Monday, February 27, 2012

London Markets

'Ello, Mates!
One of the many things I have come to enjoy in London are the various weekend markets. To my knowledge, we don't have these exact markets, but we do have events that are similar. The markets here would be a cross between an American farmer's market and a fair. They sell locally grown produce, as well as food, clothing, jewelry, sometimes antiques and any other nick-nacks they may have! I have enjoyed walking around on cool mornings, browsing all of the different items vendors are selling and chatting with them about London. Below are the markets I have visited so far in the order I have visited them.

Bloomsbury Farmer's Market
My suite mate, Kylie, found this market only a few blocks away from Russell Square early on in our semester. It is quite convent because it is only a bit away from out home. We have made it a weekly event to go there on Thursdays to gather our produce for the week. Kylie usually stocks up on a bag of apples, while I grab a bag of pears. We occasionally pick up breads or cookies from the bakery shop, Flourish, that also provides products for my favorite shop, The People's Supermarket. There are quite a lot of specialized vendors, and over time we have been here we have managed to pick up scrumptious cheese, venison, veggie pies, and even spicy sauces. One Thursday, we ventured there for lunch and I picked up a mushroom and cream pasta. It was quite good. The people here are very kind, and the weather has always been nice. If you've got an hour on a Thursday, it is definitely worth a stop!

Camden Market
At the suggestion of a friend, Kevin and I ventured uptown in the morning to do a bit of shopping and browsing. We searched through a vintage shop, and found a jeans jacket that Kevin now sports quite often. There are many little stands where you can buy reasonably priced food, and then enjoy it on nifty motorcycle seats. Other than this aspect though, the market is not my favorite. The people and items are quite alternative.

Covent Garden Market
On the same day we ventured to Camden Market, we ventured to Covent Garden Market. What a difference! Covent Garden is in a very posh section of London. The market was quite big. There were entertainment acts going on surrounded by a lot of places selling food, specifically sweets. A lot of the shops there were inside buildings and were permanent, however with all the people bustling around it still felt like a market. We didn't really buy anything (except for a few products I picked up at Lush) because it was on the more expensive side. If you have a few extra dollars to spend, and a few couple of hours, this is a nice place to go- the food, people and general energy makes for a great afternoon!

Portobello Market
Just this weekend, my roommate and I ventured over to Portobello Market. At the beginning of the semester, a fellow suggested we try it, and we quickly saw why. The market follows along Portobello Road and the choices of items are endless. They have many vendors selling lots of produce, followed by antique shops selling vintage items. There are musicians playing and people bustling all around. The market itself is quite enjoyable, except for the people who find it completely normal to shove and push to get past. There are also lunch vendors- my roommate got falafel, while I got a chicken paella (which was extremely tasty). I would like to venture here again in the morning to avoid the lunch crowd and get a good look at all the antiques they are selling. The only downside was that we took a bus, and it took an hour to get there. I'm pretty sure that there is a faster bus, and could have gotten there by tube a bit faster as well. Definitely check it out though if you are in the area.

If you have any questions, please leave them in a comment. If you have any suggestions for a London market we should try, let me know in the comments as well!

Until Next Time,
Kelsey Elizabeth 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Time for a Bath

Hello mates!

Yesterday, I had a wonderful opportunity to go to Stonehedge and Bath, England. I wasn't expecting it to be as pretty as it was, but the city was absolutely breathtaking. I couldn't wait to upload pictures for you all! We were in the bus for a total of 6 hours, so it was quite a long day, but definitely worth it. Pictures somewhat do it justice, but if you are in England for any amount of time, and have the chance to go to Bath, I would suggest that you go see it!
I don't know how many times I uttered, "I can't believe I'm taking a picture of stones."

We had beautiful weather. The stones are surrounded by green meadows, hills, farms, and animals. It was quite different than I had expected. I thought the stones would be along a cliff with crashing waves, thunder and gray skies. 
The city was built higher up to avoid flooding from the natural hot springs Bath sits on.

The Royal Crescent is the "thing to see" in Bath. All of the condos are private housing, but the center is a hotel. Johnny Depp has stayed there. 

The Bath Abbey.

The Roman Baths. My favorite part of the trip. At the very top of the picture, you can see Bath Abbey.

I was unhappy to find out that I couldn't go into the baths because the water was untreated. However, they do have a real spa with the hot springs mineral water that is quite popular. I am hoping to go back with my bathing suit and a bit more time, and experience the healing effects of the water. 
Until next time,
Kelsey Elizabeth

Friday, February 17, 2012

A British Sweet Tooth

Good evening, friends!

How are you all this evening? Very early on in the semester I started taste testing British candy to see how it compared to American candy. I must report that it is just as good, if not better! We have similar types of candies (chocolates, gummies, etc) and even brands, but they do taste a bit different here than they do in the US. Below are a collection of my favorite candies mixed in with a few new ones!

Yorkie's are my absolute favorite. Hands down. I have bought many Yorkies to capture a picture of for this blog post, but they have mysteriously disappeared before I got a chance to take a picture of it.  It's a solid chocolate bar. It has a different flavor than Hershey's does, but it's just as good ( I, obviously, love Hershey's).
 I just tried the Cadbury Buttons today, which are quite good as well. They are just thin little chocolate circles, perfect for any sweet tooth craving.
Kit Kat Chunky. I think we may have this one in the US, however, I believe it is  more popular here. It is basically a multi-layered Kit Kat bar. Scrumptious.

Cadburry Clusters seem to be quite popular here as well. They are chocolate and raisin clusters. Not my favorite simply because they contain raisins, but I could see how someone could easily fall in love!

I would place Haribo Gummies on the same level of Yorkies. A few of these bags also magically disappeared before I got a chance to take a picture of them. My favorite are the Haribo Starmix selection with gummies, and marshmallow gummies. Imagine Haribo gummies, but ten times better. They include what I like to call the "marshmallow gummy" that is a gummy combined with a marshmallow type piece. My favorite are the ones that look like fried eggs. The picture above is of the Haribo Fruity Frutti selection. In this bag they consist only of marshmallow gummies, and they are also filled with jelly. For any gummy bear lover, this is a "must try".

Last, but certainly not least, are the Aero Bubbles, which I can tell will quickly become one of my favorites as well. They are chocolate mousse spheres covered in chocolate- need I say more? They are quite light, and would be a perfect movie candy. 
I do wish I could transfer the delicious tastes and smells through the computer to you! British candy is quite delicious, and I have had quite the time trying all of the different flavors out! If you have a chance to get ahold of any British candy in the store or whilst traveling abroad, you should definitely pick some up!

Looking forward to talking with you soon. Until next time, 
Kelsey Elizabeth

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Londontown Adventures: Kevin's Here!

Hello hello!

My best mate flew in from Madrid this past weekend, and we did some site seeing! We both become a bit sassy when we are together. Take a look!

Until next time,
Kelsey Elizabeth

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Oh, the places you'll go!

Since my Bucket List post is so helpful in guiding me through my London journey, I wanted to make a list of European places I want to venture to before I leave! Again, if you have any cities that I must see before I leave, please leave a comment below! I'm only slightly familiar with Europe and would appreciate any and all suggestions!

  1. Paris, France
  2. Zurich, Switzerland
  3. Berlin, Germany 
  4. Madrid, Spain
  5. Barcelona, Spain
  6. Florence, Italy
  7. Milan, Italy
  8. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  9. Brussels, Belgium 
  10. Dublin, Ireland
  11. Marseille/Toulon/Cannes, France
Cheers, friends! 

Londontown Adventures: Kevin's Here! Preview

This weekend, my best friend is visiting from Madrid! Upon his arrival, he mentioned a few places that were on his "must see" list, so, yesterday, we braved the cold, and went to see them! I vlogged during our trip, and am in the process of making a video for you! However, in the meantime, here is a sneak peak into what we did and saw!

This is in the center of Trafalgar Square. The National Gallery is located only a few steps away. 

The Sherlock Holmes Restaurant! Here, we had traditional fish n'chips, cider and a sticky toffee pudding. It's only a bit away from the Thames River, and Big Ben!

This is my favorite picture. It was sunny (obviously), which is quite rare here. On the left you can see the London Eye, and on the right you can just make out Big Ben. 

After walking for a bit, we made it to Big Ben. He's quite majestic, don't you think?

This is just a quick snapshot of St. James Park. The parks around Buckingham Place are extensive. It was quite cold the day we went, but I would imagine that during the spring and summer it would be quite nice to come out here and play around with a football, read, or lay out in the grass. 

Here is Kevin peaking into the Palace. I am quite amazed by the gates that surround the palace.

I should have the video up in a day or two! Cheers! 

The pictures were taken by Kevin Baker. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Adjusting to London: Part Two

As I said in Adjusting to London: Part One, there were, and are, a few challenges that I needed to overcome after I made the big move to London. As time goes on, I am figuring out how to overcome them, and make my experience in London the best it can be! I tried a different format, so let me know how you like it. First, I put my initial notion (and what may be a common notion), then whether it is fact or myth and how I overcame the challenge! Here we go!

Notion: Europe is expensive. 
Fact: Unfortunately, if you are coming from NYC, this is a true. This covers a few different aspects of life in London. Food is more expensive, whether you eat out or cook. If I eat out, a meal costs around 10 pounds, which is about $15. I have found groceries are a bit more expensive as well, which makes cooking a bit more expensive too. I would say it is about the equivalent of going to Whole Foods to buy groceries. This is not atrocious, but it is quite a difference when you're used to buying from Trader Joe's!
What I have done: I have to give credit to my suite mates for the next few findings. The first "secret" to reducing grocery costs is to find a farmers market. I absolutely loved the one in Union Square, and was more than happy to accompany my suite mate to one in a London only a few blocks away from our dorm. It is much less expensive than the grocery store, however it is limited. I purchase vegetables, fruit, cheese and some bread products from there for less. Plus, the farmers are all quite nice! The second action I took to reduce costs was to become a member at The People's Supermarket. TPS is a co-operative grocery store that strives to bring healthy food and social value to the community. If you become a member and volunteer four hours a month, you receive 20% off your groceries. I wanted to volunteer as well, so I was extremely happy to "kill two birds with one stone". The people at TPS are some of the most genuine I have found. It will be an amazing experience.

Notion: I can just ship the items don't fit in my suitcase to London.
Myth: It is very costly to send over even small packages, which I unfortunately found out the hard way. Not only do you pay the expensive cost of the package, but you have to pay duties on it once it gets to you in London. Not the way to go. If I had to redo my packing, I would bring two large suitcases, one carry on and a backpack, instead of a small suitcase and a large suitcase, a carry on and a backpack.

Notion: If I have a converter, I can use my straightener from home. 
Myth: I found that I could not use my straightener/convertor, when I previously thought I could. On my converter there is a high and a low switch. The low switch is for low wattage items, to use with hairdryers, computer chargers etc. The high switch is for items above a certain wattage. The issue with using the high switch is that you can only use it for a few minutes, 10 minutes at most, and they recommend that you consider not even doing that. The high voltage may harm your item (in my case a hair straightener), harm your convertor, or blow a fuse.
What I have done: I purchased a blow dryer and a curling iron from Boots. I might also buy a hair straightener, or I might just rock curls for the next four months. See "Europe is expensive," haha.

Notion: People in the UK drive on the left side of the road.
Fact: Obviously! I just wanted to make an few important point here for potential London students. 1) Cars do drive on the opposite side of the street than the US. Thankfully, London has painted "look right" and "look left" signs on the crosswalks, so you look the correct way and remain safe. However, I have found that it is still confusing. Just pay attention and look both ways multiple times before crossing the street (I'm not joking here). 2) New Yorkers are accustomed to taking a few steps out into the street while cars are passing by, but this is simply not safe in London. The red buses, and cars, drive extremely close to the sidewalk. Stand a few feet back from the curb.

Notion: NYUL is a small community, so everyone knows each other.
Fact: I have not yet met everyone, but I imagine I will by the end of my four months. The best way to make friends is to go to the orientation events before school starts, and be friendly in your classes! Students here are quite friendly because everyone is in the same boat and wants to make new friends.

Notion: People in the UK love tea.
Fact: NYUL provides you with an electric tea kettle. Use it. Tea is wonderful.

Notion: "We only show affection to dogs and horses."
Myth: First off, if you know the movie, then kudos to you! It's one of my favorite chick flicks (the thirteen year old girl in me lives on). As I mentioned in my Part One post, I found people in London to be a bit more stand offish than I was used to in NYC. This is not exactly the case. As I said, I think people in London, and in the UK, are a bit more introverted than people in the US. That said, as I am starting to meet local people, I am finding them to be quite genuine, and I am enjoying getting to know them. The people at TPS are some of the most genuine, dedicated, and caring people I have met and I am very excited to start volunteering.

I hope this was helpful! I quite liked doing it as well, so I might do a few more as the semester goes on. If you want to know more about TPS let me know, and I will do a blog post about it!

Until next time,
Kelsey Elizabeth

Loo, noun, bathroom. I heard someone use it the other day!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Adjusting to London: Part One

When I started thinking about how I was going to spend my time in London, and accomplish all of the things I wanted to do,  I saw a golden road paving my way to an excellent semester. I envisioned weekend trips around Europe with my soon to be life long friends, one amazing attraction after another, and a continuous stream of unforgettable moments. A four month long vacation, if you will.  I rejected the idea of "culture shock", and pretentiously assumed that since I spoke English, I would easily assimilate to the British culture. I just had to get used to cars driving on the left hand side of the road, right?

I quickly found out that my semester would be different than I had expected. In the beginning, I struggled. Literally. I had to fit my entire life into two suitcases and a backpack, and haul them across and ocean to my new home. Once I was unpacked in my new home, many other challenges arose. Despite the three maps that NYU graciously provided me with, it took me a good week to realize that I thought was north, was in fact south. The New Yorker in me cringed. After a bit, I started to get my bearings for the local area. We don't have a meal plan option here, so I ventured out to the nearby grocery store and drug store to buy food and necessities. I quickly realized that items are expensive, really expensive. The two issues that cause this are the exchange rate, and the simple fact that I had to fully supply myself again (shampoo, conditioner, milk, you name it). Eating out is much easier, but also much more expensive. Luckily, I opted out of a meal plan this past semester, and was sort of used to making meals on my own. Right now I'm still in the process of finding a cost effective way to eat!

I also found myself missing things. NYUL suggests we venture out and try new products, but at the end of the day, everything was new, and I tremendously wanted something that was familiar. I was extremely lucky though, and had already scheduled a trip to meet my Dad in Sweden early in the semester. He brought over some of my favorite things that didn't make it in the initial move. I also missed my friends. I am blessed to have wonderful roommates. However, I had an unrealistic expectation that I would make friends extremely quickly. I am so happy to be meeting such nice people, but it is still taking time!

Another aspect of life in London that shocked me a bit is the difference in culture. In the beginning, I didn't find Londoners to be particularly friendly, which unfortunately exacerbated feelings of confusion and isolation. During a class we discussed the idea that people in London are quite introverted, while people in New York are quite extroverted. I was forced out of how I was used to thinking about things. I had to understand that people were not being rude at all, they just tend to stay to themselves. This, I think, will be the most beneficial type of learning that I do here, the type that exposes me to other ways and shows me that they are not wrong because they are different. I think this idea is extremely powerful. Most negative things in the world have a strong basis rooted in the idea that "I am right, and you are wrong" instead of appreciating differences or working together to find common ground. I think the mastery of the skill will make me an excellent global citizen and human being. What are your thoughts?

I wanted to go into further detail about how I have overcome some of these challenges by finding unexpective but amazing channels in London, but the post was simply getting too long. I'm am going to save these items for Adjusting to London: Part Two.

I know this post was not as upbeat as my others, but I feel that it will be most beneficial to future study abroad students. I didn't know how many challenges there would be, and it took me by surprise. If I had been a bit more prepared emotionally for what was going to happen, I think that would have helped a lot. Hopefully, this will help a bit too.

Until next time,
Kelsey Elizabeth

Cheeky, adjective, it says offensively bold, but I understand it to be something that is quite funny, but it toeing the line.