Chelsea in London
Chelsea Adams is a KWC junior from Louisville, Kentucky. She is majoring in Communications with an emphasis in Advertising and PR and is spending the Spring 2012 Semester in London. She is providing updates to KWConnect about her adventures. This page is an aggregate of all her posts, beginning at the top.
February 7, 2012
So I have been here for exactly one week and think I am starting to get things under control. My name is Chelsea Adams, and London is the biggest city I have ever spent more than one week in.
The last few weeks before I left for London were some of the most stressful weeks I have ever spent. Applying to study abroad is complicated enough, but getting things ready to leave is an entirely different story. Of course, no one tells you any of that. What they tell you is that “It will be the best four months of your life!” and “You can see the world!” and other fantastic things that make your eyes open wide and dreams pop into your head.
What they don’t tell you is that there is a TON of paperwork, waiting, making lists, pulling hair and printing copies – copies of EVERYTHING. That doesn’t even touch the packing. Any female who thinks they can take one 50-pound bag to a notoriously cold and wet city to live for four months is borderline insane (in my opinion). Needless to say, I thought I could do it and still ended up paying a whopping $75 for a second bag.
They also don’t tell you about how hard on the body one trip that involves a two hour car ride, three and a half hours in one airport, an hour and a half flight, a five hour layover, a seven hour flight, 30 minutes in line for customs, an hour bus ride, and a fifteen minute walk with two 50 lb. bags and two shoulder bags could possibly be. I am still sore and am not sure if it is getting any better.
One last thing they did not tell me was that no matter how you try to put it into words it is almost impossible to describe the feeling of stepping into one of the world’s most beautiful cities knowing you are about to have the time of your life. And that is exactly what makes it all worth it.
February 7, 2012 — First Week
Our first week has been hectic, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. I own an oyster card (public transit reloadable card), and can successfully navigate the tube, or “chube” as I have been instructed to pronounce it. I also walk really fast now. I know the streets of Kensington well enough to get myself to anything I could possibly need, and many places I simply enjoy visiting.
I’ve had so many opportunities to become used to London, and many times where I’ve looked like a tourist. We had a bus tour planned the second day which took us to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, as well as many other places I was reaching for my camera to take pictures of. The school I attend has been fantastic about these trips; there were also opportunities to tour Westminster Abbey in tremendous detail, take a ride on the London Eye and take a Chelsea Football Club stadium tour.
We have also had many things planned for our entertainment; we are supposed to have fun while we’re here aren’t we? We have been offered discounted theatre tickets, a Harry Potter walking tour (for dorks like me) and a Jack the Ripper walking tour. This isn’t to mention all of the evening activities our Resident Directors and Assistants have taken us on, providing us with new places in the city to show us and great ways for all of us STABS (study abroad students) to get to know each other. Among these activities the school rented a boat to sail down the River Thames for four hours on Friday night. This was something I will never forget. We rode past Big Ben, the London Eye, and under the Tower Bridge several times – each one was all lit up for the evening . Talk about some great pictures!
Of course, we are here to study and learn something this semester. Classes started this week, almost right in sync with KWC. As far as I can tell the professors are excellent at combining challenge with interest. I have been intimidated by every syllabus I have received and yet look forward to every class I am taking. Balancing seeing the entire world on the weekends and 15 hours of class Monday through Thursday will be tough, but I am eager for this adventure to really take off.
February 14, 2012
So we have all begun to settle down into a routine. My classes are going really fantastically, and my schedule is even better. No class on Tuesdays and Fridays! I don’t think I could pick my favorite class if I had to. History of London has been great because every Wednesday we visit a different museum or area of town. This has helped me see so many different parts of the city already and there are so many places we are going that I cannot wait for! Tomorrow we are going to the Tower of London to see the crown jewels, and as a silly girl I cannot wait for this.
Sometimes it can be a little difficult getting to all of these places–some of them are an hour away on the tube. I can for sure say I did not expect two hours roundtrip of travel on my expense every week. And trust me, the tube is more expensive than you would think – those trips add up!
My Mainstream Film Studies class is probably the most thought provoking class I have ever taken. Every movie we watch has so many different theories attached to it that I never would have pulled out of my mind, and it is incredibly interesting to hear opinions from kids across the globe, especially when these theories usually concern the United States. My other classes are Photography and Political Communication (which can get a little heated with so many different nationalities in the room).
Along with routine comes repetition. My friends and I are always looking for a new restaurant or pub to try out. There are some great places very close by that are quick, easy choices for dinner or to hang out at for awhile. These places are very convenient, but we are trying to experience new places and things. Our meal plan only covers breakfast and dinner Monday-Friday and we don’t have kitchen facilities, so on the weekends we are forced to eat out somewhere. Finding new places can be hit-or-miss but some of my best meals here have been at places we walked into randomly.
We’ve also visited many museums, in an attempt to become more cultured, including the British National, Museum of London, Museum of London-Docklands, and the Victoria & Albert. We also got swept up into a giant celebration for New Zealand day, where people wore outrageous costumes and rushed to Westminster to see a traditional dance called the haka performed. It was quite humorous watching these people who were dressed so ridiculously fill up one of the most prim and proper areas of London.
This past weekend most of my friends went on a school-sponsored trip to Paris. Seeing as I just visited Paris in August, I opted out of paying the $400 in order to spend it elsewhere. They had a fantastic time, but I am glad I did not go because they saw mainly the same things I saw just a few months ago and apparently it was freezing. London has been pretty cold, but not anywhere near as bad as the rest of Europe.
This left my friend Nick and I to do some exploring of our own over the weekend. We had an eventful Friday night with some other students so our tired selves took it somewhat easy on Saturday and went to Borough Market and outdoor market with vendors that sell almost anything you could imagine. We sampled cheeses and jams and bought two of the most amazing grilled cheese and scallion sandwiches I have ever had. That will definitely be someplace I plan on taking my mom and sister when they visit! After leaving the market we warmed up with tea in a small cafe and called it a day.
Next time … travel plans!
February 24, 2012
I wasn’t lying when I said I was glad I didn’t spend the money on the Paris trip, but I was pretty jealous of all my friends traveling while I stayed at home. So almost immediately, I began booking trips that I had only been talking about up to that point. A few weeks ago a group of ten of us booked a trip to Barcelona over Easter weekend, so I already had some experience with finding what seem like decent, cheap places to stay and forms of travel. I’ll be in Barcelona from April 5-10 over our Easter Break and I cannot wait to be someplace warm and sunny!
My roommate, Lauren, and another friend Kayla and I decided to go to Amsterdam and booked our seats on the Eurostar. We haven’t yet decided where we are going to stay but we have some options in mind. Those tickets are booked for the weekend of February 25.
I also booked a trip to Dublin, Ireland for a few days over Spring Break for my sister, cousin and me. They are coming to visit for the entire week, leaving on St. Patricks Day. Unfortunately since they leave that day from London we couldn’t spend it in Ireland, but I have heard many times that St. Patty’s Day in Dublin is pretty much a tourist trap. Instead, we opted to visit the city from Monday-Wednesday during Spring Break. This way we can see some of the festivities without paying the holiday flight and hostel prices. Now if I can just find someone to go with me to Prague, my goals for the semester will be set!
As great as everything is here, I did start to get a little homesick a few days ago. Even though I’ve lived in Owensboro two hours away from home for the last two-and-a-half years I always managed to make it home at least once a month, even if it was only for a few hours to pick something up. I also spent winter break this year in Arkansas for an internship, so until May I will not have been home for more than a few days since August.
I’m not wishing my time here away, or saying that it isn’t fabulous, but I think it hit me exactly how important my family and friends are. Not being able to call them whenever I want (go-phone problems) is really, really hard. But even with all of that said, one of my precious four months has gone by much faster than I thought it would, and I can’t decide what speed I would like the other three to pass at. I am sure they will go by very fast and I will look back on this wishing it lasted longer.
Right now, it’d be nice to see my old Kentucky home for a few days but I’ve got enough packed into the next few weeks to surely take my mind off of it!!
April 5, 2012 — Amsterdam! (Part 1)
Hello Amsterdam! When my friends and I arrived in this beautiful city we were overwhelmed by the beauty of every single building. I am slowly learning that every city has a completely different feel and appearance, specific to itself.
We took a EuroStar train from London to Amsterdam, with just a short stop in Brussels to change trains. The EuroStar really is a fantastic way to travel, and the train station is directly in the center of Amsterdam, which was a huge plus. We simply had to walk around a huge square to get to our hotel.
When we came out of the station we knew Amsterdam was unlike any city we had ever been to. The first noticeable thing was the beauty of every single building. Each building in that square looks as if it was created as a work of art, with ornate designs along the top and domed roofs. Then the buildings on each street look as if they came off of a Hollywood set. For one, they are all built to slant forward (which we later found out is on purpose). The second thing we noticed was all of the bikes! Bikes are the first form of transportation for most of the people in Amsterdam and let me tell you, those bikes were everywhere! I had never seen so many bicycles in my entire life.
We took off around the edges of the square (a canal makes up the middle of it) and quickly learned the hard way that the trams in Amsterdam are the equivalent to public transportation busses, and they drive right down the middle of the street, or the sidewalk as was the case. Good thing they have horns on them, or my friends and I would be pancakes. When we finally made our way to our hotel we were pretty exhausted, so we settled our stuff in and found a burger restaurant that we had heard phenomenal reviews from, and ate some dinner.
We got a good night’s sleep and woke up early the next morning to do a free walking tour, which was a great way to see parts of the city and hear history that we never would have known. It’s amazing how tolerant Amsterdam is of every kind of person and for how long they have been this way. The locals joke that they are not sure if they are tolerant or if they are good businessmen who don’t want to turn away customers. Either way, Amsterdam today is home to all different types of people and they make up a culture that is incredibly unique.
That night one of my friends and I took a tour of the Red Light District. We figured you had to if you were in Amsterdam! I’m definitely glad we took the tour, as it was eye opening and we learned a lot about the economy and government in the city over time. We also learned that since the city has legalized certain practices, the rates for crime related to those practices has dropped significantly. Amsterdam is actually considered one of the safest cities in Europe.
Next time … more of Amsterdam. And we almost miss our train home.
April 10, 2012 — Amsterdam (Part 2)
We got up early the next day and ventured out on the public transport to see the Van Gogh museum. The museum was incredible, but it did make me realize how much I appreciated his style of painting – the truth is not much. The paintings kind of started to give me a headache. Once we left there we did some more walking around. I feel like the majority of our trip was walking around looking at the architecture. We went into some of the tourist shops, looking for typical souvenirs. That night we went on a cruise of the canals where we got to see some sights we hadn’t seen yet and hear the history behind them. The canals of Amsterdam are truly a wonder within themselves, especially at night when all of the bridges are lit up underneath.
The next day was our final day in the city, so we got up early and were second in line at the Anne Frank House. It was amazing how they brought Anne Frank’s diary to life. Since I read the diary when I was younger I was impressed and moved with how real things seemed for an unfurnished apartment. The museum was not meant to be furnished, but they had models showing how the apartment would have been decorated. Simply being there combined with the museum itself was so moving and I recommend it to anyone traveling into the city.
Our train ride back to London was good until we stopped in Brussels, where we grabbed some dinner between trains. When we headed back to the gate, we saw that we were going to have to go through customs and security before boarding the train. We hadn’t had to do that for a train yet, so we didn’t exactly give ourselves enough time. Sprinting through the train station we ran out onto the platform to see our train hadn’t left yet, and we jumped onto the first car we saw.
Saying prayers of thanks for making the train as it began to move just a minute later, we noticed that we were in car 11 with all of our luggage, but our tickets were for car 2. At this point we didn’t care anymore and left our things on a luggage rack in that car and started the ten-minute trek down the train to our seats.
Once we arrived back in London I was so relieved. I had started to become homesick for London on the trip. My friends had warned me about this from when they had gone on trips, but this was my first one so I hadn’t experienced it yet. I think this was when I realized how much I really love this city!
Next time … family visits!
April 12, 2012 — Family Visits (Part 1)
Things have been really hectic around here lately, starting right before Spring Break. I had many assignments due that I wanted to finish before my sister and cousin came to visit me. I couldn’t have been more excited to see them! But it meant logging a LOT of hours in the library for the week and a half leading up to when they got here. Most of my friends left for different places around Europe on Friday and Saturday, but my sister and cousin weren’t arriving until Sunday morning so I had plenty of free time to finish up last minute things.
On Sunday, I got up bright and early at 6 a.m. and headed to the Tube to make the one-hour ride to Heathrow Airport. I was so anxious the entire ride, wishing it would go by faster. It took the girls a long time to get their bags and get through customs. Their plane landed at 7:40 and I arrived at 8:30, but they didn’t actually come out of the arrivals gate until 9:30.
They were pretty jetlagged but serious about not wanting to go to sleep so I became tour guide Chelsea and walked them all over the city. We walked around my school here, through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, down past Green Park, to Piccadilly Square, Leicester Square, Chinatown and finishing up in Trafalgar Square. Don’t worry, everything is much closer than it sounds like, but they still swear I was trying to kill them!
That day we also went to Afternoon Tea at Harrods. Harrods is such a fabulous place; I’m not sure how many times I’ve been and I know I still haven’t seen everything! After tea we headed back to my teeny tiny dorm to pack for Dublin the next day and print our boarding passes before dinner. We went to have great British roast and play pub quiz for dinner, and I think the girls loved it!
When we got back we finished packing and went straight to bed seeing as we had to get up at 4 a.m. to head to Dublin! The trip there was very long. We had to take an hour bus ride to the airport where we spent some time trying to find our check-in desk. Ryan Air is definitely not the most convenient airline, but then again they do not claim to be. We got to our hostel in Dublin about 1:30 p.m. Fortunately, we had a private room and were able to check in, where we found that we also had our own bathroom – a huge plus! The hostel was a huge bargain with everything we had included and all the help they gave us getting around the city.
While we were there we visited the Dublin castle, the Guinness Storehouse, did a walking tour of the city, where we saw huge sites such as Trinity College, and we saw some great areas of town with the best shops. It was a short trip but we definitely had a fantastic time!
Next time … Mom comes to visit!
April 17, 2012 — Family Visits (Part 2)
When we got back to London I was happy to be playing tour guide again. On Thursday I took the girls to many of the tourist sites they had not seen yet, such as the Tower of London where you can see the crown jewels! We spent that evening in Piccadilly Circus and Chinatown, which both become completely different places at night.
Friday I took them to see a different side of London. Everyone knows about the open air markets in the city but most tourists don’t get out to see them. I think this is so unfortunate, as I would spend every second of my time at these places if I could (and if I had the money!). We started the day off at Portobello Market in Notting Hill. The amount of interesting things sold at the stalls in this area are insane! Once we had our fill of looking through tables of antiques, jewelry, clothes and accessories, we headed to Borough Market near London Bridge for lunch. This market is full of food, some ready to eat and some for taking home to the pantry. I think (and hope!) the girls loved these places as much as I do.
That evening we went to a local pub for fish and chips after doing some last minute gift shopping. We were pretty exhausted and the next morning the girls were coming back to the states so after that we quickly packed and went to bed.
I was very sad to see them go but I couldn’t dwell on it for long as classes were starting back up and I had plenty of homework still to be done. I jumped right back into the swing of things, although it was a little bit easier knowing my Mom was coming to visit pretty soon after! Her trip included mostly the same things, but we did make it out to see Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath on Saturday. This was one of my favorite days of the semester.
Windsor Castle is incredibly cool, and what made it even better was that the Queen was in the building while we were there! Windsor is her favorite royal residence and she spends her weekends there. I wish we had some more time in the town; you could easily spend the entire day there but we were only given two hours before it was back on the bus.
Next we visited Bath, which is also pretty neat. The only downside to that stop was that the museum was really more than I needed to see and took much longer than I would have liked it to. Our final stop of the day was Stonehenge. Stonehenge was breathtaking, but it was freezing out! It was quite cold that day so we didn’t stay long outside. I would’ve liked to see it on a sunny day but I feel pretty blessed to have seen it at all!
These last few weeks have been so hectic that it is time for a much needed break! This weekend ten of my friends and I are headed to Barcelona to spend Easter weekend in the sun. We booked this trip at the beginning of the semester and cannot believe it is already here. When I get back I’ll have plenty of fun stories to tell I’m sure, and I know I’ll have some fantastic pictures!
Next time … Barcelona!
May 9, 2012 — Barcelona!
Barcelona here we come! My friends and I went to Barcelona over Easter weekend. Some of us arrived Thursday afternoon and immediately checked into our hostel. We were pleasantly surprised at how clean it was. We were also met with good and ba d news. The good: teams participating in a local football (soccer) tournament were staying in the same place. The bad: the league was for 12-year-olds. For your information, 12-year-old soccer players have a LOT of energy and are extremely loud. To get away from the noise (and feed our grumbling tummies) we headed to a tapas restaurant right around the corner where we had the best meal of the weekend. Tapas are delicious little appetizers that I cannot get enough of. When we got back we found out that our hostel offered a deal where they had someone take you out that night, so we thought it would be a great way to see good parts of the city and jumped right on that!
The next day the rest of our friends arrived. There ended up being nine of us total. We headed to the beach to find somewhere different to eat dinner. I wanted to eat paella, which is a rice dish with seafood traditionally served in Spain, so we staked out places with it on the menu (for a decent price) along with a variation of other items. That’s what I wanted so I ordered it even with the scary looking heads of some kind of sea creature on top. It was definitely scary, and I was not a huge fan. We played some volleyball on the beach after dinner and then headed back to the hostel to get ready for salsa dancing!
Saturday we went to Las Ramblas which is a huge street leading down to the beach lined with open air markets, stalls filled with all kinds of goodies, and restaurants. Everything was absolutely gorgeous! We also joined a free walking tour of the gothic quarter of the city It was really cool to be right in the heart of so many cool pieces of history–we sat on the steps where Christopher Columbus informed the King and Queen of Spain that he had found the new world! For dinner we went back to the same tapas place we went the first night. Every one of us let our eyes get way bigger than our stomachs; some of my friends ordered four tapas plates to themselves!
On Easter Sunday we went to mass right down the street. It was a Catalonian mass, but most of my friends and I are Catholic so we could still tell what was going on for the most part. That language barrier was something we struggled with the entire trip. We all thought that by going to Spain our high school Spanish would help us get around. Unfortunately the people in Barcelona speak Catalan, not Spanish. Talk about a culture shock. But with it being Easter and most places being closed we spent the day on the beach and walking around checking out the scenery. Definitely not a typical Easter, but one I’ll remember forever.
Monday morning most of my friends went home to London, but four of us stayed another day. We looked at a lot of Gaudi architecture, including La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. Let me tell you, if you’ve never heard of Gaudi you should look up his buildings right now because they are so unique you will never want to take your eyes off of them. I can’t believe how long they have been building La Sagrada Familia and it isn’t even finished yet! The detail is absolutely incredible! I’ve loved his architecture since I first heard about it in high school, and am so glad I got to spend an entire day just marveling at how amazing his work is. That night we went saw some awesome views of the city and then called it a night pretty early.
My last day in Barcelona I spent on the beach. It was kind of cold there, so it wasn’t the summer beach weather I was expecting but it was perfect to just be there reading in the sun. I loved Barcelona, but getting so close to the end of the semester I was definitely ready to get back to London and spend as much time seeing as much more of the city as possible!
Next time … last post from London!
May 11, 2012 — The End
So we are getting down to our last days here in London and it is getting mighty depressing. I’ve been super busy with the end of classes, preparing for finals and the last things I wanted to do before I leave. I absolutely cannot wait to get home and see my family, my best friends, and especially my Kappa Deltas, but at the same time I don’t want to leave here.
My final to-do list for London included some strange things. I needed to go to my favorite markets again. I needed to do some souvenir shopping for my family that I had been putting off all semester, mostly because of lack of space in my dorm room. The Olympic Parks are on the list, even though I can’t actually go in them anymore. There were some different areas of town that I’d been told to visit. I need to go to Abbey Road and take a picture like the Beatles album cover. And lastly, I wanted to see the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens (right by me!), because I saw it in a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie. I’m a total ‘90s girl, you don’t have to tell me twice.
With just a few days left in this wonderful city I have hit most of my stops. The Peter Pan statue was great for a picture, and so were the Olympic Parks. We were pretty upset that we couldn’t get very close to the buildings; they have stuff going on each day that you are required to purchase a ticket for so we could only get pictures from far away. On the bright side there was a fantastic mall really close, so we did some last minute shopping. Well, more like my friends did some shopping and I watched. The budget is getting extremely tight!
I finally finished my souvenir shopping on Saturday morning with one final trip to Portobello Market, one of my absolute favorite places. My friends and I are going to Abbey Road early Thursday morning. We didn’t mean to put it off this far, but it had some construction and we wanted to get the picture exactly right going across the “zebra crossing” or the white striped pedestrian walkway.
As an added plus, I got to see Matt Lauer shooting parts of the Today show at Kensington Palace! I was raised watching the Today show every morning and absolutely love Matt! I was so excited I couldn’t stop giggling and looked like a complete dork. I didn’t get a chance to get a real picture of him and me because he was in a hurry to catch a flight, but he did talk to me (specifically!) three times! My mom also caught a glimpse of me in the background of that day’s show. As much as I love the Today show, that was a great thing to experience on one of my last days here!
Tonight I’ve done my laundry to get ready for packing. I pulled the suitcases down for the first time since I stuck them on top of my closet. As we get closer to leaving, I get more upset and more excited. We have all become known to start crying at random times for seemingly no reason. It’s unreal that I wake up every morning knowing exactly how many days until I get home without even having to think about it. It’s going to be different not living in such a busy, beautiful city. I’m definitely going to miss the public transport. It’s so easy and convenient!
But what is going to be harder is leaving all the amazing people I’ve gotten so close to over the past four months. I expected to make friends here, close friends even. I did not expect to become so close to these people that I can’t imagine not knowing the next time I’ll see them. They don’t tell you how hard that will be. So while I am counting down the days to seeing everyone back in good ol’ Kentucky, I am also miserable that I won’t be seeing the people in London anymore.
With all of that said, there are things I can’t wait for! I can’t wait to hold my baby niece, for good cooking, for the dollar instead of the pound, and to drive with the windows down. It’s going to be a hard long day, but Friday morning cannot come fast enough for this girl!