And The Winner Is… Pt. 2

3 Nov


Several days ago you all voted in the second round of ‘Send Claire Somewhere’ and the winner was The National Gallery (although Kensington Gardens came in at a close second)!

Here are my pictures from my adventure to the Gallery! I brought my camera along, and once I got there I asked one of the staff if there was any photography allowed. She told me no, but she obviously took pity on me so she gave me one of the £1 guides for free!

The National Gallery is massive.. You think you’ve reached the end of the hallway and suddenly there’s five more rooms off of the room you’re currently in! There is such a diverse range of art there as well, from Rembrants and Renoirs to Rousseaus. It is really an incredible place, even the interior of the museum itself is beautiful.

I discovered the works of Venetian painter Pietro Longhi, the Gallery had about five pieces by him. Sadly, I had never even heard of him before but I really enjoyed his art like The rhino and Fainting.

They had a new acquisition by Monet, Waterlillies at Sunset,  that I was completely taken with, despite not being a very big fan of a lot of his later work. I also really liked The Beach at Trouville, which was apparently painted right on the beach rather than the studio because you can see grands of sand and shell embedded in the paint! I also really loved Jan van Os’ Fruit and Flowers in a Terracotta Vase as well as Murillo’s Heavenly and Earthly Trinities and The Infant St. John with the Lamb.

Although I couldn’t take pictures inside of the Gallery, I did take a few at Trafalgar Square (the doorstep to the collection) and of the nearby church, St. Martin-in-the-Field. I got to step into the church, and sat in on a wonderful little choir rehearsal — but they did ask that no photos be taken during the rehearsal so I just tried to take a quick shot of the exterior!

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Pictures from Bath will be up next! Thanks for reading!



Walk To Class With Me!

31 Oct

Hello everybody!

I’m so sorry that I haven’t updated in a while! It has been a very busy week and there is so much to talk about! So I’ll start from the very beginning. (A VERY GOOD PLACE TO START. Sorry. Okay, I’m done.)

For today’s post, I’ve included a few pictures that I took last week on my way to and from class to give you a better idea of what I see everyday.

Here’s a map of the route from my dorm (B) to campus (A). The great big brown smudge in the middle is the Thames, and as you can see I live in Southbank. In the mornings, I typically walk to Borough station, transfer at Bank, get off at Temple and then walk to Strand. After class, I usually take a bus back to Bricklayer’s Arms (a bus stop just south east of this map) and then walk back to my dorm.

The buses are usually less crowded and a much less stressful but they take a bit longer than the tube (commute time + walking distance). Personally, I like riding the bus a whole lot more. I try to get a seat up top, in the front, where I’m glued to the window like a little kid, grinning at people on the street (who probably think I’m a sociopath).

This slideshow has a few of the buildings over near Strand, and I’ll try to give them (and a few that are not pictured) some context:

  • Australia House – I‘m pretty sure this is the Australian embassy since it includes their visa and passport bureau (and the name…) It’s just east of King’s, right across the road. I think they could really make this building more tourist friendly by adding a petting zoo full of koalas, wombats, kangaroos and platypuses! I would pay good money for that!! I would never go to class if something like that was right across the street. Fun fact: More votes for Australian federal elections are cast here than at any polling station in Australia.
  • St. Mary le Strand – One of the ‘island churches’ (because it lies on a traffic island), the original church was mentioned as early as 1222 but was torn down to make way for Somerset House in 1549. The promised ”new’ St. Mary’s wasn’t built until 1714 by James Gibbs. Fun fact: Charles Dickens’ parents were married here.
  • St. Clement Danes – The second of the ‘island churches’, St. Clement was built first by Danes in the 9th century. It was rebuilt by William the Conqueror and later rebuilt again by Christopher Wren in 1682. The church was nearly destroyed in the Blitz, when the inside was ruined by fire. Fun fact: This is the church from Orwell’s novel 1984, shown to Winston Smart and described as standing near the Courts of Justice prior to the revolution.
  • Royal Courts of Justice (not pictured) – Located just northeast of King’s, designed by George Edmund Street in the Victorian gothic style and opened by Queen Victoria in 1882, this imposing building houses the Court of Appeals and the High Court of Justice for England and Wales. I thought it was interesting that even those without legal representation can get help here by way of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau which provides free, confidential and impartial advice to litigants and the Personal Support Unit where litigants can get emotional support and information concerning court proceedings. Fun fact: Parliament paid £1,453,000 for the six acre site — in cash.
  • Maughan Library (not pictured) – A bit farther north from campus is the Maughan library, the main library of King’s College. Built in the 1850’s, inside can be found the Round Reading Room (inspired by the reading room at the British Museum) and the former Rolls Chapel. Fun fact: A 2007 acquisition of historical collections included Britian’s 1812 declaration of war on the United States.

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Just wanted to give you all a glimpse into my daily routine here! I’ll be updating later this week with my pictures from Send Claire Somewhere and my trip to Bath!

Happy Halloween!


Send Claire Somewhere! (Round 2)

22 Oct

Hey ya’ll!

Almost my entire flat has gone home for the weekend and of the remaining two, one’s mother is in town so it has been a very quiet weekend in Flat 6! Since I need something to do, besides laundry and grocery shopping, I thought I’d let you guys help me choose!

Please take a second and vote on where I should go tomorrow!

The Tate Modern

Admission: Free (£3 donation suggested)
Location: South Bank

While art critics have occasionally guffawed at the Tate’s populism, over 5 million visitors each year make this museum the most popular contemporary art gallery in the world and the most visited sight in London (just ahead of the British Museum). The permanent collections are devoted to early-20th-century avant-garde movements such as futurism, surrealism and cubism. And other galleries include emphasis on European and American painting and sculpture from the 1940s-50s and revolutionary art from the 1960s. More than 60,000 items are constantly on rotation through the museum, including works by Matisse, Warhol, Mondrian, Pollock, Mondrian and Lichtenstein.

The National Gallery

Admission: Free (£3 donation suggested for use of audioguide)
Location: Leicester, the West End

Despite being one of the largest galleries in the world, with over 2,000 Western European works on display,  the NG is renown for it’s quality rather than quantity. With chronological galleries ranging from 1260-1900s, poignant paintings from every important epoch in art history are on display including works by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Renoir, Van Gogh, Botticelli, Raphael, Van Eyck and Monet.

The Kensington Gadens
Location: Kensington

West of Hyde Park, these gardens are technically a part of the palace they’re named after. And, like Kensington Palace, these gardens have become somewhat of a shrine to Princess Diana. But, art is also a characteristic of these gardens with several famous statues including George Frampton’s ‘Peter Pan’. 

The Somerset House
Admission: Free
Location: The Strand, West London

Before it’s refurbishment in 2000, the magnificent courtyard of the Somerset House, with over 55 fountains, was  used as a parking lot for tax collectors. The House was designed in 1775 for use by royal societies, but it now houses several museums. (In the winter, the courtyard is flooded — and subsequently frozen — to make an ice skating rink!) The Courtauld Institute of Art is an on site gallery housing pieces by Rubens, Botticelli, Cranach, Degas, Renoir, Manet, Monet, Matisse, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec.

(Poll closes 4AM Texas time).

I plan to take a few hours and head over to the British Museum on Monday after my morning class. I’ll bring my camera along and take a few pictures along the Strand as well (where I have class), because there are some really pretty buildings that I should show you!

Have a great weekend and Pony Up!

Lake District Adventure Weekend

18 Oct

Good morning!

I was able to get my photos from this weekend uploaded rather quickly today, so I thought I would go ahead and post them! I struggle with really capturing landscapes — I personally think they are very hard to photograph. Maybe because I don’t have an eye for it, or maybe because I feel my pictures never really do the scenery justice. We had beautiful weather the entire time, but that means in most of these photos the sun was shining directly into my shot, so please ignore all the light spots!

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I caught a train out of Euston Station  on Friday, which ended up being quite a stressful experience. Maybe I was spoiled by the ease of my Eurostar trip to Paris, but attempting to leave the city center  on a Friday night, during rush hour was quite a different animal. I was lucky enough to finally find an empty seat in a four-person seating area, and so I sat with a father and his two young daughters who were also headed to the Lake District. We played card games to pass the time and the girls were both very funny – they reminded me of my two nieces. And I have to say that when they got off at the stop before me, I was sad to see them go!

My train was a bit late and by the time I (and about 8 other IFSA students)  arrived in Penrith there was a van waiting to take us from the town to our accommodations. When I got to my hostel, I found out they had made a goof and moved a girl into my spot (without giving her a key) but when I checked in my name had not been crossed off and they gave me a key! It wasn’t until  I got up to my room that I realized we were one bed short and by then, the front desk had closed for the night. So, the first night I slept on the floor (wasn’t didn’t feel so bad when I fell asleep, but was very bad by the time I woke up) and the hostel fixed it the next day! We stayed at Borrowdale which is part of the YHA group. It was nice, and had clean rooms and bathrooms, as well as a self-catering kitchen that was orderly and sanitary looking (although we had our meals prepared for us!).

So far, I’m 2 for 2 on staying at good European hostels! (Not counting the occasional mishap i.e. male roommates in Paris, and then sleeping on the floor Friday night!) But considering all the horror stories I’ve heard, I think I’ve done pretty well for myself!

Saturday morning, we were up early for breakfast and then we were driven down the road to Glaramara (one of two other hostels that IFSA students were staying at) to meet up with the rest of the group. There were tons of activities to choose from — canoeing, rock climbing, mine tours, archery, via ferrata (climbing across a mountain face using iron rods hammered into the the rock, hooked in by a cable on your back — no thanks), and gorge scrambling which is exactly what it sounds like — crawling through tunnels, over small waterfalls and down drops in the rivers.  I chose the sightseeing tour as my first choice because most of the other activities I have either done before or had no interest in doing (anything with ‘scrambling’ in the name is not really my style..). Most required multiple changes of athletic wear, and my Nike shorts or leggings just weren’t going to cut it that far north, especially not with freezing cold water involved! And, since I had never been to the Lake District before, I wanted to see as much of it as I could.

So from Glaramara, we boarded a small bus for our sightseeing tour. It was a total of about nine people and our very nice driver/tour guide, a smaller group than I had thought would’ve signed up. I thought that I might would regret not doing one of the other activities but it ended up being wonderful! We were driving around and getting on and off the bus from about 9AM until 5PM – it was a long and bumpy day! We saw several of the lakes, took a short hike up to a waterfall, went up into a couple of small villages like Martindale and Watendlath (‘village’ meaning about four or five farms) and we stopped in to the town of Grasmere – well-known for their gingerbread and home of Wadsworth’s Dove Cottage (hence the term, Lake Poets). I was surprised by how many people there were in the towns and at a lot of our stopping points – I imagined it much smaller! But it was bustling and our driver told me they don’t really have an off-season, though in the summer months, the population will nearly triple. There are visitors almost year-round, except for the very dead of winter. We drove past a Saturday market in the main square of town and there was a giant crowd of people perusing the local fruit and veg, crafts and other produce.

There were small streams and brooks everywhere, and miles upon miles of hand-laid ‘dry stone’ walls — walls hundreds of years old that have no mortar or glue but are made by interlocking rocks on top of one another. They were incredible and much more beautiful than the usual chicken wire or metal railings you see on farms today! It was amazing to look up into the hills and see them stretched up and down the sides of these mountains. I can’t imagine the time it took to build them all!

There were so many walls because there were so many SHEEP!!!! (Hereafter, may be referred to as sheepies!) I have never seen so many sheep in my life. And these were proper sheep, too – with big wooly coats – who really said ‘Baaaaa’!! There were so many different kinds, including a native Cumbrian breed called Herdwick sheep – which are born all black as lambies and then turn a light brown/gray color. We saw black sheep, white sheep, white sheep with black faces, black sheep with white faces.. SO MANY SHEEPIES! I was in farm heaven. They were all so adorable! I squealed every time I saw one. Now I can add sheep to my list of animals that I must own.

List of Animals I Want (This is the unfinished list, if you were curious):
– Dogs
– A mini pig
– Three sheepies
– A goose
– Two cows
– An octopus

And now you know why I have to get a good job when I grow up! Land and animal food is expensive!

On Sunday, we packed up our stuff and loaded up the buses which took us into the nearest town – Keswick (pronounced like ‘Kizik’) and we got to spend about two hours walking around and seeing the shops – although we did skip the pencil museum. We stopped in for lunch at a local tea room, where I opted for a hot chocolate.  When we finished, we all jumped back on the bus for the long trip home!

It was such a wonderful trip and I am so glad that I was able to go! Right now, I’ve finished my morning lecture and am killing some time at a cafe, cradling a latte outside, until my afternoon lecture. Then, I’m afraid it’s off to the library for me! I’ve got to catch up on some reading from this weekend!


Room Tour

17 Oct


I’m so sorry for not getting this video up until tonight – I didn’t get it edited until after I got back from the Lake District this weekend. So here is the room tour that you all voted for (thanks for that, by the way!). I hope you find it interesting although it is quite random and maybe a little too detailed — you probably didn’t want or need to know the contents of my pantry!

But, now you know a little more about where and how I live!

The Lake District was amazing. I had the BEST time and I can’t wait to share my pictures with you and tell you all about my weekend.  I should have that post up within the next few days!

Thanks for reading, voting and watching. It really surprises me (and means a lot to me)  that people take any interest at all in my life across the ocean!


Read My Mind

12 Oct


Today was quite an eventful day. I was up at 8 to get to my 10 o’clock Greek History class, but when I got there I found out it had been cancelled! Too bad I had already had an espresso, so going back to sleep really wasn’t an option at that point!

I went down the street and had coffee and a long conversation with a new friend from class. From there, I went to the Victoria Embankment to find a spot to sit overlooking the river, do some reading and watch the world go by.

Instead of finding quiet solitude, I got harassed for a good ten minutes by a man claiming to be psychic. He was chatting me up and told me I reminded him of his sister. And trust me on this one, I am 100% sure I look nothing like his sister. He read my tongue (I’m going to live to 89, apparently — Lord help us all), called me poor and simple (channeling Bonquiqui at this point in the conversation — RUDE!) and then asked me for money. I reminded him that he had just told me I was poor and he said, “Ah, but you are also wise.” And I replied, “Well then, you should know that I am not giving you any money.” Then I pretty much skipped off to the tube station.

(By the way, the tongue is a part of your body that you never think twice of being self conscious about, until someone asks to look at it.  I almost cried.)

I caught the tube to St. James’ Park, sat underneath a giant tree and finally got some reading done! Today’s excursion has forever solidified my love of squirrels and geese, but also my hatred for people who chase after said animals like fools, clapping their hands and waving peanut shells.

I’m not just talking children, either! Grown up adults in business casual attire, running across the grass, grabbing at squirrels, kicking at geese!  All the while, I kept secretly hoping someone would get bitten.  I mean, that’s what I would do if someone chased me around, waving peanut shells in the air and yelling things like, “Come here, duck! Here duck!”, when I am clearly a goose.  Such blatant genus ignorance alone is worthy of a mild case of rabies or at the very least, a good pecking.

Please take a second to vote on my Thursday update! I’ll try to get it up sometime tomorrow evening.

Friday evening I am taking a train out to the Lake District/Keswick for the weekend, so hopefully I will have some pictures to upload when I return!


Inside the Mind of a Procrastinator + Vote!

11 Oct

Hello everyone!

Time for another blog update! Sorry I have been seriously slacking in updating + pictures lately, now that school has started I find I have less free time to simply wander my neighborhood! While I’m on the subject of updates, please take a second to vote on what you would like to see in my next update:

I am in the second week of class and finally starting to feel like I have a better handle on things. I have made it to every class on time so far (a MIRACLE for me!) and am no longer scrambling around the halls like a rat in a maze, looking for a hidden classroom.

Now when I refer to the Strand Campus as being like a maze, I am not joking. Rather than a distinct set of different buildings like my home campus, all the buildings are jammed in next to each other with little to no congruity. Which means sometimes you look out a window and you are looking at just a small square space where the corners/sides of different buildings have met, but weren’t even, so they just left a  gap in between. (Beats me why they would put windows all around looking into these spaces, no more than a foot or so wide. But the pigeons do love them).  You can walk from building to building without ever going outside, but the floors don’t match up and the classroom numberings are confusing. There are about ten different buildings and SO. MANY. DOORS.  You would not believe.

Currently, I am in the library working on transferring quotations and notes from my readings onto my computer. My desk looks like a post-it note graveyard. I annotate with post-its while I’m reading, but since I have to return the books to the library each week, I have to transfer the notes and the quotations they refer to onto my computer, in case I decide I would like to use them later in a paper. It is a little frustrating, and very time consuming, but it is much easier to work in the library than in my tiny room, surprisingly filled with a large number of distractions.

Claire’s Internal Monologue While Reading in Her Room:
5:30 – “Okay, reading time. Let’s do this! ”
5:32 – “How many pages again? Okay, 52 pages. I can do this. Here we go.”
5:34 – “Okay, maybe first I should plan out my breaks? Every twenty-five pages? Okay, yes. Now let’s really get cracking.”
5:38 – “I’ve read a TON! It’s probably almost break time. Wait – only four pages?! What?! That can’t be right. I’ll just re-count the pages real quick.”
5:39 – “Okay so 21 pages until my break… My nail polish is cracked. Dangit! I should repaint them real quick. They can air dry while I read! Good idea, Claire. You are such a wonderful multi-tasker. I really admire that about you. Why, thank you, Claire! It is one of my many great qualities.”

[Yes, I talk to myself while I’m talking to myself. It’s like that Inception movie, but with better actors].

Basically, it continues on like that until I have color-coded the (ten) tops I have hanging in my closet and refolded all of my sweaters and emptied my trash can and washed my hands and highlighted some important stuff in my notes and… I’ll look up and it will be 10PM! Well, now it’s definitely too late to start my reading!! What a shame! Guess I should just watch some Dexter before I drift off to sleep..

How convenient for me.

And now you know why I’m in the library.