Friday, May 7, 2010

Last Post from London

I know it's been a long time since I last posted, and that's largely because I've been getting ready to leave. I'm on the train to the airport now, about to head to Spain. The past few weeks have been fun, I won't go in to a ton of detail now but the highlights:

-I went to see Hair and one of the actors came through the seats and laid his head on my bosom. Also, we got to dance on stage.

-Jason got stranded in Italy and then returned after 3 days on trains

- I had finals and finished my internship and said goodbye to all my IES friends, then I moved into Jason's room/closet.

-Went to Pappa Ciccia and the Clapham Grand to celebrate Sarah's 21st

-I saw Phantom of the Opera

-Jason and I went to Madame Tussauds Wax favorite place in London when I visited when I was 12.

-Jason and I took a daytrip to Brussels, Belgium and ate our way through the city

- I went and saw Gorillaz at the Roundhouse and it was absolutely epic

- Jason and I went to Borough Market, ate our way through that as well

-I went to the Camden Crawl (the music festival that I helped plan for my internship)

-I rode the London Eye after staring at it out my window for an entire semester.

I think that's most of the exciting stuff!

But anyway, Jason and I spent our last night in London eating at Moti Mahal and then walking through Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, and Piccadilly Circus. Dinner was great and it was nice to see those places again before leaving. And now I'm sitting on the train to Stansted Airport eating my last Bens Cookie of the semester and feeling glad that I chose to come to London and spend it the way I did. While I might have liked to be a little bit healthier (my hacking cough is back..greeeat) I have absolutely no regrets about the semester except maybe that I didn't see War Horse. So anyway, that's about it. I thought I should have one last post in London before heading to Spain for the next two weeks, so I apologize for the brevity but just wanted to check in.

The next post will be from SPAIN!!!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Brighton: The Jersey Shore of England

Last Friday I went on a day trip to Brighton. As you should be able to tell from the title, Brighton is the British equivalent of the Jersey Shore, except not in the sense that there is an overpopulation of "guidos" and "guidettes," but rather in the sense that people go there to sit on the beach, eat junk food, and go out and get drunk on the beach at night.

I went to Brighton as a field trip for my British Youth Culture class, since in addition to being a big draw for young people like myself, it is also the place where Quadrophenia (the movie, which we had to watch for class) was filmed. I actually watched the movie even though I was too sick to go to the screening. It sucked, and didn't add too much to my experience of Brighton. But the town itself was awesome and I had an awesome day.

We got there around 10:30 am and went on a tour. Our tour guide was this old man with a rainbow tie wearing a calf-length trenchcoat and a Russian-style fur hat. This was very confusing, since it was about 65 degrees and sunny out. Regardless, he took us on a tour of the town and told us about various selling points such as the carousel from 1888 and the alley where the famous Quadrophenia sex scene took place, which is apparently some kind of weird rock shrine even though no actual rock stars were ever there. This came to highlight that people care about weird stuff. Apparently to this day lots of people still go there to try to reenact the scene from the movie, which is really bizarre since now it's just a garbage alley for a restaurant. So if garbage is your thing, this seems like a good place to come with your significant other. Otherwise, not a necessary landmark.

We had a break for lunch where we ate at a cafe and then walked around this shopping area called the lanes. There were tons of cute stores and we walked around for a while until we had to meet up with the tour again to go into the Royal Pavillion. The Royal Pavillion is the palace in Brighton and is also probably the tackiest palace I've ever seen in my life. It was inspired by Chinese artwork so some rooms felt like the lobby of a Chinese restaurant. Some rooms were beautiful too. I guess all in all it was just a very unique place.

After the Royal Pavillion is when most of the IES kids went home, but I decided it would be worth it to stay later and do some more exploring and shopping. Max and Sarah stayed overnight at a hostel, but after being in bed for half the week I figured that this was probably not the best idea to go out partying in Brighton, so Keetin, Louise, and I just stayed until the 10 o'clock train. We all walked around the lanes again, popping into shops and buying souvenirs. I got a bunch of different things ranging from earrings to a vintage Sgt Peppers record (I couldn't resist!). When the shops started to close we found a nearby Mexican restaurant and took advantage of their 2-for-1 pitchers during Happy Hour before heading back to the pier to have dinner at a touristy fish and chips place while the sun set. We walked around the rides on the pier and got some dessert before heading to the train station and taking the train back to London. It was a really fun day, definitely glad I stayed late, and even though I would've liked to stay over, I'm glad I didn't seeing as I am STILL battling this damn cough.

Saturday I woke up and decided I wanted to go explore some markets that aren't Portobello Road, so after some research I decided that Broadway Market was going to be my first victim. Everyone else was otherwise preoccupied so I went alone. I took the tube to an area of London I hadn't been before, expecting that there would be signs pointing me in the direction of the market. There weren't so I walked 15 minutes in the wrong direction before taking a bus back to the tube station and starting again. Even in the right direction, I walked about 15 minutes and was just about to give up when I saw a tiny sign pointing to Broadway Market. When I finally got there, I found a cute little market selling all sorts of different things. They had some really unique jewelry stands with some really gorgeous things, and there was a little clothing designer who had apparently sold some of her designs to Urban Outfitters for their fall collection. There were also lots of food stands and flower stands and good people watching. I walked through the whole market almost three times before deciding it was time to leave. I wasn't exactly sure how to get back to where I came from and my feet were also killing me because of my shoes so when I saw a bus stop at the end of the main market drag, I figured I would get on the bus and get off at the first tube station and figure out my way home. When I got on the 236 bus, I was the only white person on the bus and it drove through the literal ghetto of London. When I finally found a tube stop, I saw that the bus that  goes back to my dorm stopped there, so I got on the bus without realizing that it was literally the complete end of the bus line and it would take me nearly an hour to get home. Oh well. Even though I did work for the rest of the day, I was happy to have seen another market, and it was such a beautiful day I was glad I got to be outside.

Sunday I wanted to check out Brick Lane, which is London's Indian area that also has a market on Sundays (what can I say, I'm a market junkie). I went early in the morning with Louise, Christina, and Jordan, and we walked down the street to this market that was in an abandoned warehouse/brewery. They had all sorts of ethnic food stands as well as tons of other cool stands too. Lots of unique jewelry and clothes, and it was a lot of fun to look around. I wound up getting two pairs of earrings at this stand that had all this jewelry that was made from putting together different parts from old jewelry items. I really like them and am definitely glad with my purchase. I had to leave relatively early because I had two papers and two projects due Monday morning so I had to get to work.

Monday was the first day of my last week of classes. I had two, and then went to Covent Garden to check out the transport museum. I was supposed to go for class, but there were a lot of cool exhibits and it was interesting to see the history of the tube and how it came to be how it is today. Definitely glad I went, but not sure that I'm running back...I guess that's the best way to put it. After the museum I went over by Tottenham Court Road and decided I was going to try to get tickets to see We Will Rock You. I've been wanting to see it since I got here and figured that now's the time, seeing as I have just over two weeks left in London. I got a ticket and went by myself, since I'm really cool like that. The show was like a two and a half hour long, really well done Humo production. It was really goofy but a lot of fun to watch. I'm definitely glad I went to see it, although for a few hours afterwards I was really depressed about how Freddie Mercury is dead. I had been reading about him in a magazine about a week earlier. He was really so talented and such an amazing performer and seeing the show really kind of highlighted how great he was. So, in that way, sort of sad.

Tuesday I had work all day, which was extremely uneventful, and then headed home, thinking I would get to bed early. I wound up hanging out with Louise and some people on my floor until nearly 3am. Nice work, Lex.

Today was my last day of classes. I can't believe how quickly the semester has gone by and I honestly can't remember a time I was ever this sad about my classes ending. For all the shit that I tend to give IES, I really did like all of the classes I took this semester and the teachers were awesome and all that jazz. So for now, I'm hanging out in my room, thinking I'm going to try to do some work on my architecture final project tonight so I won't have to work on it this weekend, but I guess only time will tell.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

a whirlwind tour of prague

Last weekend I went to Prague, which I was really excited about because I didn't think I would have the chance to go. Most of my friends here who were interested in going had either already gone on weekends that I couldn't or had given up hope of going. So when I found out that Elaine, Lauren and Julia would be in town, I jumped on the opportunity, and even though I only was there from Saturday night to Monday evening I was really glad to be able to go because it was an awesome city.

Prague is interesting because it's the only country I've been to so far that isn't on the pound or the Euro. They use the crown, which felt like monopoly money. There are 18 crowns to every 1 US dollar, so 100 crowns is only slightly over 5 bucks. This was nice because everything was really cheap (an entire pizza for 90 crowns...don't mind if I do!), but it was also confusing to look in my wallet and have the smallest bill be a 100. Also, all of the people whose faces are on the Czech bills are really creepy...just a side note.

I landed in Prague Saturday night around 11. I took a shuttle from the airport to Julia's apartment, which is MASSIVE, and ate pad thai for dinner while getting ready to go out. Not exactly Czech quisine, but very delicious. We started pregaming and drank this Czech liquor called Becharovka, which tastes like cinnamon and makes like an apple pie shot when chased with apple juice. When we finally headed out, it was to a club called Karlovy Lazny, which is 5 stories of mad-ave-esque clubness. It was completely crowded and since they can smoke indoors the air was thick with a combination of sweat and smoke. By the time we left, it was because I literally thought I was going to pass out if I didn't get some real air soon. I had read in a book that Czech men are prone to making sexual advances even though sexual harassment is technically illegal. This was no understatement, as I literally felt like every other guy in the club was hitting on one of us. Oh Europeans...

After the club we decided it was time to get some drunk food. We went to a stand in Wenceslas Square that served Smazeny Syr (fried cheese sandwiches...imagine a mozzarella stick patty) and hot dogs. Elaine and I split both, and they were really delicious. I even tried grilled onions on my hot dog: further proof that I am becoming a more adventurous eater.

The next day we slept in since we didn't get home til after 5am. Once we got moving, we headed into Old Town Square where they had a big market set up with a lot of Easter things. One Czech tradition for easter is for the boys to walk around with sticks that have ribbons tied to them and hit women they think are attractive (speaking of sexual harassment...). They also have all these really pretty decorated wooden eggs for sale. We all got food at the market, I got this cinnamon roll type thing and so did Lauren, while Julia got a crepe and Elaine got this dough with ketchup and cheese on it, which presumably was supposed to be pizza-esque. We stopped briefly at the astrological clock, which is a clock unique to Prague that tells the time, the date,  the astrological sign, and the name (apparently in the Czech Republic you have a birthday and then you have a name day, and all names in the country must be ones that are written on this clock..even today).

 We then headed into the Jewish quarter, where we saw a bunch of different synagogues and went into the Spanish synagogue. It was set up on the outside almost like a mosque, and on the inside it was really beautiful and intricate, very different from synagogues I'm used to in the states, and a nice break from all of the churches that are scattered across Europe. Even though we weren't allowed to take pictures inside, I was able to sneak a was just too beautiful to resist. We also saw the Old/New synagogue, which is the oldest synagogue in Europe and second oldest in the world, and the Jewish cemetery which was really cool because they wouldn't give the Jews any more space for a cemetery so the bodies (and tombstones) are essentially piled one on top of the next. I learned on my tour the next day that the reason that the Jewish quarter is so well-preserved in spite of Nazi occupation of Prague from 1938-1945 is that Hitler saw it as a well-functioning Jewish area and didn't destroy it because he wanted future generations to be able to come back and see the remnants of this extinct Jewish population. Really a terrifying thought, but at least Hitler was wrong and now these Jewish artifacts are still around.

After the Jewish quarter we walked towards the river to see Gehry's dancing buildings. Like a lot of architecture in Prague, these were really beautiful and very unique. We only stopped there for a few minutes before finding the nearest metro train and heading out of the main loop to Dox, which is the Prague Center for Contemporary Art.

Julia took us there specifically to see Entropa (above), which is an installment done by David Cerny. Apparently, every country who has a president of the EU is asked to make a piece of artwork using artists from all over the EU that will eventually go to the EU headquarters. This piece is very controversial because Cerny only used his assistants, and the entire piece basically just exploited stereotypes of different EU countries, like a giant Dracula for Romania, Italians jerking off with soccer balls, Belgium was a box of half eaten chocolates, Sweden was an Ikea box, etc. (in addition to the artist debacle, it was also extremely controversial because it depicted Bulgaria as Turkey's toilet). It was HUGE and really really cool, even though we have a feeling that some of the countries' representations were kind of an inside joke with Europeans and we didn't quite understand. Anyway, there's a real lot of information out there so if you care to learn more either google "entropa" or read about it on wikipedia. The museum also had this cool exhibit that featured a bunch of chess sets that had been made by famous artists on commission from the museum. There were about ten of them and they were all so different: one was a picnic, one featured figurines of classic good/evil pop culture figures, one had bugs frozen in amber, and one was a video display. This probably would've been REALLY cool if I had any inkling of how to play chess, but they were pretty awesome either way. It was an awesome museum because it was modern but not TOO modern...just the way i like it.

After Dox we got a really late lunch at this place called Cross Club, which is this amazingly decorated club that also serves food. Here is where we got the 90 Crown pizza, which was really delicious, before heading back towards the center of the city. We wandered about a bit before stopping to get drinks at Chapeau Rouge and another bar called U Sudu (which has wine on tap...brilliant!). After hanging out for a while we made it back to wenceslas square for "dinner" (aka more smazeny syr) before heading back to Julia's, since Elaine and Lauren had to leave her apartment at 3am to catch their flight.

The next morning Julia had class and Elaine and Lauren were gone, so I took it upon myself to see everything that I had missed. I woke up earlier than expected and made my way over the Charles bridge to see the Lennon wall. This is a giant graffiti wall that started as a tribute to John Lennon and is now more of a tribute to Lennonesque ideals but either way I thought it was really cool. I'm a big fan of pretty graffiti and I thought it was neat to get the chance to see this in person. On the way back to Old Town Square, I also saw this tiny little bridge called the love lock bridge that has all sort of locks put on it by couples. It was really pretty and artsy and romantic, and I snapped a few pictures before I had to run because I was going to be late for my tour.

I decided to take this tour called New Prague, which is basically a chain of free tours offered in a bunch of cities that are 3-hour walking tours. I had never taken one before, but I figured it was a good way to get to see a lot of stuff, especially since I was alone and had no real sense of the city. It was really interesting and we got to see a lot of cool sites and architecture and the guide was interesting and informative. We stopped for lunch at Bohemia Bagels, and I had what was probably only my third bagel since arriving in Europe...weird, I know. The only thing that I wanted to see that we didn't get to was the Prague Castle, but that was a separate tour and there just wasn't enough time. I went back to where Julia had classes and said goodbye and thanked her for an amazing weekend before going back to her apartment with her roommate and heading to the airport.

I had been a little apprehensive going to Prague because everyone always talks it up so much and I thought there was no way it could live up to expectations, but it really did. Every building was unique and beautiful and there was lots of cool stuff to do and see in the city. Definitely gets the Alexa Rosenbloom travel stamp of approval (but go in the spring, when it's I did).

Anyway, now I'm fully caught up on my blog!! I'm very excited because I've been so behind recently. I say that I'm caught up even though I've mentioned nothing about Tuesday-Thursday of this week because since getting back from Prague I've had an atrocious cough and have been in bed pretty much straight through (with the exception of half a day of work, an hour of class, a doctors appointment, and lunch today). I'm starting to feel better though, just in time to go to Brighton on a class trip tomorrow (home of Fatboy Slim and setting for Quadrophenia, the film...from what I can gather, about the equivalent of the Jersey Shore, except without nasty guidos and "guidettes"). I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, April 5, 2010

the most observant passover ever!

I just got back from Prague, but in an effort to get caught up on blog posts, this is going to be all about last week in London and the post about Prague will come soon. Don't worry, it's all part of the master plan.

Last Monday was the first night of Passover. Instead of having a seder, however, I went to see Phoenix play live at the Roundhouse in Camden. I was able to justify this in several ways. 

1. the whole point of Passover for me is being with my family, who are over the Atlantic. 
2. I have been trying to get to a Phoenix concert since September, and I bought the tickets before I came abroad when Passover was the absolute last thing on my mind
3. I've been to just about as many concerts that are religious experiences as seders. Actually, probably more concerts.

So I was able to justify going to the show, and I went with Jason, Nick, Louise, and her friend Tim. We got there right in time for Phoenix to go on, and even though they only played for a short time, I knew all the songs and thought they put on a great show. They also sang a song in their native French, which they apparently never do, and I have the lyrics that were taped onto the stage set-list style. They're going to be announced as Lollapalooza headliners tomorrow and I am already looking forward to seeing them play again in August.

Tuesday night we decided to get our Jew on and put together a seder. This proved to be a lot more difficult than I would've expected because apparently there are no Jews in London. I'm used to walking into Sunset Foods around Pesach and seeing stacks of matzah, matzah ball mix, gefilte fish, and manischevitz wine. In London, I went into 7 different grocery stores, unable to find a single piece of matzah. It wasn't until Jason e-mailed a family friend did we figure out a specialty grocery store that sold matzah, but it wasn't even Kosher for passover (I'm still confused why there is a market for non-kosher-for-passover matzah. Even if you eat matzah all year, why is there a need to have an entire product for the handful of weirdos that enjoy eating cardboard with their pb&j 365 days a year??) So there were no matzo balls, no brisket, no gefilte fish, and no matza stuffing. What we were able to pull together was soup, chicken, charoset, vegetables, and potatoes. Out of the ten people at the seder, only six were Jewish, so it was fun trying to explain the seder plate (which we were able to macgyver) and the four questions to them (during the four questions, one guest remarked "i don't mean to sound like an idiot, but what are the ANSWERS to these questions?") Overall, the seder went better than I expected, and even though I missed my family, it was nice to get the chance to celebrate with my closest friends in London, to some of whom the entire seder concept was completely foreign.

Sarah's boyfriend Kevin was in town last week, so Wednesday night me, Sarah, Jason, and Kevin went out for dinner. We were running a little on the late side [shocker] and were planning to go out right after so I decided to look up some BYOB restaurants in London. We settled on this little Italian place called Pappa Ciccia which was reasonably priced and not too far away. It was far and away some of the most amazing Italian food I've ever had. We started off eating bruschetta, then I got the pasta fagioli soup, then sarah and I split this bacon risotto (actually sent from heaven) and rigatoni with meatballs, before we all decided to split tiramisu and black forest cake for dessert. We also killed 3 bottles of wine, so all in all it was an extremely successful dinner, and I have actually been dreaming of that risotto since.

After dinner, we took the tube to Walkabout, a club by the Temple tube stop. Wednesdays are student night there, so we got in cheap and hung out there until it closed. I thought it would close at 2, but it closed at 1, which normally wouldn't have been an issue (especially since I had work the next day), but Zach Glazer (a friend from Madison) was in town and I had told him to meet us. He was coming from far away, and he was just getting into the area around 1. And since I wanted to see him, I decided to stay out and a few of us found another bar (O'Neill's!) that was open until 3. As always, it was so great to see a familiar face so far away, and we had a lot of fun at the bar. By the time I got into bed though, it was past 4 and I had to get up for work at 8:15. Needless to say, Thursday was a struggle. I could barely stay awake at my desk all day, and I came home after work and made meatball sandwiches for dinner with Jason before we caught up on any TV shows that we had missed episodes of.

Friday I woke up and went to Abbey Road with Jason, Sarah, and Kevin. I'd been meaning to go for a while, but never really got around to it. It was definitely cool to see, albeit a little bit anticlimactic. The infamous crossing looks like every other zebra crossing in London, and it was funny to see all these people try to plan out their perfect pictures (including this one ridiculous group of Italians who took no less than 24 minutes to get themselves situated. Guess who we were behind in line...). My personal favorite was the asian girl who walked the wrong way across the street, stopped halfway, looked at the camera with a big smile and a thumbs up while her friend took the picture. classic.

We went for a post-Abbey Road lunch at Bodeans, since we were right in the neighborhood and everyone sort of had a craving barbeque anyway. The rest of the day was pretty low-key, as was Saturday, which basically consisted of going to the gourmet farmers market in Duke of York Square (me and Jason split beef and mushroom tortelloni and a chicken meat pie. YES I did eat the mushrooms in the tortelloni and I was actually the one to suggest it) and getting ready for Prague, which is coming up in the next post!

On, another note, I would like to extend a huuuuge congratulations to my lovely sister MYLA for choosing to come to WISCONSIN next year because she realized that Illinois and Michigan are completely inferior and also that she looks better in red (see below) than she does in "maize" (yellow) or orange. Despite some beliefs, I am VERY VERY VERY excited for her to come to school with me (even if it does mean I might have to share the car sometimes), and I am not just saying that because I know she's going to read this because I'm pretty sure she never actually does read my blog, so either way. 


Friday, April 2, 2010

the rosenblooms do london

Once again, I have been severely lagging on the blog posts, woops. I guess I have just been trying to make the most out of my last few weeks in London (a thought that utterly terrifies me)

Anyway, last Monday night, Jason and I went to this fancy restaurant called Homage as a part of London's Restuarant week promotion. We got a 3 course meal and a bottle of wine for 25 quid each, at this fancy shmancy restaurant (although we're pretty sure they just forgot to charge us for the wine..oops). it was really delicious and nice to not be eating chicken and pasta in our [un]lovely kitchen while drinking wine out of coffee mugs. Last Wednesday was St. Patrick's Day, so a bunch of us pregamed and then went to this super-crowded bar called Brogan's. I wasn't feeling well and thought I was getting sick so I came home relatively early, but it was fun to go out with everybody. Thursday and Friday I worked full days so that I could take the next week off and spend time with my parents, so nothing else particularly significant happened.

On Sunday I went to my first football match! Manchester City played Fulham at Craven Cottage, which is Fulham's stadium. (Fun fact: Craven Cottage is the only Premier League football stadium on the Thames River). The game was a lot of is relatively easy to follow without much knowledge of the game (and when I did have questions, I just asked Dolan). I had expected the game to be a bit more rowdy (maybe the afternoon kickoff time is to blame) but it was fun nonetheless, and Man City won 3-1.

Monday my parents got here! I had class from 10-5, but after class I met them at the tube station and went back to their flat that they rented. We decided to go see a show so Jason met us and we went to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert. My mom loved the movie, so I told her I would wait to see it with her. We got appetizers at El Pollo Bar beforehand, and then went and saw the show. I thought it was really well done, the costumes were good and it was really fun to watch. Jason was a bit uncomfortable with the subject material (hellooo drag queens!) but even he liked it more than he'd expected to, so that was good. Afterwards, I tried to convince my parents to find a place to eat in Chinatown, but Mom protested so we went to this little bar/grill in Soho and had dinner and drinks there before walking through Leicester and Piccadilly Squares and got on the bus home.

Tuesday I met my parents in the morning at the flat they had rented and we had a quick bite to eat at a nearby cafe before heading towards Westminster Abbey and Parliament. The first time we were all in London we hadn't really seen this side of town, so it was cool to take them there. We went into Westminster Abbey, which is absolutely gorgeous from the exterior but looks more cluttered than the basement of our house. We were entertained by the seemingly infinite tombs within the church (not a place you want to be if zombies come back from the dead to take over). Even people who weren't buried there had tributes within the got a bit ridiculous. Once we left we took some pictures by Big Ben on our way to the Churchill Museum and War Rooms. I had heard for a long time that these were really cool and worth seeing, and I figured it was something that my dad might enjoy (read: not shopping). I thought the museum was really cool. They had left it set up largely like it was when it was used during World War Two, and I thought it was really neat to see how the government worked in this bunker that seemed like something out of a movie. Once we had finished the museum, we walked through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace and took pictures outside. We soon decided we were hungry and headed back toward South Kensington, where I showed my parents the magic deliciousness that is Ben's Cookies. We debated whether to go back to the flat and rest or do some more exploring, and ultimately decided to do quick laps around the Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. We decided to try sushi for dinner and ended up at this place in Oxford Circus which was really promising but one of the rolls I got tasted like perfume so I was not a very big fan. We walked down through Soho after dinner and my mom made it clear that she wanted to stop for a drink somewhere. Since we were right by O'Neills we went there, and even though it was more mellow than a usual night there, it was still fun and we all had a pint before heading home.

Wednesday I had a full day of classes, so my parents slept in and then met me, Sarah, and Max out by Holborn to get lunch at a pub. Afterwards, they went and explored the British Museum and ended up by the Tate Modern. When I finally ended class at 7:45 pm I met Jason, Sarah, and my parents by a restaurant called Floridita (also a part of the London Restaurant Week promo) in Oxford Circus. Denise Noparstak and her friend who were visiting London also ended up coming there and meeting us. The food was great and they had this great band playing and the restaurant felt more like a nightclub than a dinner spot. Naturally, after my mom and Denise had each had a few drinks, they got up and started dancing together to the band. The food was great and the place was a lot of fun, plus it was really nice to see Denise. That night I slept in the extra bedroom in my parents' flat and truly was thrilled to have a real bed with amaaazing pillows.

Thursday morning I took my parents to My Old Dutch for breakfast. My mom ordered a pancake that was as big as she is and both my parents were amazed by the completely different style of pancake they have here. We then got on the tube and headed to Camden Market, so I could show them the area where I work and we also did a little bit of shopping in the flea market. My mom was impressed by the architecture of the Stables market itself, and we found some quirky things in the stalls in the market. We decided that we wanted to see a show that night so we headed back to Leicester Square and then to Covent Garden to get tickets to go see Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with James Earl Jones, Phyllicia Rashad, and Sanaa Lathan. We had a few hours to kill before the play so we went to Topshop and got some things for me and Myla (Dad was a real trooper) before heading back to the show. It was definitely completely different from Priscilla from a few nights before, but I liked it a lot even though I'm more accustomed to musicals than I am to drama plays. We all liked it a lot.

Friday morning we woke up early and met Sarah at the tube station to head to Stonehenge and Bath for the day. For some unknown reason, it was absolutely freezing by Stonehenge and had blustery winds. My mom walked around the whole time trying her best to not get her hair in her lipgloss, which I found pretty hilarious, and my dad was upset that we couldn't get up very close to the rocks. We all agreed though that it was something to see...once. Bath is this really quaint little town with these amazing ancient Roman baths in the center. Most of our time in Bath was spent at the baths, which were really cool. Personally, I think its kind of ridiculous when they try to tell you exactly what happened in these places thousands of years ago even though they actually have no way of knowing, but from what it seemed it was pretty much like an ancient health club and spa. It was very strange to me that this idea has been around for so long, but pretty cool that people always made relaxing a priority. When we got back to London we went and got drinks at the Trafalgar before taking the bus to get dinner at Bodeans, my favorite barbeque place in the city. Both were a hit with the rents, which I was very glad about.

Saturday was my parents' last day here, and we woke up to go to the Changing of the Guards to try to meet Elaine and her sister Lauren. We stayed through part of the ceremony, but it was really too crowded to see anything so we left and headed to Portobello Road Market. Elaine sat next to one of the most foul-smelling men I've ever encountered on the bus [the stranger sitting on the other side whispered to her "you're going to suffocate before you reach your destination"...pretty strange but this guy reeeeeked.] We finally made it to the market, and as predicted since the first time I went there, my mom was in absolute heaven. Her tagline for the afternoon was "I could come here for fifteen Saturdays in a row...I'm so overwhelmed I can't even focus to buy anything". My dad was able to handle it because a) the street market is so cool itself, and b) we all binged on market food. He got falafel, I got a chorizo sandwich, Lauren got this seafood stuff, Elaine got gumbo, and my mom got this gigantic donut/moon pie creation. All was delicious, and it was so good to see Elaine and Lauren.

Saturday night we decided to try Indian food, so we went to this upscale place called Moti Mahal. The food was completely different from anything I would've eaten but all very delicious (as were the cocktails). We made such a mess eating that they brought us out a new tablecloth before dessert (after my dad made a completely sarcastic request), and they might have thought we were retarded because it took us quite a bit of time to figure out how to configure the salad, which was served as a plate of uncut vegetables with a mortar and pestle full of spices. We had to ask 6 times, before the waiter just did it for us. At the end of the dinner, one of the servers came up and said the chef would like to invite us in the kitchen to see how Indian food is made. We were all very excited, and they showed us the super-hot (700 degree) oven where they make the  special flat bread and some other foods. It was really an amazing meal and really cool to see behind-the scenes...we all felt like real VIPs even though, well, we're not.

On Sunday we got brunch before my parents headed back to the airport. I was really sad to see them leave because it had been a fun and relaxing week (and I'm not even saying that because my dad makes up about 25% of my blog readership). I was glad to show them around where I live, and I think they were at least slightly impressed that I have a pretty good grasp of the city. All in all, it was great having them here.

I'm still about a week behind on the blog, but I'll cut myself off here and catch up later. Things to look forward to : Phoenix concert, passover "seder", and more!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Paris, Nice, and everything else from the past week and a half

So I'm at an all-time backup on blog posts, so I will warn you right now that this will most likely be a long post. Anyway, I'm going to go back to last Wednesday, the 3rd of March (eek) and then go from there. Cool? Cool.

Last Wednesday Jason and I took the chunnel to Paris from London. If I could honestly travel by train everywhere I probably would because not only is it 234 times easier than traveling by plane, but I also think trains are more exciting than planes for some reason (probably since I've only taken about two long-distance trains in my entire life). Anyway, the chunnel was great and we got into Paris and found the apartment we rented for our time in the city. It was a tiny little studio, but perfect (read: clean and didn't have to walk down a hall for the shower). We relaxed for a few minutes before meeting up with Elaine for dinner. We weren't really sure where she lived in relation to us, but it turns out it was two metro stops which is about 4 blocks, so we were able to find her easily. She had scouted out menus and prices of restaurants in the area earlier and took us to a restaurant called En Attendant L'Or. She advised us to order Parisian dishes, so the three of us split one goat cheese salad and two orders of steak tartare with frites. Clearly, I anticipated to get a lady boner for the steak and pick around the vegetables in the goat cheese salad. QUITE ON THE CONTRARY! The salad was probably the best I've ever eaten with goat cheese, bacon, apples, and this sweet vinaigrette dressing, and the steak had little chopped up pickles in it (that's a dealbreaker, ladies!). The moral of the story is that you can't always judge a book by the cover and also that I am still dreaming of this salad. After dinner Elaine brought us to her dorm and we split a bottle of wine and got to see where she lived. We hung out for awhile before walking back to our apartment and going to bed for the night.

The next morning we walked towards the Bastille memorial and got breakfast at a boulangerie (bakery). When we were with Elaine the night before, she had done all the communicating in French, but when it was just Jason and I, I was solely responsible for communication with the natives. I thought this was going to be nearly impossible seeing as my high school French education was a waste of time, rendering my last valuable French experience when I was 14 years old, aka 7 years ago (sheesh I'm getting old). However, I guess I underestimated my ability to retain French after learning it in songs about ratatouille, and I was able to be an adequate translator for our weekend in France. Anyway, we walked past the Bastille and all down the Seine to Notre Dame. I'd seen it when I visited Paris the summer after sixth grade, and I think it still is my favorite European church (I guess I'm just a sucker for those stained glass windows). After walking through Notre Dame we went to the Holocaust Memorial, but it was closed so we could only look at it and not walk through it. We said we'd come back but ended up running out of time. At least we got to see it...

We walked further down the Seine to go to the Musee D'Orsay. The D'Orsay specializes in impressionist paintings, and I hadn't been there on my first visit to Paris so I was excited. We saw a ton of amazing artworks, and as Jason said, it's really cool to see these works of art in person after hearing about them forever. By the time we left the museum, we were both starving, so we got sandwiches at another boulangerie down the street before heading to the Louvre.

I remember thinking from my first time in Paris that the Louvre is an amazing museum. What I forgot (or maybe just never knew in the first place) is that it is absolutely MASSIVE. We spent a few hours there and still only saw a portion of it. We did try to hit all the highlights though: The Code of Hammurabi, The Venus de Milo, The Winged Victory, and of course the Mona Lisa. Elaine met us at the museum for the end, but all of us were a bit overwhelmed and satisfied with what we had seen so we walked down the Rue de Rivoli to Angelina, a famous tea house that's known for its hot chocolate. When I say hot chocolate, I don't mean milk with chocolate in it, but it literally tasted like a melted Cadbury bar. Obviously delicious, but wildly rich. We also had a waitress who was the epitome of an asshole Frenchwoman, rolling her eyes at us when we asked to share even though there were clearly people sitting around us who were sharing. Bitch.

Elaine hadn't been home from class yet so she went back while Jason and I walked through the Tuileries gardens for a while and then headed back to the apartment. We were on our own for dinner, and I wanted to go see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, so once we were ready we took the Metro down by the Tower and found a restaurant near there called Le Bosquet. We each ate French onion soup (and yes, I did sing the Anne Maries' French song from 7th grade in my head, and out loud) and then split a goat cheese salad (far inferior to the previous night's) and a chateaubriand steak (mmmmm). We walked by the Tower and it was beautiful, and then we went and met up with Elaine, Jill and Lauren at Lauren's apartment. We pregamed and then headed to a club called Cab. After a little while, Jason and I went home, where I hung out in the bathroom...but hey, that's what I get for only drinking wine and hot chocolate all day. (soundtrack to inner monologue: "You Live, You Learn" by Alanis Morrissette).

The next morning after a very unpleasant night's sleep I woke up and (slowly) got dressed so Jason and I could meet Jill and Jana Kritz at L'As du Falafel for lunch. I was feeling anxious because I had never eaten falafel before, but I was feeling optimistic after Jill's endorsement that it tasted better than the falafel than she'd had in Israel. The place was run by French Israelis and the falafel was DELICIOUS, so I was applauding myself for stepping out of the box a bit. We walked around the Jewish area where it was located and then made our way over to the Centre Pompidou, which is a modern art museum in France that is basically housed in a building that looks like it's inside out. Jill suggested we try to get in free as students and ride the escalators to the top, where there is an amazing view. We were all able to get in free (cha-ching!) and went straight to the top floor where there truly was a beautiful and unique view of the city, not to mention one that I would never have known about without Jill's guidance. We were going to leave immediately, but I felt weird going into the museum without seeing any exhibits, so I made everyone go to this collage exhibit that was just-modern-enough for our tastes. Then we parted ways, and Jason and I headed to the Eiffel Tower. We had hoped to to ride up to the top but hadn't taken the ridiculous lines into account, so we decided that we would have to pass. Either way, it was cool to see the Tower up close.

We headed home after taking a few pictures to wait for Genna to meet us, since she was coming in town for the weekend but the person she was staying with wasn't there yet. We waited in the apartment for two and a half hours, unable to get in touch with her, before we finally decided to go get crepes with Ashley and walk around with her for a little bit. It was great to get to see her, even if only for a little while because of her class schedule.

When we got back to the apartment, Genna was there and we headed to Refuge Des Fondues (aka "The Baby Bottle Place!") to meet Elaine, Lauren, and Lauren's friends from school. We sat in these long booths making fondue and drinking wine out of baby bottles (which I may or may not still have...). It was definitely an experience. The restaurant was literally a long, narrow rectangle lined with booths that didn't even have a gap to sneak through to get to the inside--we had to step on a chair and climb over the table. It was really great except for the fact that I was in way too close of quarters with the fondue pot and literally felt like I was melting after a period of time (luckily I had the cold baby bottles to cool me off). It was like the Melting Pot, only with atmosphere.

After dinner, we walked around Montmartre, which is like Paris's Red Light District. We got to see the Moulin Rouge which was really exciting since that's been one of my favorite movies since I first saw it (and yes, I was disappointed that there was no elephant in front). We also got crepes from a stand right there before Jason, Genna, and I headed to see the Arc De Triomphe and walk the Champs Elysees. The Arc De Triomphe was amazing, and the Champs Elysees had some amazing shops. We got macarons (as recommended by Elaine, Jill, Lauren, and co.) at La Duree, which was the first place where the storekeeper seemed even moderately grateful that I spoke French. The macarons were delicious and nothing like Jewish coconut-infused macaroons. We even got to see the Eiffel Tower with the flashing lights (a la The Devil Wears Prada) before heading home to eat our macarons and go to bed so we would be ready for our 7am flight to Nice. Paris was wonderful, the architecture is beautiful, the food was amazing, and I got to see everyone there who I had planned to which was really wonderful. It was strange how even after being apart for so long it literally felt like I had seen them a few days earlier.

The next morning Jason and I hailed a cab to Charles de Gaulle airport at 4:15 a.m. The cab driver was blasting Tupac the entire ride there, which was interesting to say the very least. Additionally, the airport seemed to be still asleep and our gate was isolated from anything you might need before a flight, including bathrooms. Regardless, we got to Nice around 10am and made our way (after missing our tram stop) to Hotel Paradis, which was glamorously situated between Louis Vuitton and Emporio Armani. This front is deceiving, since the shower in our room was being held together with duct tape, but the room had a TV and that was enough to quell any complaints we had. We took a nap so that we had even the smallest shred of energy for the day, and then woke up again around noon. By this time, it was sunny and about sixty degrees in Nice, which was amazing. We had lunch at an outdoor cafe called Le Ritz and then headed into the old city, or Vieille Nice, where they had all sorts of old buildings and also a huge flower market.

After walking around there for a little bit, we went to Le Chateau. This is not a fancy castle, but rather the remains of a fortress that overlooks the entire city and the Mediterranean. The day was gorgeous and so were the views, and we spent several hours climbing up and looking around from a different perspective. It was honestly one of the most perfect-looking places I'd ever been, with bright, beachy buildings and amazing views of the water. It's a city designed for a gorgeous day like the one we had, so we took advantage of the outdoor seating options and warm weather. We also got ice cream at this place called Fenocchio which had roughly infinity ice cream flavors (beer! avocado! nutella!). It was delicious, and we ate it while walking back towards the city center, where we explored and relaxed until the sun started going down. We went for dinner at a place called Le Quebec, which was a bit touristy it seemed but the food was decent. Then we walked around a little longer before getting dessert (split ice cream and a crepe) and heading back to our *glamorous* hotel.

The next morning made me grateful that I had taken full advantage of the warm weather the night before, since it was chillier and overcast (rainy at times). Additionally, it seemed that the entire city shut down on Sundays, with no open stores and very few open restaurants. Luckily, the museums were open, so we headed to the Marc Chagall museum which was definitely on the smaller side but every painting inside was absolutely breathtaking. His use of color was unreal, and it was cool to see Jewish subject matter portrayed instead of the usual Christian topics of Renaissance and other artwork. After the museum, we got lunch at a little cafe and headed to the Modern Art Museum. I was apprehensive because sometimes Modern Art Museums are a bit much for me, but I thought this museum was great. They had some famous modern paintings and also a lot of cool installations that were modern but not ridiculous like modern art museums sometimes are. The most notable was an installation by an artist who had taken dead, stuffed pigs and created tattoo designs all over their bodies. A bit disturbing, but also pretty cool to see.

We tried to kill time throughout the city for the rest of the day before we had to head to the airport around 7, and ended up getting dinner around 4:45 at a place called La Civette du Cours. I ordered Chicken with Spices which ended up being stir fry, but it was delicious. We also ordered this kind of pancake-y bread that is native to south France which was delicious even though the name is currently escaping me. We killed some more time before heading to the airport and getting back to London around midnight, with another hour and a half before we got back to the dorm.

(FELICITATIONS! You've made it back to London!!)

Monday I had classes and then went to dinner with Sarah, Jason, Nick, and some of Nick's friends from school at Yo! Sushi, since they have a deal that every plate is only 2.20 on Mondays. Yo Sushi is a place where you sit around this giant island and sushi comes around to you via conveyor belt. Let me tell you, this is AWESOME. Especially for someone like me who would like to have three pieces of 5 different sushi rolls instead of 2 full rolls. Lots of yummy sushi that made up for the pre-Avenue Q crunchy avocado fiasco that I feared would turn me off from sushi forever. I also went to HMV and got the new Broken Bells and Gorillaz albums (both amazing), and it was so nice to buy physical CDs. Just a sidenote.

Tuesday I worked all day, and then finished my projects due Wednesday....A THRILLING DAY!

Wednesday morning I had my British Youth Culture midterm presentation. The assignment was to get into a group and apply concepts learned in class to make up an American band and say what would make them successful in the UK. This project was amazing, so much fun to invent band members and their histories, even though it is a little depressing to think of the music industry as little more than marketing strategy. I worked with Max, Kev, and Sarah, and our band was called the Livingstons. Side note: when I turned on my ipod after finishing the project I was kind of really sad that this band wasn't real. Later that afternoon, I watched a movie for class called "Crash". No, not the 2005 Oscar winner starring Chris "Ludacris" Bridges. Instead, this is the 1996 David Cronenberg film about a cult of people who are sexually aroused by car crashes and crash their cars and fuck each other for 96 minutes. Watching this movie ruined my day.

Thursday I worked all day and then went to see Passion Pit at the HMV Apollo with Jason. Earlier that day, I had seen via their twitter that they were releasing a limited-edition poster commemorating their UK tour. I got really excited and went to look at the link online, which said the poster was FORTY SEVEN POUNDS. I was disappointed because this is way too much to spend on a poster. We got to the venue and were waiting in line for coat check and I saw that they had the same poster at the merch stand for 15 pounds! (inner thoughts: sweet! a bargain!) Not only did I buy the poster, but I was able to charm the American merchandise worker to hold onto it for the entirety of the concert so I didn't ruin it before leaving the venue (cha-ching!). The show was great, I really like Passion Pit a lot and had been looking forward to the show since before I came here. They sounded amazing live, too, and from where we were standing I could see the stage the whole time--a definite bonus. We were planning to go to the after-show  at a nearby bar after the concert, but then we realized that they didn't play until 12:30, exactly when the tube stops running, and we had no idea how to get home from Camden via bus. We headed into Leicester Square and decided instead to have a snack (which turned into a second dinner) in Chinatown...aka a perfect end to the night.

Friday, I worked again so that I can take a day off when my parents come in town. I really like work because the festival stuff is in full swing. After work, I came home for a little while before getting dressed and meeting Jason, Nick, and Sarah at O'Neill's. There was a band playing upstairs, and even though I normally despise bands who play other people's music, this band was unbelievable. They played everything from "Dani California" to "I Gotta Feeling" to "Valerie" and everything was spot-on. We danced all night before we were all exhausted and decided it was time for some donerkebab before heading home for the evening.

Saturday, I woke up and walked around by the other side of the Thames. Unfortunately, this area wasn't very exciting, and I soon got tired and came home. Saturday night was spent hanging out and drinking wine. Sunday, Jason and I explored this area called Clapham Common which had some cute shops. Then we went to Topshop and I helped Jason pick out some black jeans at Topman before I made him sit through 2 dressing room visits...whoops. On the bright side, I got grey jeans and some tank tops that were on sale! Okay fine, the Topshop addiction is getting out of hand. I took Jason to Bodeans (the most delicious barbeque place) for dinner and then we walked through Carnaby Street and Soho where I got my very first Candy Cakes cupcake (truly a gift from heaven) before heading home. I tried to blog yesterday but it took so long to update my pictures to my computer that I had lost my attention span by the time it was done and just went to bed.

Today I had classes and then Jason and I took advantage of London Restaurant Week by going to this place called Homage and getting a three-course dinner and a bottle of wine for 25 pounds each. It was delicious and it's always nice to have good food when you're used to chicken and pasta.

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU MADE IT! If you actually read to this point you should comment and I'll get you your very own English prize because I am impressed that anyone has an attention span that is as long as this blog post. I'm being pretty much entirely serious.