Sunday, January 13, 2013

The First Weekend

So it's been a long weekend and I finally have a second to breathe. We're all moved in, unpacked and settled in to our new flat on Cromwell Road. After a week of free breakfasts and many complimentary hotel toiletries, it felt good to finally check out of the Millennium Gloucester Hotel.

On Friday we went to Kensington High Street for some shopping and to resolve phone issues. I finally realized that my phone had never been unlocked, so once my phone company did get it unlocked, I went to Vodaphone to get a new SIM card. Here comes a dramatic moment:

I went to the phone place by myself to try and be independent and just figure things out. Thinking I would have a functioning phone, I didn't worry about getting in touch with my flat mates to find them. After getting the new SIM card, my phone wouldn't activate. I had no phone, basically. I figured I could find my friends at the next shop, but I was too late. I walked around trying to find them without a phone, ended up in a PC store to try and connect to a computer, then eventually (after crying and walking frantically up and down Kensington High Street) gave up and went back to Vodaphone to put my old SIM card back in. I found my friends.

Once we got back to the hotel, we decided instead of hanging around before going out, we would go to Tesco for a few things. The Tesco we have in our neighborhood is the equivalent of Wegmans in Ithaca, but super cheap. I ended up buying a large size Aspall's cider (and got carded for my first purchase of alcohol from a store!) and a Crunchie bar. Unfortunately not my dinner, but both equally outstanding purchases. A Crunchie bar is kind of like a Butterfinger, but instead with honeycomb inside. It's amazing.

The American aisle in the World Foods section at Tesco. 
Later that night, two of my flat mates decided to go on the Camden Pub Crawl. For £12, you get free entry to four pubs and one club, with free shots and/or discounted drinks at each place. It was really fun! And not really for the drinking part...shots in Europe are the sizes of thimbles. Even the ones you pay for. The fun part was really just meeting the people. We met a bunch of Germans, Australians and other Americans in different study abroad programs.

The Wheelbarrow

Proud Camden (converted horse barn/stables into club...probably the coolest place)

The Blues Kitchen
The next day, we decided to go on a morning walk with one of the main professors at the London Centre. It was a good decision. We ended up at Big Ben, and got to see a lot of historical stuff, including one of the changing of the guard times. 

And then...our first market experience. Borough Market. If you thought the Ithaca Farmer's Market was intense, you haven't seen anything once you've experienced just one market in London. 

Yeah, they just leave dead birds chillin.

Ostrich, camel, kangaroo, duck...

We had a pretty relaxing Saturday night. I found a local bar called the Duke of Clarence right in Kensington that looked really cool, but it ended up the crowd was more 25+. Still, very classy, and they sold a decently priced cider. We made moves and went to the Blackbird, which was also chill. 

Yesterday we experienced what we call "Market Crawl 2013." On our morning walk with Bill, he took us to several markets. We started at Petticoat Lane Market, then the Old Spitalfields Market, the Sunday UpMarket, and Brick Lane. Mostly clothes and jewelry at these, but still, amazing. The temptation of shopping here is intense. Then, we made it to the food. Whoever said the food in London wasn't good was wrong. They have everything here. Today, I had a Venezuelan arepa (per recommendation of my roommate, Fran) for £4....tons and tons of meat and then three toppings. I was in heaven. They really do give you a lot for your money. 


Then, Market Crawl 2013 continued as we made our way to Camden Market, and saw what Camden looked like in daylight. Camden was really cool because the bigger section has a ton of clothes, but the side markets have touristy things and eventually lots of foods. Personally, I liked their food selections best. Lots of different ethnicities were represented, and the amount of free samples practically warranted a third lunch. I ended up buying a British flag sweater A. Because I wanted it B. Because it looked warm C. Because Fran haggled the guy to give it to me for £5 less. Perfect. Finally, the day ended with a perfect cookie which we later found out was vegan. Absurd. Tip for London: be open minded about any food. It all ends up being worth it.

I'm excited to finally go asleep in "my" bed, as much as this bed can be mine for the next four months. I have a perfectly tacky London city and telephone duvet, and I am ready to finally go to sleep. I'm finding this whole sleep schedule isn't that bad, except for at the end of the night when either Fran or I inevitably say, "Wow, back at home (or in LA) it's only this time..."

By the way, the phone has been finally set up, and I have a UK phone number. Tomorrow is my first day of classes, as well as my first meeting with my boss. You could say I'm pretty excited.  

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