Most prisoners were executed on Tower Hill. Some of the privileged prisoners to be executed here include Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey.

After the Tower I grabbed some lunch and ate at a beautiful park across the street. Then, I made my way to the London Aquarium where I met up with my friends Matt and Kalee. I didn't get any pictures at the Aquarium, because my camera is broke and I couldn't tell if they were turning out well enough. But my friend Matt got some really great ones and I'm going to steal them from him! The Aquarium was super cool; I got to see sea turtles, and Nemo's, and penguins!

Overall, it was a really great day in London! It's days like today that make me never want to leave :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ireland! Ireland! Ireland!

So, I visited Ireland this weekend with my friend Kalee.
And it was definitely one of the best weekends I've had here!

We arrived around midnight on Friday... or I guess you can say Saturday! We took a bus from the airport to our hostel. I was a little worried about what going to a hostel would be like, since I've only ever been to hotels, but luckily ours was clean, easy to find, and the staff was very nice! We went out after we arrived and found our way to a late-night rock bar! Where I drank my first beer, a Fosters, and my first Irish cider called Bulmers. Both were very delicious. We went back to the hostel afterwards and headed to bed.

Saturday we explored Dublin and did some shopping! Our hostel was very close to the city centre, where there is literally everything you could want. Shops, restaurants, bars, you name it. At night, we went out to a pub where we both ordered the Traditional Lamb Stew. I had never ate lamb before, but that stew was sooooo delicious! It definitely hit the spot. We then traveled to Temple Bar, a street (and also a pub) that is very famous in Dublin for all the pubs on it, as well as the abundance of street performers on there. It was an energetic and fun place to visit on a Saturday night! We even met a couple of cute Irish boys at our hostel who we talked with for a while! ;) Later that night we met a middle-aged Irishman who was really into American politics and had a discussion with him about the outcome of the election and such. It was a really fun night and Dublin is definitely a city that comes alive at night!

Sunday we visited St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin Castle, and Trinity College. St. Patrick's was nice and it had some cool statues and artifacts, but it was small and didn't have as much to look at like St. Paul's in London. Dublin Castle turned out to not really be a castle... or at least not like Buckingham and Windsor so that was a little disappointing. Trinity College was a treat though, because we visited the exhibition on The Book of Kells in their Old Library. We also got to go into the part of the library where they house the oldest manuscripts and books they own, so that was neat!

Monday was definitely my favorite day. We visited the Guinness Storehouse and the Old Jameson Distillery! Both of them are definite must-see's if you ever visit Dublin, even if you don't really drink. It was awesome to see how both Guinness and Jameson whiskey is created and all the backstory behind both of these legendary drinks. Both exhibits were very well-done and were a lot of fun to visit! And, of course, if you happen to like Guinness and Jameson, you get a free drink at the end of the tours!

I absolutely loved visiting Dublin. The people were so funny and animated, the drinks were great ;), the city was fun and easy to walk around, and it was such a great experience. I definitely have to go back to Ireland and visit the countryside someday!

Sadly, I have no more big trips planned while I'm here. I still have lots of places to visit in London though, so I'm going to definitely enjoy my last five weeks here!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My week in Berlin!

I flew back to London yesterday after spending a great week in Berlin with my friend Kubra and her family and friends! I went to the zoo, tried new and different kinds of food, learned a little bit of German (my favorite phrase isn't appropriate to put on here...), experienced the German nightlife, went shopping, and caught up with Kubie. It was a relaxing week off from school and I really enjoyed Berlin. It was different from London in a lot of ways, some good and some bad.

Germans appeared to be friendlier than Brits. They usually always greeted you with a hug and they talked a lot... The subways and trains were always noisy with conversation. The food was also very, very good. Being a Turkish German, Kubra took me to a lot of Turkish and other ethnic restaurants. My favorite was definitely Wonder Waffel, where I made this delicious treat.

However, Berlin was definitely dirtier than London. London and it's surrounding boroughs are actually quite clean for the amount of people that live and travel here. But Berlin streets were littered with trash, so that was slightly unpleasant. And they don't sell cider there. I was very upset about that.

There's definitely a lot more I want to see in Berlin, and of Germany, so I'm excited for future trips to visit Kubie! :)

On Friday, I leave for Ireland with my friend Kalee until Tuesday. I won't have my laptop with me, so expect a long blog all about that trip! I can't wait! :D

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hallo aus Deutschland!

England gives their students a week off from school, called Enrichment Week so I decided to spend my week in Germany!

So, last night, I flew from London to Berlin to spend eight days with my great friend Kuebra! She was an exchange student my senior year of high school and one of my closest friends. We haven't seen each other since then, so when I came to London I made sure to find time to visit her.

She lives in Berlin, so today we wandered through different parts of the city. We visited her father's clothing store, ate an assorted kebab plate at Orient Eck, rode the Underground a lot, ate at Wonder Waffel, went shopping, and relaxed with her friends at the restaurant she works at.

So far, the best thing about Germany is the food. Holy crap, it is soooo much better than British food. I can't really explain why but I might gain 10 pounds this week. Also, it actually feels like fall here. Back in the UK, it's always rainy and cold but in Germany I get to actually see the trees changing colors and the sun is shining!

I'm really looking forward to rest of my stay here. Maybe I'll even get to go on the autobahn! ;)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Houses of Parliament and the Globe Theatre!

Today I went with my British Life and Culture class into London to tour the Houses of Parliament and the Globe Theatre! I couldn't take pictures of Parliament, but I did snap a couple at Globe, so stay tuned :)

Kalee and I rode the train into London and grabbed some BK breakfast at Waterloo before meeting up with Kelsey and Kelly. We rode the tube over to Parliament, where when we emerged onto the street were met with a LOT of police men and some of the streets being blocked off. We asked our instructor what was going on and she explained that the Tories (Conservative political party) were trying to pass some new legislation that dealt with the unions and people were planning a protest today! How interesting.
We headed into Parliament after that, where we had to undergo security checks very similar to ones at the airport. We split into groups and headed off! The tour was actually quite long, almost an hour and a half. We visited the Norman Arch, saw a lot of busts of previous Prime Ministers, walked our way into a long processional chamber where there were portraits and statues of influential monarchs (like my favorite Queen Elizabeth!). Then we headed into the Prince's Chamber, where I was SO PLEASED to find portraits of important people from the Tudor reign circling the room. Gotta love those crazy Tudors. The House of Lords was the next stop on the tour. The House of Lords is the non-elected part of Parliament. Up until Tony Blair's rule as Prime Minister in the 1990's, it was actually a hereditary position, passed down from father to son. They don't have nearly the amount of power they used to and actually have to answer to the House of Common's now as the real power in Parliament. We walked through a few more rooms before heading to the House of Commons. It was much less elegant and regal looking than it's counterpart, and our tour guide explained that during the bombing of World War II, the House of Commons was completely demolished. So Winston Churchill re-built it, but on a less grander scale since the UK was broke.
The tour was very informative and I loved seeing the splendor of the Houses and witnessing the history of the UK proudly shown throughout the building.

After the tour we headed out into the streets, where the protest was in full swing. I have never witnessed a protest at this scale, so it was really strange but interesting to see it happening right in Central London. We took the tube across the Thames and found our way to the Globe. The tour at the Globe was much shorter than our previous one, but just as enjoyable. The Globe is actually the 3rd one to be built and opened in 1997. The first Globe, the one from Shakespeare's time burnt down 400 years ago and the second one was closed during the rule of Oliver Cromwell. Our tour guide gave us a bit of history lesson and we were able to take some pictures inside the theatre.

Unfortunately, I missed the Globe's season since they only run shows during the summer, on account of the fact it doesn't have a roof. But I guess it's just another reason I have to come back to London sometime! :)

Oh, and these are the super cool souvenirs I bought at the gift shop. The shot glass reads "I'll ne'er be drunk whilst I live again." I got a pin too that says "All the world's a stage."

Sadly, I've also caught a cold in the past couple days so hopefully I'll be able to get over it soon! I'm going to see a play on Wednesday at the National Theatre, and then we're visiting Oxford in one week! And then I'm going to GERMANY. Lots to look forward to!!! :)