Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tudor Lovin'

Henry the 8th looking awfully handsome at HCP
As part of my thesis, I get to explore three Tudor-era places: a palace, a home and a manor. Honestly, it is the best part of this whole shin-dig! I've loved being able to be a 'kid again' and wander around looking at the institutions through the eyes of a child... Below are just a few pictures of my fun at Hampton Court Palace and Kentwell Hall!

The entrance to Wolsey's Hampton Court Palace

The gardens at Kentwell Hall are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen!

The entrance to Kentwell Hall,
a manor that has been on this site since the year 1040!

A couple of Tudor ladies at KWH spinning wool
The research for this dissertation has been an adventure so far - at times, fun and at times, painful. Now, I am currently in the throes of writing the 12,000 words needed by September. It is a bit more grueling and to be honest, sometimes I just feel a bit like this:

Just another day, trapped in the stocks at Kentwell Hall!

So cheers to experiencing more cold, rainy weekends that don't tempt me to go outside and enjoy the summer as most people are do in June and July!

Cheers y'all, Lis

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The GrisWaugh's in London

Momma and Daddy came to visit and we.... pub-ed, ate, Shard-ed, drank, Eye-ed, ate, Churchill-ed, West End-ed, drank, bus-ed, Covent Garden-ed, Greenwich-ed, drank, Brewery Tour-ed, High Tea-ed, park-ed, football-ed, cheer-ed, Da Mario's-ed, ate, drank, Tube-ed, ate, drank and slept.

It was an awesome week and I feel quite honored that Dad said, "This is one of the best weeks of my life" as I got in the cab to leave them at the hotel. Now, this overzealous statement may have been largely influenced by a long and amazingly delicious wine and steak dinner at The Wolsey, but hey - I'll take what I can get! I love my parents now more than ever (love ya, mean it) and to share London with them for a few days was unreal. They got to be tourist for a bit but mainly, I was able to cart them around 'my world' and show them every reason why I am so obsessed with this city.

Obviously, we really missed my two sweet, hairy and hilarious siblings!

Most important thing that happened with the GrisWaugh's in town? The revelation that it is time to come which, Gloria Jean responds with "It is about d@mn time!" I'm in love with London and my last year has really been the best experience but I am juuuust about sick of five hour time differences, fuzzy Facetime calls, lack of Chick-fil-a, no sweet tea and over $1,000 and thousands of miles standing in between me and my people. I can sense it as I'm starting to get slightly annoyed at British phrases, the exchange rate is about to send me over the edge and even pies and pints don't have the same taste. But truly, I couldn't be happier that I've got three more months with my girls in my city! I've got time to relish every last bit of London and as I slowly look towards the future and my next move (figuratively and literally) I will be able to look with a clear head and a clean conscious that I'm moving home without one regret.

In about two months, when I'm freaking out about leaving and claim that I'd like to change citizenships and live in London forever..... please feel free to email me this post.

Cheers y'all, Lisa

Momma's lookin' pretty much like a City Girl to me!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Best Day, The Worst Day and The Longest Post Ever

With this blog I'll continue and conclude my Turkish experience but with more of a twist as it also documents one of the best days of my life, right beside the worst day of my life. There's the set up folks, so here it goes.

So, where were we? Oh yes, Saturday night was fairly uneventful - ignoring Carly's most ridiculous thing I've ever been a part of that I want to remember forever but also forget at the same time. But I'm gonna be damn sure I NEVER let her forget it. I digress...

The next day we woke up with plans to go to Istanbul Modern and this was really a highlight of the trip. The museum was smaller than London's Tate Modern but had a very similar feel: white walls, a fairly industrial building next to a body of water, lots of artwork that I couldn't try to understand if my life depended on it. The best part was the galleries focused on Turkish art becuase I am fairly unknowledgable in this subject. The Istanbul Modern visit gave my best day ever exciting but also intelligent start.

Obviously lunchtime, the group split up and I headed off with my favorite Sewannee couple to attempt to find a lost debit card. Unfortunately, the search was not fruitful but the lunch that proceded it absolutely was. We nommed on Gazpacho, pesto pasta and an amazing white wine while overlooking the Bosphorus. Relishing my position as the third wheel, I just sat back and soaked up the 70 degree weather and pure sunshine as we talked about life. (Yes, actually "life". Epic.) Lunch was followed by a lounge at the local Hukah bar and more conversations about the world. Now, I'm not sure if it was the vitamin D I was soaking in, the delicious food settling in my stomach, or the ambiance of the Hukah bar but I then and there decided this was, by far, one of the best days of my life. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face and when we finally departed from paradise by the Bosphoros and piled into a cab, I could feel the day just getting better and better.

Returning to the hotel around 4 for a short nap, I was awoken by one of my favorite people in the world. Kate decided to make a short trip to Istanbul on her way home to the center of Turkey and I couldn't be more excited to see her. She bounded in the room in typical Kate fashion and we immediately began catching up. We covered our usual topics, found a few new ones and laughed a lot. I was in Heaven.

Time for dinner and we trekked out of the hotel in search of a yummy and perfect last night dinner. Kate and I passed a familiar door and remembered that it is the amazing rooftop bar/restaurant that our tour guide showed us on our last visit. It must be fate. Man, this day just couldn't get better.

We took the lift to the fifth floor and found the gorgeously decorated and amazing smelling restaurant with a view that would have knocked my socks off (had I been wearing them). The roof showed the whole scene of the Bosphorus, the bridge connecting Asian and European Istanbul, and the sunset which was (of course) setting in pinks and oranges just as we chose to take pictures. Like I said, on a roll. I really can't express that enough.

We grabbed some drinks at the bar, the waiters ushered us to a table and I've still got this Cheshire grin on my face. I'm at the head of the table, so I see the people who have really shaped my experience whilst I've been in London this year. (Yes, there are a few more faces that I wish I had seen but then I think I would have internally combusted from joy.)  Each of these folks has been to integral to my Lisa-in-London and I'm so grateful for their role in my life and my role in theirs. We laughed, ate, drank, teased each other, took in the unbelievable view and just enjoyed the moment together. The wine was great and the food was even better. I had mushroom, cheese and zucchini pasta in a creamy dill sauce. (You don't even know it yet, but that was totally more foreshadowing what is to come...back.... up.....)

After dinner, we found a bar to continue the laughter and telling about stupid Youtube stories (love ya, Lillz). Turkish men Hukah-ing all around us and us silly Americans right up in the middle of it, singing Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, loving life. And with one cab ride and a goodnight from everyone, the best perfect day was over.

If this was a movie, the music would get a lot faster and more high pitched right now... and then end with DUN DUN DUNNNNN.

Monday morning was a brutal wake up. I thought I may have had one glass of wine to many, but oh no I should only be so lucky. Kate and I stayed in bed til the maid kicked us out right before checkout time and we said goodbye. The worst day ever began with a goodbye, obviously. Kate is leaving Turkey in just a few weeks and I know it will be at least four months until I see her again. In classic Kate fashion, she handled our hug goodbye graceful with me bawling on her shoulder. I'm a crier, what can I say? So my stomach still felt like rocks and now I've just left a best friend. What next?!

As we rode to the airport, I thought I was going to throw-up and then someone did throw up. Thank GOD for sturdy Ziploc bags. I kept my cool until we got through the airport doors and up to a seat and table for my head to rest on. Bad day goes to worst very quickly... Sparing you some gruesome details, I returned from being sick in the bathroom to finally tell the girls that I am actually not okay. Before I could finish the sentence, Carly looks up and says "Whoa you look bad" and I knew we had a problem. Kate then helped me back into the bathroom where I sat on the floor and awaited death.

Okay, just kidding I just wanted to lighten the mood a bit. So I can't move or talk and  I feel like that kid in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids who just really needed to eat a banana. A nice Turkish lady takes interest and I hear the words ambulance and doctor and Kate respond "ENGLISH PLEASE!" I ask Kate, in my usual dramatic form, "please don't let me die here" and while I'm partially unresponsive I remember thinking, "God I can only imagine how dirty this floor is." (That's the Gloria Jean in me for sure).

Suddenly, I'm confronted with George Clooney! A really tan George Clooney..okay, so his name was Dr Nail but he was hot. He asked me if I was on drugs, if I was always this pale (at the time, I thought this was hilarious) and -to make sure I kept looking at him- if he was very handsome. So handsome doctor gets me to this little cart thing, Carly jumps in, Charlotte (our awesome professor) jumps in, I asked her if I needed a seatbelt... and then we drove inside ten feet to the airport hospital. Effective.

Once in the hospital, the story gets much less exciting so I'll hurry up with this rambling mess. Dr Nail brings me 'his special cocktail', a yellow IV which helps me feel better almost immediately. Charlotte had texted about the whole ordeal to our department head at Richmond and she sort of chuckles as she recieves a text back from him. She had explained everything and said I was in the hospital and he responded with a quintessentially British: "Wow! What an unfortunate experience." We all laughed..

Thirty minutes later he alerts me that I am still not able to fly, Charlotte books us a new flight and a hotel for the night in her amazing-ness. The rest of the group needs to leave for the flight and I make Carly stay with me overnight. Sip of soup is had, a sip of water is not repelled and we head off to the new hotel for a good night's sleep since our flight is at8am the next day. The day has been a nightmare but at least it is over. Right?

Circa 10pm, Carly wakes me up with a message from Kate that... drumroll... our flat's been robbed. Long story short, the police had been called because our front window was busted through and they had found the place torn apart. Kate was at London Heathrow when she got the call so it took two hours of her travelling back on the Tube (and us laying in the dark praying aloud in Turkey). They stole my new MacBook, Carl's iPad and some MacBook chargers. The worst part was the damage though, while nothing was severely broken besides the window, they completely trashed the place. All alone, Kate had to clean up and set everything right. Couches and beds flipped, tables and drawers all over the floor and even roses torn apart. These dudes obviously have some serious anger problems. We're convinced that it is because they were so mad that all they found was one laptop... but who knows.

The final kick to the gut (and humorous relief) was that just as we moved in, I bought and installed a "BEWARE OF DOG" red sign to 'trick burglars' into thinking we had this massive beast dog and not to come near the flat. As I pulled back the shade to see the shattered window, what do I see but that stinkin' Beware of Dog sign. The shattered window was gone but that sign was still taped to the bottom of the glass. Irony at its finest.

It was not until Carly and I flew home, hugged Kate, saw our rooms and cleaned up did anything feel actually real. The whole 24 hours had been a complete and total surreal experience that I pray I never have to endure again. 

In closing (YAHOO, you think), I must say that as horrific as the worst day of my life was.. I know it happened for a reason. I've been having some anxiety issues lately and I told Kate (actually on the morning of the worst day ever) that I knew something bad was coming. Life had been all "too easy" lately and I could sense a storm-a-brewin'. Hell if I wasn't spot on, like the day! The whole debacle is something I wished had never happened but I know God was giving me a challenge to show me how great everything else in my life is. I was ripped from worrying about my job-in-question/apartment-in-question/location-in-question far away five months from now to living in the here and now. My perspective completely changed and, again, while it was truly the day from Hell, I am so blessed that I have my friends near (and far!) to help me through the trials that life throws at me.

Major respect for making it this far (hi momma) and reading about the best and the worst.. As dramatic as I write the whole event, in the end I am safe and my friends are safe. We are still recovering but we've decided if we could handle this nightmare experience, we can handle anything! Plus, if we can't do it at least our parents are (or will be soon) visiting so Momma and Daddy can take care of everything!! Ha, kidding....Sort of.

Cheers y'all, Lis

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Oh Istanbul, you sketchy chaotic beautiful fool.

(I sincerely apologize in advance for the lack of pictures and spelling mistakes but unfortunately I am having to write this via iPad due to the worst day of my life experiences that will be covered in another post... good foreshadowing there, eh?)

SO. Istanbul. Where to begin? You may know I previously ventured to Istanbul last semester, with friends and with little expectations other than Greek-style food. However, this time returning I knew exactly what I was getting into and I really couldn't wait to jump into the madness all over again! Sketchy Chaos should be Istanbul's city motto.... perhaps, the whole of Turkey's motto actually. 

A class trip that has been discussed for month finally came to fruition last week when we climbed aboard a four hour, bumpy flight to Istanbul with six classmates and a professor. After delays, Turkish visa madness, lack of Turkish money, and a hidden hotel, we finally snuggled into bed around 3am Thursday night.

Friday was the 'highlights' day, so we awoke early for the hotel's free breakfast - gotta loooove free breakfast - and headed out under Charlotte's (our professor) guidance. We hit the Hagia Sofia (aka Aya Sofya) first thing and again, I was struck by its massive size and unbelievable mosaics of both Islamic and Christian images and figures. We then headed across the gardens and fountains to the Blue Mosque, a sight I had missed on my last trip so I was thrilled to be able to visit. The line wrapped around the courtyard to the beautiful building but we eventually were escorted inside after removing our shoes and covering our heads with scarves. Inside, the smell of feet and the unreal amounts of people tempted one to ignore the beauty of the place but luckily I found a somewhat quiet spot to observe and take pictures. The walls, doors, ceiling and floors were breathtaking. Blues, reds and whites were used to make incredible designs throughout and there was not one aspect of the mosque that was not decorated. It was truly magnificent.... but then again, one can only take the smell of sweaty feet for so long before passing out, so we left.

We stopped for lunch on the street - Vegan wraps with spicy peppers (yummmm) and then went down into the Basilica Cistern. This is basically a big pool under water that the Romans built for their water supply. Seriously shocking how those crazy Romans did all this massive building/planning/etc without computers.... or a ruler... or a calculator... or like cell phones to call the guy to tell him he bought the wrong size column. Okay, sort of kidding but really, give it a think... Underground water supply? Geniuses. Maybe we'd all be that smart if we only wore togas.

After stopping at a restaurant for a drink and some well-deserved downtime, we shuffled off to find a taxi to drive us to the other side of town for a gallery tour and contemporary artist talk. (Seems simple enough, right?) After hailing 6 taxis, riding 2 blocks in one before getting kicked out and no one speaking English enough to understand our broken Turkish or even read the handwritten address, we walked about half a mile, sucked it up and rode the slammed packed tram, then walked another half a mile to find the gallery. My dear friend Kate (who lives now in Turkey) always says, "Nothing is easy in Turkey!" and truly is it not. Just makes me even more grateful for London black cabbies who are the lifeblood of my city.

After finding the fairly mysterious gallery, sweating/tired/dehydrated and oh, did I mention? Only half of our group... (the others somehow left before us in a cab only to arrive 30 minutes after us)... we had a lovely chat with the manager and an artist who both work in the Turkish art scene. They enlightened us on a few of the similarities and differences of Turkey's contemporary art world. The art was very interesting and I loved learning that all of Turkish art is privately funded. No government funding at all... compared to over 50% in the UK and somewhere around 20-30% in the USA. So artists, museums, galleries, any art function must support itself with generous donors and contributors. Perhaps we should take a page from their book and reach a little deeper in our pockets to support the arts in our own communities.. oh, what do I know.. just a silly grad student after all!

Dinner and Turkish ice cream (chewy and so delicious, imagine a thick milkshake that doesn't melt) followed the gallery visit and then we crashed into bed before we could even consider a night out.

Saturday was the most beautiful day, sunshine and 65 degrees! A Bosphorus boat tour was in store for us and I loved being on the water and staring out onto the Asian side of the city. I can't express how uniquely gorgeous Istanbul is, it really is like no where else I've been. You are confronted with perfectly massive mansions with pools for a few minutes as you pass and then suddenly, a fortress that has stood for hundreds - if not thousands - of years looms over you from a hill. The juxtaposition between old and new is what makes the city so approachable but also so respectable.

After the boat, lunch and drinks prepared us for the madness that is the Spice Markets and the Grand Bazaar. Small roles lined with beautiful cloth, glassware, pottery, pistachios, Turkish delights, teas, spices, and Turkish men calling you "Kitty" or "Beautiful" the whole walk down.. hey, I couldn't complain! I ended up stimulating the Turkish economy quite a bit but man, it is just so easy to do when everything is so cheap! Or at least it feels cheap as I'm bad at math and couldn't really master the whole conversion rate thing. Whoops.

I loved talking to the men and sometimes boys working because they were all so curious about us and why we were in Istanbul. Most of them were smoking Winston cigarettes (awesome) so that was a pretty easy way to make a start to a conversation. One guy running his own stall chatted with me quite a bit while the other girls were shopping about and I quickly learned he was not a Turk but instead, from Syria. He was about my age (asked me to come home with him and met his mother so we could get married but unfortunately, she doesn't speak English so I told him it would probably not work out). Long story short and a bit lost in translation, I gathered that he had to flee from Syria just ten months ago. His whole family was scattered across Turkey, other parts of Europe and even Australia. They owed 18 shops in Syria and every shop had been completely destroyed. His words were, "Burnt to the ground". He now has started completely new in Istanbul with one shop by himself because most of his male family members moved somewhere else. I know what you might be thinking: wow, he was really just pulling on my heartstrings.. but 1. I didn't buy anything at his store, we just talked and 2. I could tell he was completely serious. The way he told the story of how he got here and was trying to sustain himself completely shook me.

I'm not sure if I'll make any social commentary on any of this but more just notice my own ignorance. I know Syria has some massive issues at the moment, I know the USA and the UK have strong opinions about it but I'm really just wondering if anyone is thinking about the individual people. The families, kids, young adults, old people, etc who are being displaced and ripped from their homes. In global conflicts, it is easy to compartmentalize and just think of the 'masses' but chatting with my shop friend really reminded me to think of the small picture, not just the big picture by playing the "numbers game."

I'll finish here for now but up next, the best and worst days of my life consecutively! Turkey ain't over yet, my friends.

Cheers (thank you) and Tekkashuradem (thank you), Lis

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"Come On Chelsea"

Last night, a dream came true. I sat in Stamford Bridge and watched Chelsea play football. I had a pint, a pie and yelled my head off as we tried to defeat Tottenham. Chants of "We hate Tottenham" (simple, but effective) echoed through the stadium alongside a few other suggestive and inappropriate anthems that I'll omit.. you get the point. Ever since 2010 when I lived in London in the Kens and Chelsea borough, I've loved this team. Someone asked me why at the game last night and I am sure it was a just me jumping on the bandwagon at first but now, it has grown to be something more. The Lampard jersey I've had since EuroTour summer of 2010 worked well last night, it was like a perfect culmination of my London experience.
20 year old Lisa could never have dreamed that 23 year old Lisa would be studying, living and kickin' ass in London! When I first bought that jersey, it was such a unattainable dream to live in London.. such a far fetched idea that I knew I would not be able to achieve - let alone emotionally handle -  as I love Winston waayy too much. So while I'll stop using this Chelsea game as a metaphor for past and present (only I could make that absurd connection..), I'll leave you with a few pictures from one of the best nights ever at Stamford Bridge.

Cheers and Chelsea y'all, Lis

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Friday Funday

Yesterday, we finished our Visual Cultures class with a lecture on the London Eye. After starting class with brunch on the south bank, we "flew" on the London Eye.. getting all those epic pictures (and Vine videos!) that everyone pats themselves on the back for. After all, it isn't the memory but the photograph that lasts a lifetime! (Psh yeah... right..)
Speaking of...

The Eye was exciting, I've done it three times and have loved it each time! It is a touristy must for all who visit London. We then headed down the road to Leake Street to 'analyze' the street art and graffiti of this amazing road. Leake Street is a legal graffiti zone so we ran into a few street artists who were practicing their craft on a tunnel wall.

A sculptural center was open for us to meander through at the end of the tunnel and we had quite the experience inside... The exhibits were pitch black with only black, UV lights to see the neon string and straws which made up the artworks. They were incredible and I could have stayed in there all day! However, in one of the rooms a large orange ball sat as if it was floating in the air (see picture) while surrounded by neon lighting. I immediately race towards the floating ball in the back of the room to check it out and (thank goodness) see the black strings which are actually holding up the ball. One of my classmates was not as fortunate... she walks right into the strings as I'm saying "watch out for the...uh oh" and the giant ball slowly tumbles down to the wet, dirty - we're in a tunnel, mind you - floor below.
It might have been the funniest things I've witnessed in a very long time. My sweet professor was behind us and she just says "Oh, well then!" and starts cracking up. Carlz and Suz craw under the wires to "save" the ball and some serious physics were undertaken in order to place it back on its original strings. All said and done, the ball was saved but not without dirt and mud running down its bright orange exterior. Needless to say, we got out of there pretty quickly.
I've realized while studying in London that most people in the art world have a "One time I accidentally ruined a piece of art" story and now I am happy to say I have mine. While I did not actually knock the ball, I'm pretty sure all of us who witnessed it will claim some responsibility. What a hilarious way to put contemporary art in its place - pun intended.

After the orange ball debacle, we went to one of my favorite places in London. The undercroft is where I sentimentally fell in love with London way back in 2008 on my first visit to the city. I sat for hours taking pictures and soaking up the diversity, the art and the community that exists right int he heart of the South Bank. Unfortunately, this awesome place is under threat! I was heartbroken to hear that the South Bank is being renovated and this cool, unique spot will be replaced with another Starbucks or Pret. I truly hope that this will not happen but we've got to make an effort to save it, I'll definitely be going to the May 4-6th weekend to help show support for the space. Can't wait for that.. I'm seriously considering chaining myself to the massive concrete pillars, hippie style.

So long story short... please sign this petition to keep the South Bank skate park in the South Bank! Okay, my save the skatepark rant is complete.

A short walk to Tate Modern for a cup of tea completed our class and then we made our way to the pub for a pint and dinner before our super posh and cultural experience... the ballet! We saw "Ecstasy and Death" in the London Coliseum and it was amazing. The music, the dancing, the costumes... it was a sensory experience to say the least. Our Friday Funday ended with the perfect Friday night with the girls!
So another great day was had by all... and as usual, I'm procrastinating a final paper with this thrilling blog post. Guess I'll get back to it then..
Cheers y'all, Lis

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"You're not in Kens Anymore"

After a grueling winter, I think Spring is here? Next week will probably be under 40's and rain again so I'll go ahead a jinx myself now.. So we've had a little more sun and around 50 degree weather which has been such a long-awaited change. Every morning when the sun has been shining through my window, it is like a breath of fresh air and I am overwhelmed with a giant smile and a sense of hope. Hope is what Spring is all about afterall, right? Hope for newness, for a feeling of joy, for sunshine and happy days. Flowers, blue skies and porch sitting (read: pub garden sitting) can all be appreciated,  experienced and enjoyed now. I'm not sure how many days we will have like this past Sunday so I was sure to take Mother Nature up on her gorgeous weather.

Carlz and I headed off to Brixton, in search of a food market, only to find a hubbub of small cafes and restaurants that looked like a scene from an indie movie. Seriously, Ed Burns was about to walk out of one of these while arguing with his weird but beautiful bride... We decided to have brunch in a small creperie among the excitement of the cluster of people, drink, food and laughter in the sunshine. As mentioned before, Londoners have no less response to the sunshine than a child does on Christmas morning.
So one Bloody Mary and one goat cheese, rocket and caramelized onion crepe later, we headed towards Clapham and... drumroll please... our new flat! And 13 minutes (yes, we timed it) from Brixton tube, we turned onto Bedford and saw our new place. It has a small 'backyard' that gets direct sunlight and an amazing kitchen. Bedrooms with BIG beds and a couch are other exciting features - hey, it is that kind of stuff that really matters after you've been living in a dorm style situation with a twin bed!

The neighborhood is great with a lot of restaurants and things to do (read: its perfect for 20-somethings) but Carl and I coined a phrase as we said it so many times throughout the day:
"Dorothy, you're not in Kensington (Kansas) anymore"
Clapham and Brixton have an edge to them, a different feel than our posh current spot in Kensington and I absolutely love it.

After a few hours in the sunshine, we need some Springtime shopping was needed. I'll spare you thrilling details but let's just say Primark didn't know what hit it.

In the same vein as If You Give a Mouse a Cookie:
if we're in the sunshine, we'll need a new dress...
if we buy a new dress, we'll be tired and want to go to the pub to relax with friends...

 if we go to to the pub with friends, we'll want a pint... 

if we have a pint, we'll want a cheeseburger and fries...
if we have a pint and a cheeseburger and fries, we'll want to take a nap....

And so goes the rest of our sunny Sunday afternoon.

Cheers y'all, Lis

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

here comes the sun..for a whole day!

As previously mentioned, London's weather has not been so stunning lately.. and by lately, I mean for the past five months. A good London friend posted on Facebook this week, "Now I understand why The Beetle's sang 'Here Comes the Sun'.. If the sun shines in London, everyone acts like it is Christmas morning!" Well put. The sun has been out for the past few days for a few hours and it has been exceptional. I'm walking around with sunglasses on and although I'm covered head to toe from the freezing wind, I'm stopping, spreading out my arms and facing the sun as if to get some tan rays. Unrealistic but hey, a girl can dream.

So not only has the weather turned nice for a few days (the rest of the week is rainy, duh) but I've also had sweet Kate to visit me all the way from Turkey. I won't go into every detail but we've had so much fun running around the city, wine-ing, dining and chatting late into the night. St Paul's for Easter Church Service, Putney Bridge for Oxford vs Cambridge Boat Race, a West End musical, and a hike up to Primrose Hill to watch the sunset... just to name a few of our London adventures. 

It was a great 'energizer' weekend to get me through the upcoming grad school marathon of final presentations and research papers and I'm so fortunate to have had Kate so close to me while we've been conquering Europe. God bless you, Kate, for keeping me sane over the last 8 months (and before that!). I'm not sure what I'll do when you're not on the same continent in just a couple months!

Cheers y'all, Lis

Friday, March 22, 2013

its the time of the season?

"SAD is sometimes known as "winter depression" because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe at this time of the year.
The symptoms often begin in the autumn as the days start getting shorter. They are most severe during December, January and February.
In most cases, the symptoms of SAD begin to improve in the spring before disappearing."
For starters, I'm not at all trying to say that I am depressed over here. I'm not. BUT I can absolutely relate to this whole seasonal depression thing. Usually, I'm a lover of the cold and I honestly don't mind rain (it is just the post-rain humidity that gets me).. I enjoy a good rain or thunderstorm. But lately, this continuous rain and cold are really wearing me down! I am not exaggerating when I say I have only seen the sun a total of about 5 hours in the last month.
I know what you're thinking: Wow, a post about the weather? She is really becoming a Brit.  
"A study suggests more than half of Britons bring the weather up in conversation every six hours" - Thanks, Telegraph
Truthfully, I've been fine with it until it was unending cold and rain on our trip with Mom, Gma and Papa. That was the last straw Mother Nature.. Get it together! Everyone here (and BBC Weather) has been telling me this is rare and it usually doesn't do this rain and cold thing for this long and all that jazz but I've about had it.
So here is my prayer, my rain dance, and my plea to God and Mother Nature..
Make it stop. Can't a girl get a little sun around here?!

Now I'll head to the library and hide there until this obnoxious weather situation has figured itself out. Til then...
Cheers y'all, Lisa

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Part II of London Wild-er Adventures

And so we continue our Wilder Adventure...
Friday afternoon, we arrived back to the lovely Holiday Inn and got settled in.. again. We then quickly headed out for the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square. This collection is a lot to look at - with paintings, amour, porcelain, and so much more - so we spent a good chuck of our time just meandering around the Wallace townhouse. From the Wallace we walked around Covent Garden (one of my most favorite spots in the city - perhaps the world) and found a delicious place to eat dinner before our West End show.. I can't wait to go back there with Dad when he comes! Our next stop was one I'd been looking forward to for so long.. seeing Warhorse in the West End. The show was quite an event. We saw massive horse puppets, guns shooting, bombs exploding, dead bodies, thunderstorms and even a fast paced goose to top it all off. It was an excellent show of just how talented people are, I was so impressed and I think the fam was as well. Overall, it was a great, warm (ish) Friday night after a long week of snow and cold in France.

Saturday started off somewhat late as we bounced off to Hampton Court Palace on the District Line to Richmond and from there a bumpy bus ride all the way to Hampton Court. The palace was originally built and owned by Cardinal Wolsey until my main man Henry VIII basically ripped it out from under him before sentencing him to the Tower. As well, the palace is one of the three Tudor locations that I am researching and analyzing for my thesis so I have a lot invested in this place! Most of the day was spent exploring the massive rooms while listening to the amazing audio guides.. and as it stopped raining we were able to see the beautiful gardens and even get lost in the oldest maze in Europe! We survived the maze and eventually hopped a train back home in time to watch the Six Nations Rugby tournament: England vs Wales. Sorry to say, England bit the dust in the end but Mom and I had a great time chatting up some locals and enjoying a pint!

The next day we trekked out into the non-stop rain to watch Buckingham Palace's Changing of the Guards. Two hours later and a few close calls with eyes and umbrellas, we had seen it. A band, horses, guards (obvi), and tons of tourists.. pretty much what you'd expect but hey, gotta do everything at least once right?! As it was St Patrick's Day, we headed to the pub for lunch where we were bombarded with the crew of the HMS Westminster that had just docked on the River Thames.. they were definitely ready for a St Patty's pint!

Another trip to Harrod's for some yummy souvenirs and then we ventured onto a River Boat Cruise to Greenwich. There is just something about seeing the city from the river, it is quite magical even as it is pouring raining and there are some smelly people sitting too close to you. After spending about 3 minutes in Greenwich, we returned on the boat to Westminster for one of my favorite parts of the whole trip: the London Eye at night! Sun had set and we had fast track tickets so we just sauntered up to the big bubble ferris wheel and climbed aboard! The whole thing takes about 30 minutes, just enough time to see all of London's amazing skyline but not long enough to get bored on the barely moving bubble thing. London at night is better than London at any other time and I absolutely loved seeing it from above! From the Eye, we headed straight to the world's best restaurant.. Da Mario's for round two!

Momma, Gma and Papa's last day was not going to be wasted, even if it was raining cats and dogs. We hit up the Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum as well as Le Pain, one of my favorite lunch spots. After much contemplation, we decided packing and such would be a good use of time so I packed a massive suit case of winter things from my flat for Momma to take home (thanks, Mom!) and then for dinner we choose the world's best restaurant, again! Da Mario's was glad to see us for our third trip of the week and I was oh-so glad to have my Gnocchi Sorentina again.

As they left me at my flat, I might have shed a tear (or two) in hugging goodbye but I really could not be more grateful for the 12 days we all had together. It was a trip I will never forget because of how much we laughed, the amazing and beautiful things we experienced, the food we enjoyed, the new family stories I learned (Philip, we have much to discuss), and the overall sense of love that I get when I'm surrounded by my family. I'm so blessed to have a family who won't drive me nuts after 12 days of traveling - as hectic as it may be - and to feel so supported in what I am doing, over here so far away. London has been such an unbelivable and 'growing' adventure for me that being able to share and show my family exactly what it is I have been doing since August was such a gift. I know believe that they can better understand my love of London, of art and of travel. So thanks Momma, Grandma and Papa.. you put up with Tour Guide Lisa for 12 days, I hope now you can finally get some rest!

Next up, Momma and Daddy hit London in late May... already planning that GrisWaugh Adventure and what a hilarious adventure it will be!

I don't know what I'm going to do now that these peeps aren't following me around!

Cheers y'all, Lis

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Snow Wild in France

My fingers are still a bit frozen from the Bayeux snow so I thought I'd let Gloria Jean do some talkin' for the both of us.. Here is her take on our French adventures:

Sooo, you read about our first few days with Lisa in London…next stop for the fab four was Paris/Normandy and what an adventure that was! We left on Monday bright and early to catch Eurostar to Paris, beautiful train, beautiful weather (little rainy, but can’t complain about that). From there we switched train stations and then caught the regional train to Bayeux, so-so train, so-so weather (started snowing shortly after getting on the train at three). For those who have never travelled by regional train, they stop at every little town, so after several stops a lady came onto our car and (speaking only in French) told us to get off the train because it was not going any farther due to the bad weather. Amazingly enough, we gathered all that from the panicked look on her face. So, we had to disembark in a town were no one speaks English and try to figure out what to do next…did I mention it was snowing?? Like really, really snowing?? Imagine 30 mile an hour winds and a white out…okay, now you’ve got the picture.

By the grace of God (and the help of a very nice English speaking tour guide) we figured out what train to catch and literally (leet-tra-lee as they say in jolly England) had to  sprint to get on the last train out of town to our destination, beautiful Bayeux.

It snowed for a full 24 hours, more snow than this area had seen in 15 years! It was gorgeous, but we soon found that much like southeastern North Carolina, the town came to a stand still for the next three days! We ended up spending an extra night in Bayeux, but hey there are worse places to be stranded! As our travel service and hotelier said, “by order of the local government, we cannot drive or travel, as we are on red alert”. It was a really big, big deal for the area and we were lucky enough to be there to witness the fun!! We were disappointed that my parents were not able to see the American Cemetery, but we basically saw everything else…side note: we did find out that the French Norman school children in Normandy are taken each year to the American Cemetery and asked to pick out a grave that they will promise to bring flowers to on holidays so that they will never forget what the American soldiers did for them. Humbling.

Back to our situation, each day we walked around a blizzard like town (Papa with bags on his feet because he only took one pair of shoes), we ate really well and met some really nice people, so all in all it was a really great visit to Bayeux.

Of course, that left us only one night in Paris. We leet-tra-lee caught the first train out of town after our somewhat abbreviated tour of Normandy on Thursday and spent the late afternoon travelling. Arriving at 7:30, we hit the ground running. A quick bite of dinner and we headed over to the Eiffel Tower for some token pics in front of the amazing feat of architecture. Never fails to amaze how big it really is.
Leaving town the next morning, I think we all felt like we had been gone for longer than four days, and when we arrived back in Kensington, even Grandma said she felt like she was back “home”!

As always, the best part of travel for me is the people I meet along the way. From Rima Hebert, the hotel owner, to Matthew, our guide, to the school group from Canada that was also stuck in Bayeux in the snow, we are yet again reminded that there are nice people wherever you go in this big, big world.

So now we're back 'home' in London, just two more days of Wilder Adventures! Out of the snow but still in the cold, heading to the Changing of the Guards this morning so say a prayer we don't get rained on..
Cheers y'all, Lis & Momma 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Just Another Wild(er) Adventure! London: Part I

As some may know.. Momma, Grandma and Papa arrived in London last Friday morning to a cold, wet, and yucky day. I have been awaiting their arrival for months on months by now and seeing their driver pull up was so exciting, I wanted to just yank them out and start off on what I've been calling our Wild(er) Adventure.
(Momma's maiden name is Wilder, so it fits.. right?)
So day one, off we go to tour my neighborhood of South Kensington. I know they must have been very tired but I was so excited, I really didn't care! I eagerly popped their umbrellas and just about pushed them into the freezing weather and rain with the hopes that they'd just 'get used to it'.. as I claimed I had months ago.
Well after about two hours of walking in the rain - we covered Hyde Park, my school campus, my flat and a local breakfast place - my trench coat, my hair and my dignity were completely soaked through. I was a wet cat who needed warming up so naturally, we stomped off to Harrods's! Harrods is overwhelming as it is but add in horrible weather and you've got a mess of people and a mess of slippery floors. Grandma and Papa enjoyed the food halls (as everyone does!) but this made us realize how hungry we were.. next stop, fish and chips!
The pub was a well needed break from walking and a pint or two later, we were off again! The day ended with a perfectly appropriate trip to Da Mario's (my favorite in the world) and the family's introduction to the infamous Carly and Kate! Eventually, the yummy dinner and great company came to a close and we felt our early bedtime was well deserved...
The next day was slam packed with our tour guide, David. A completely typical scarf and trench coat-wearing, quick-witted and snappy Brit - he was just about the most knowledgable person we'd ever met! The day included St Paul's, Tower of London and the Crown Jewels, Westminster Abbey, Parliament and a ride along the River Thames. It was a lot to do in just one day but I'm so glad we tackled it all! My favorite part about the day was realizing many of my "unique facts about London" are, in fact, just not true. Basically, I think everyone's just been fibbing with me the whole time I've been here. David was quick to tell me, "No, now I'm not sure that is true" or "Oh, someone has been telling you a story!". So for anyone who I've ever told a Did You Know...? to.. I do apologize, please just erase all my incorrect facts from your memory bank!
Saturday night finished at a steakhouse where we finally celebrating Momma's 51st birthday and Grandma's 76th! Delicious steak, an egg ordeal and of course a good ol' Beef Wellington, topped off the night for us.
Sunday held the "Lisa's London" tour which obviously was just a tour of the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. We sped pretty quickly through each room in the NG (even though I think Papa would have read every single wall text had I given him the chance.. and he would have remembered it all too!) but I was able to show them my favorite paintings as well as see a few I had skipped over in my past 100 visits to the amazing building. We then sauntered on over to the National Portrait Gallery to see my boy, Henry VII, and a few of his wives. As well, we saw the new portrait of Kate - looking quite strange/old/tired, I must say! She's young and beautiful but I really did not see that in this new portrait.. but I guess beauty's in the eye, as they say.
We left the art museum world and headed into the world of Winston Churchill in Churchill's War Rooms near Horse Guard's Parade. What a place... not only can you tour the whole set of underground maze-like rooms, but also an entire museum in honor of Churchill and his interesting and complicated life! This is the kind of spot you could stay in all day if you had a wheelchair and some food/water provisions. The museum and war rooms were very well done but after about two hours, Grandma and I were about to kick the button! Enough sassy Churchill quotes, enough guided audio tour voice commanding us around, enough running into people because the walls are only two feet apart... We were worn out.
Sunday night rounded up with the usual trip to church and delicious dinner at Wildwood with Carly, Kate and friends. I think Grandma and Papa enjoyed my 'rocking', loud church and I'm so glad they were able to experience something that has been so important to me while I've been here in London. Church can be tiring, surprisingly, so dinner and a comfy seat were welcomed as we sat down at Wildwood. And in the end, it was a baked brie and peri peri pasta that helped put me to sleep on our last night in London before France.
Soooo much more to come on our seriously wild(er) adventures in France, it has definitely kept us on our toes (and in our hotel!). Til then!
Cheers y'all, Lisa xo