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29

Mar

London with Mom

I’m writing this on the plane from Heathrow back to San Francisco, but it won’t be posted until I land. The last two weeks have been a lot: finals, goodbyes, and spring break in England. And now back to Stanford.

I spent some of my last few days at Oxford finishing up a paper comparing several sovereign wealth funds from Alaska, Norway, and Singapore. I of course wished I had written it earlier so I could have enjoyed those days more, but I sort of knew it would happen that way. Then on Monday the 18th, my mom arrived in Oxford. It was a little bit hectic because I wanted to take her around, but I also had to pack all my things up and go on various goodbye escapades. They were fun/good/sad.image

Last walk around Brasenose

On Tuesday we took the bus into London to stay with some friends of my mom for a few days. Here’s what we did:

Wednesday 3/21 to Friday 3/22: London

  1. Went to the site of the water pump that John Snow traced a big cholera epidemic back to in 1854
  2. Saw some pieces of the Parthenon at the British Museumimage
  3. Explored Brompton Cemetery (an old Victorian graveyard in Chelsea near where we were staying. Beatrix Potter took the names of her characters from gravestones here, John Snow was buried here, and part of Sherlock Holmes was filmed here). It was super spooky.image

  4. Went to M&Ms world and made a custom mix of the prettiest colors (purple, pink, and turquoise—duh)image
  5. Took a city bus tour and FROZE sitting in the open top area (same happened on a Thames cruise tour)image

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  6. Watched the musical Matilda and loved it
  7. Went to Harrods, where I got balsamic jelly to put on olive bread (SO GOOD, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to explode in my suitcase).
  8. Met up with Franz and explored Soho at night.

Saturday 3/23 to Sunday 3/24: roadtrip to Bath and Bristol

  1. It snowed for the first half of Saturday. Not what spring break is supposed ot be.
  2. We took a little detour to go by Stonehenge, but were too cold to spend long there.image
  3. Saw a series of 29 hillside locks in the little town of Rowde along the way. The town is 237 feet up on a hilltop, so this was how boats used to go up the river to get to it and bring supplies.image

  4. Watched The 39 Steps in the Royal Bath Theatre. It was funny-ish.
  5. Explored the little town of Bradford-on-Avon and then moved on to explore the bigger town of Bath. (This picture is Bradford-on-Avon)image
  6. Toured the ancient Roman baths in Bath. Drank some yucky mineral water from the hot spring underneath it.image

  7. Ate dinner in Bristol and drove over the Clifton Suspension Bridge, 

Monday 3/25 to Thursday 3/26: London again

  1. Drove out to Hampton Court (Henry the VIII’s palace) and toured his apartments, the kitchens, the apartments of William and Mary, and the gardens (including a tricky garden maze). They had people in costume playing the part of courtiers, and we were granted an audience with a fake King Henry VIII.image

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  2. Wandered the Tate Modern. I particularly liked the area on abstract photography from Latin America and the entire surrealism gallery.
  3. Went to the National Portrait Gallery and saw the new portrait of Kate Middleton. Returned a few days later as well and went through the 1960s-90s area (lots of Andy Warhol) and the Elizabethan area.image

  4. Toured the Tower of London and saw the Crown Jewels/learned about torture and the prisoners.
  5. Watched Les Miserables for the first time (the stage musical, not the movie).
  6. Met up with Kyle and toured the Globe Theatre and ate pies in the National Theatre (appropriate, since he’s an actor).
  7. Saw One Man, Two Guvnors. We weren’t sure what to expect when we spontaneously bought these tickets, but it was HILARIOUS. The lead actor is a standup comic and did these hysterical routines involving both actual audience members and audience plants. I laughed so hard it hurt.
  8. Took a train to Island Gardens, where we walked through a tunnel under the Thames to get to Greenwich to see the Prime Meridian.image

Michael took me to the airport this morning and now I’m two hours out of LA, flying over Montana as I type. It will be so weird to be back in the US, but I’m excited to see all my friends at school.

15

Mar

London: Westminster, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace (black and white to disguise the gray day)

9th Week Excitement

Just clarifying: it’s the ninth week of the Oxford term, but I’ve been here for longer than that.

Tuesday was an interesting day. I would say it really started when I was near Cornmarket Street around noon and started to feel very unwell. I was trying to get food and ibuprofen, but collapsed on the sidewalk before I could get either. A bunch of concerned passers-by tried to help out and someone called an ambulance (I told them I didn’t need one, but no one wanted to just leave me there, and my nearest friend was still about 10 minutes away). The paramedics came and gave me some painkillers and then just drove me home because I told them I didn’t need to go to the hospital. Right before they dropped me off, I started feeling better and just casually walked out of the ambulance and into Stanford House. I was teased a bit for using “Sophie’s taxi service,” but at least my first ambulance ride was pretty uneventful as far as emergency services are concerned.

Later that afternoon, I went to the Turf Tavern for my final Public Policy class. Why can’t final classes at Stanford be held in pubs? Admittedly, there was little talk of academics, but I did get my final paper topic approved (sovereign wealth funds). Afterward, we headed back to Stanford House to get ready for our goodbye dinner at Big Bang, a restaurant that almost exclusively serves bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes).

The next day, nothing much happened because I felt sick. Yuck.

On Thursday, I met up with Millie from back home for some tea. She’s a few years older than me, but we went to all the same schools in Anchorage and I think she was my teacher aide one year in Sunday School. She’s doing graduate work here in Latin American Studies, and it was nice to chat.

And today was the day I had pestered Michael for all term: London! The first time I was there, I hadn’t been able to get into Westminster Abbey, so having him take me was my super-clever strategy to get in—he went to high school next door to it. So instead of paying to get in the front entrance, we got visitor stickers from his school and went in the back way. Hehehe. I saw the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I and the crowns and accessories used for coronations!

After that, we went to the Café in the Crypt under St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square. I had a delicious British cheese salad (I was finally brave enough to try blue stilton). From there, we walked across the street to see the National Gallery. Highlights: Sunflowers by Van Gogh, The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger, and Da Vinci’s Burlington House Cartoon. Our last stop was for some cider at the Lamb & Flag, a historic pub once known as “The Bucket of Blood” for the prize fights it held. We left there and wandered around Covent Garden, passed by Buckingham Palace, and took the bus back to Oxford. A very good day!

11

Mar

End of Hilary Term :(

Last week was the final week of the Oxford term (theirs is eight weeks, not ten). Since everyone was finishing up classes and getting ready for vacation, the place was pretty lively. On Tuesday, a bunch of us got tickets to Itchy Feet, a “vintage dance night” with lots of old rock n roll songs. It was pretty different from other nights out and a lot of fun.

The next afternoon, I finally went to an Evensong. Julia, Agatha, and I all went to a special afternoon Evensong at Magdalen that was broadcast on BBC Radio 3. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01r1027/Choral_Evensong_Magdalen_College_Oxford/ - program starts at 2:40, more info at 6:30, and the singing starts at 9:40) My friend Robin is a choral scholar at Magdalen, so it was nice to see him sing. There were also a ton of adorable little boys singing, but the cutest one was so little that he never sang and we could only see the top of his eyes peering out over the railing. We died.

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Agatha and I in the Magdalen chapel at Evensong

On Thursday night, we went to formal hall with a group of guys at Merton College as a quasi-crew date. It was fun and nice to see formal hall at another college beside Brasenose and Magdalen. The food was better!

Friday night was very busy. I went to my last formal hall at Brasenose and then there was both the Brasenose bop and the Magdalen bop to contend with (bops are special themed parties). I ended up spending most of my time at the Magdalen bop, which was themed “my secret alter ego.” I had a zebra mask, so that’s what I went as of course. Afterward, a lot of Oxford people came over to Stanford House for some goodbyes.

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My last formal hall at Brasenose

On Saturday morning, I went on a long walk with the Stanford House staff and some other students to see the Treacle Well at St. Margaret’s Church in Binsey (apparently what the treacle well from Alice in Wonderland was based on). We had lunch at The Perch, a pub that was not very pub-by. The menu was all in French, and the goat cheese salad I ordered, was, in classic British fashion, actually just a slab of fried goat cheese with some leaves placed on top. It was really good though. Afterward, we headed back and some of us stopped for tea and scones when we got back to Oxford. I’m embarrassed to say that was my first time going for tea here. Six exhausting hours later, we finally made it back to Stanford House.

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We walked along a canal lined with houseboats

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Ponies grazing on Port Meadow, a large area of common land

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Rowers on the Thames

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The Anglican parish church of St. Margaret’s

Tea with Hilary

That evening, one girl in Stanford House organized a pub crawl for us to explore some of Oxford’s more historical/unusual pubs. I didn’t stay for the whole time, but I did make sure to see the Eagle and Child, the pub frequented by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien back in the day. I also went to one called Far From the Madding Crowd that was full of a bunch of bagpiping hipsters. A very different place.

Now it’s a lot less exciting here because all the students are gone. It feels empty and the weather has gotten worse—it even snowed today. I’m desperately hoping it will warm up within the next week so that I can go punting at least once!

04

Mar

Port and Policy

I’m only taking my tutorial for six units, so I have to write seven instead of eight essays. Because of that, I turned in my last tutorial essay (“Should the UK leave the EU?”) last week and had my last tutorial today, with only an outline due. I had a brief moment of feeling relaxed and then remembered all the other things I still need to do (apps, interviews, IR journal, laundry, etc.).

While I was in Berlin, I skyped Julia a lot because we were planning a joint 21st birthday party in Oxford. Yes, I already had a party in Edinburgh, but I wanted to throw something that my Oxford friends could come to. On Wednesday, we threw a huge party in Stanford House and it was a ton of fun.

On Friday, I met up with Julia in London for a bit of exploration and dinner. Julia had heard about this really cool hidden restaurant in Chinatown, but the man guarding the unmarked door told us it was already all booked. He directed us to another main just down the street, and that guy said that his hidden restaurant had room for us. We walked in another unmarked door and were led up several flights of stairs into a small bar/restaurant, where we ordered some dim sum and hung out. It was a good experience and definitely reminded me of the secret bars in Buenos Aires.

Last night, I went to Port and Policy for the first time. It’s a weekly event put on by the Oxford Conservative Association where three motions are debated and attendees drink port (surprise!). I hate port, but I’d heard enough about it that I definitely wanted to go. Since it was the final one of the term, some people were dressed in white tie, but everyone else was just in black tie. Thank god I’m a girl and can skate by with putting on a not-so-dressy dress.

I arrived in the middle of a debate on something about the UKIP and Conservative parties. All the guys I was with told me that you’re required to give a speech at your first Port and Policy, a “maiden speech.” I believed them. The next debate was on whether politicians are entitled to a private life (this comes in the wake of the Chris Huhne scandal), but I wasn’t called on to speak. And then the third one was on the divine right of kings. I was told opposing this as an American would lead to lots of booing and the throwing of objects, so I went up and gave a brief (and obviously heartfelt) apology for American insubordination during the War of Independence. For those who could hear what I was saying, I think it was well received.

Later, I was mingling at the back of the room when a guy came up to me and mentioned something about another guy calling me a communist. Confused, I turned to the front of the room and noticed the current speaker pointing his finger at me and yelling “American communist!” I don’t think anyone really knew what the context was, but his speech was apparently pretty unpopular, and he was picked up by several men and dumped outside. This was exactly what I had hoped to have the chance to see! We chatted later and he said that people misconstrued what he was saying. It was hilarious. As you can probably tell, there was quite a spectrum of how seriously people were taking the event.

das deutsche Wochenende (I think that means “The German Weekend”)

Last weekend (I guess now two weekends ago), I went to Berlin to visit Aunt Allison and see her beautiful new apartment. The first night there, we saw a show called Swan Lake Reloaded: Tchaikovsky meets Streetdance. As it probably sounds, it was very different from the ballet, but I really liked it. We also went to a housewarming for some of Aunt Allison’s friends, played blacklight mini golf, saw Lincoln, ate käsespätzle at a restaurant overlooking the Spree, and went to the DDR Museum. The DDR Museum was super hands-on and showed all these aspects of daily life in East Germany before the wall came down.

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Dinner with Aunt Allison

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Sitting in a car at the DDR Museum

Berlin was freezing! Apparently cold winds come down from Siberia and hit the city. I think I frostbit my toes, but that was my fault for wearing little shoes/not bringing wool socks. We dealt with the cold with frequent cafe stops for chai lattes. Mmmmm.

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Of course, one of my favorite parts of Berlin is the food, and I’m not referring to spätzle. I’m talking about smoked tofu and sunflower spread! I bought a ton to take back to Oxford, but it’s gone as of yesterday. I really need to try harder to find this stuff in Oxford.

I flew back Tuesday morning, but had a class to prepare for that afternoon. Thankfully, I was really, really productive on the plane and bus, and even worked ahead. The highway to get back to Oxford was closed because of an accident and we had to take a longer route back, but I ended up making it back just in time for my class.

22

Feb

Off to Berlin!

This week I went to two formal halls in a row—Brasenose on Tuesday and Magdalen on Wednesday. It was my first time at Magdalen formal hall and I went with a big group of Oxford students. Their hall is darker and more imposing (more Oxford-y) and the food presentation was better, but I like Brasenose food better. It was a good experience.

Yesterday I cooked steak for the first time in my life. I had eight tabs open on my computer with different instructions and no idea what I was doing, but it somehow turned out alright. Hopefully it was actually beef steak and not a part of the growing horsemeat scandal here.

I’m sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to Berlin right now. Some elderly couple just walked up to me laughing and said, “wow, that’s an orange apple,” pointing out the fact that my orange computer case makes the apple on the back of my laptop glow…………orange. Surprise! I tried to appear amused and laugh, but I think it mostly came off as bewildered.

18

Feb

A weekend in Scotland

This last week was quite stressful, as I had a ten-page term paper due for my public policy class the night before my tutorial paper was due. There was a lot of library time, researching, and writing, and not much sleep. At least it was interesting to me, since I got to write a comparison of foreign trade policy between Chile and Argentina.

Very early Friday morning, all of the Stanford students got on a bus and we headed off to the airport for a three-day trip to Scotland. I of course brought my empty camera case, so I’ve stolen photos from Yassamin, Hilary, and Anne Marie for this post (thanks, guys!). We stayed the first two days in Edinburgh, where we wandered around the old town, touring the castle and palace and a few other places. The first night, we had a huge welcome dinner in a nearby tavern. I chose the most traditional Scottish foods for my courses, starting off with haggis and finishing with cranachan (an oatmeal desert).

Edinburgh Castle

so clever with my invisible hand

Saturday was my 21st birthday. I had been up late the night before finishing up an internship application, so I was super tired for our tour of the Palace of Holyroodhouse early in the morning. It was really pretty, but I was sort of bored until I discovered the “family room.” I spent most of the rest of the time there coloring and playing dress up in the kid’s area. Some things never change.

Outside Holyroodhouse. Note the coloring pages in my hand.

Afterward, I went off with my roommate to a nearby costume shop where we bought a bunch of ridiculous animal masks for people to wear at my birthday party that night (we had clearly decided to go the ridiculous route). Two doors down, we found an adorable little cheese shop and ended up buying various cheeses, bread, and hot pumpkin chutney for a delicious lunch. After that, I slept the rest of the day.

Yum.

I woke up in the evening and came up with some very last-minute birthday dinner plans. There was an Indian restaurant on the same block as our hotel that had a back room with a huge table that 16 of us could sit at. It was a crewdate-style dinner. After that, we went back to the hotel to change into our ridiculous outfits and head out to a pub to celebrate.

Early the next morning, we were back on our bus for a few hours to drive into the Scottish highlands and visit Loch Lomond. It was a pretty lake, but there wasn’t really anything there to do. An hour later, we were back on the bus and headed to the Riverside Museum in Glasgow, a really pretty museum about transportation. We spent two hours there and rode on the bus through downtown Glasgow and drove back to the Edinburgh airport. It was a lot of driving with not much reward, but the overall trip was really nice.

Loch Lomond

The Riverside Museum

10

Feb

Wandering Oxford, part 2

Wandering Oxford, part 1