Penny Lane

“Penny Lane” – Magical Mystery Tour

Ladies and Gentlemen… The Beatles!

If you haven’t caught on to the Beatles references littered across my blog, I’m obsessed with the Beatles. I have been since I was about 8 years old. I know every song. I own the entire discography on vinyl and CD. I have books, clothes, playing cards, even a Beatles Monopoly game. I went to a Paul McCartney concert at Fenway Park for the 16th birthday. In 2016 Paul played his first concert in Arkansas, and my upper bowl seats got randomly upgraded to front row seats. Maybe obsessed is an understatement.

Last month I got to visit the city where the band got its start, Liverpool, England. On April 2, I hopped on a 6 hour bus from London to Liverpool. I had pulled an all nighter the night before to turn in a final paper for one of my classes, so I was looking forward to napping the entire drive. I listened to The Beatles all the way there (of course). We arrived in Liverpool around 6 PM, checked into our hostel, and went to explore the city. First we visited the Beatles statue at Pier Head. It was raining but the pics were still super cute. Then we went to the city center to see The Cavern Club. Even though the current club isn’t the original club that the Beatles played in during the early 60s (the original was demolished during construction of an underground rail loop), it was still very cool to see what the club would’ve looked like during that time. There was even a guy playing live covers of Beatles songs! I had to sing along.

The next day, I visited the Beatles Experience, a museum dedicated to the Fab Four. My friend who was traveling with me asked if I learned anything new from the museum, can anyone guess the answer? (I didn’t. I already knew all the facts presented in the museum) We visited Strawberry Fields, the Salvation Army children’s home located near John Lennon’s childhood home, and Penny Lane, the road that inspired the song. The city was full of small Beatle-y sights too, like graffiti and murals inspired by the band.

We also visited several non-Beatle related places, including the Tate Liverpool gallery and the Museum of Liverpool. We walked around some of the stores in the city center late that afternoon. We needed to waste time before our overnight bus back to a London left, so we ended our day by watching Black Panther at the Liverpool Odeon. Our bus back to London left Liverpool at 11:45. My phone died 10 minutes into the journey back, and unfortunately the plug ins on the bus didn’t work, so I enjoyed 6 hours of being unplugged from my technology (enjoyed being used loosely here, I was kinda annoyed at first, but then I realized it was actually not that bad, I felt much more inconvenienced than I really was).

Overall it was an amazing trip! I loved getting to see all of the awesome places related to my favorite band ever! I think the trip just reinforced my obsession over any and everything Beatle related.

-Kenz

P.S.

This blog is very late. Very, very late. I began writing it less than a week after I visited Liverpool. I then got super busy writing two of my final essays for class and put the blog off. Then my big 10 day, 4 country marathon trip came and I didn’t have time to work on finishing writing this while traveling on that marathon trip. I’ve also been working on packing up my stuff and cleaning out my dorm room, which has also set my blog behind schedule. Now I’m finishing it from my hostel in Rome. But alas it is here, finished. Better late than never! The next few blogs about the previously mentioned marathon trip will be coming as soon as possible! They might be a little shorter because I want to write a separate blog for each country, but they will be coming! Stay tuned!

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Revolution

“Revolution” – Past Masters, Volume Two

More like ‘American Revolution’, amirite?

HAMILTON.

Anyone every heard of it? If you haven’t you might be living under a rock because it’s huge. I mean, this thing is internationally acclaimed people. I’m obsessed. Hamilton: An American Musical is a Broadway musical about the life of American founding father, Alexander Hamilton. It is largely hip-hop and rap based music and its fantastic. If you’ve never heard it/seen it you probably think that it sounds crazy. And it is crazy… crazy good. (Go look it up if you’ve never listened and then come back and finish reading this blog.) I’ve been listening to the soundtrack since late 2015. The stage show is notorious for being consistently sold-out everywhere, including the Broadway, Chicago, West End, and American Tour productions. Tickets have to be bought months ahead of time, and they’re often SUPER expensive, I’m talking hundreds of dollars per ticket every single night even though the show is going on three years old. I figured I would never get the chance to see a live production of Hamilton.  [because I definitely haven’t seen any bootleg recordings of the show..(😉) ]

Then I got to London and for a laugh I decided to check and see if any Hamilton tickets were available at a reasonable price. It took a while of searching but I finally found a ticket in the royal circle balcony (the first balcony) and get this, it was only £35!!!! Thats only like $50. That is ridiculously cheap for a Hamilton ticket! (Y’all I’m not joking when I say these suckers often sell for upwards of £200 [and even higher in the US] because of how popular this show is.) I had to buy two of these £35 tickets and decided that I would try to sell the second ticket to someone at Roehampton closer to the show because I was sure I’d be able to find another Hamilton fan. I bought these tickets on February 2. The show I was set to see wasn’t until May 16. I was pumped. Like I started jumping up and down and blasting the Hamilton soundtrack as soon as I clicked “Buy” on the TicketmasterUK website. This was going to be one of the highlights of my study abroad trip for sure.

My return ticket to the USA was bought for May 22, about a week after the date for my Hamilton tickets. I made sure I had plenty of time to see the show before I left. WELL… My dad called me last Wednesday with good news and bad news. The good news was, there is a pretty good chance that I might get a job this summer that I’ve been shooting for for a few years. The bad news is, I will have to leave London before May 14 in case I do get this job.

Now, if we’re all keeping up with this story, May 14 is two days before the date of my Hamilton tickets. I was CRUSHED. I’ve been building this show up in my mind for years and now I was going to have to give up my chance to see it. I admit, I cried. I felt super selfish for crying too, I didn’t want my parents to think that I didn’t want to come home (because I’m definitely not against going home a few weeks early tbh). And I didn’t want to be like some whiney, spoiled brat who throws a tantrum because she doesn’t get her way. Like, I’m in London. I’m traveling to different countries in Europe. I am completely and totally aware that I am most definitely not deprived. Which made me feel even more selfish. But thats not why I was crying, I wasn’t trying to like, guilt my parents into letting me stay in London for this show. I understood that I would have to what I have to do in case I got hired, this isn’t a job I should just give up on for one West End musical. But it was an involuntary reaction. I didn’t even realize I was crying at first, I was just super disappointed because of the years of expectations I had built up for this show. (I wasn’t exaggerating in the first paragraph when I said I was obsessed.)

After the initial shock, I went to the Ticketmaster website to see if I could get money back for my tickets. The tickets for Hamilton West End are all electronic as a way for the company to try and combat scalpers, which means that Ticketmaster buys tickets back because you can’t sell them to other people. This was good for me because I don’t have to go through the process of trying to sell my tickets to someone else,  I just have to wait for customer service to see grant me my refund. I also decided to see if there were any other tickets available before May 14. Searching for another ticket was going to be difficult because A.) tickets are less and less available as the date of the show gets closer and B.) I already have other trips to various cities paid for that I would have to plan around. I didn’t have much hope for being able to find another ticket. I searched dates backwards, I started looking for available tickets in May, then April, then March. May: sold out. April: I found two open dates, but tickets were £200 each. March: sold out at the end of the month, then a few open shows before that but super expensive, AND THEN.

AND THEN GUESS.

GUESS WHAT I FOUND.

ONE TICKET. IN THE ROYAL CIRCLE. FOR A SUPER REASONABLE PRICE.

FOR THE NEXT DAY.

THE VERY. NEXT. DAY.

It was a ticket for the Thursday matinee performance, and although I would have to skip class to make it to the theatre on time, I decided it was worth it. My parents told me to buy more tickets if I could find some. So I bought the ticket!!!

On Thursday morning I didn’t go to my class. I left super early because there was no way I was going to be late to this show. I ended up at the theatre 45 minutes before the doors opened. I was freaking out. I finally got inside the theatre and sat down. My seat was incredible. I was in the fifth row of the Royal Circle balcony, almost in the middle. When the music started, it took everything in my power not to jump out of my seat and start singing along. I could see every inch of the stage and the face of every actor that came out. The set was amazing. The lighting, choreography, costumes, all incredible. The music, I had already memorized from the cast recording so I was lip syncing along to the show, but it still blew my mind. I was afraid that I would be comparing everything (especially the singing) to the Original Broadway Cast, because of how familiar I was with listening to the voices of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Anthony Ramos, Christopher Jackson, Leslie Odom Jr., etc., etc. (obsessed.), but even the cast was spectacular. Jamael Westman, who played Alexander Hamilton, had some big shoes to fill, but he was wonderful. All of the King George songs, which poke fun of the monarch and the British Empire during and after the American Revolutionary War, seemed even more funny than usual (considering the British actor, British theatre, and majority British audience). The entire show was flawless from beginning to end. I even cried when one character died, even though I completely knew what was about to happen, it was that good. Hamilton won 11 Tony Awards, and the West End production is currently nominated for 13 Laurence Olivier Awards; it is most certainly not overstated, it deserves every single one of those awards/nominations.

So all in all three really cool things came out of something that initially made me really upset:

  1. I still got to see Hamilton. I’m still freaking out. I could go on and on and on about this show for hours.
  2. I might get a really good job.
  3. I get to go home earlier! I get to see my family and my dog and my friends about two weeks sooner than I thought I would!!!!

I just had to get those initial reactions out of the way before I could spin zone the situation.

Anyways, ttyl, and everyone go listen to the Hamilton soundtrack, bye!!!

-Kenz

 

 

The Long and Winding Road

“The Long and Winding Road” – Let It Be

Traffic Jams

The “Beast from the East” hit last week. London got hit with a few inches of snow. I thought that I was going to miss out on winter weather, so I’m glad that I got to experience it for a few days.

Last weekend, I went on a trip to Amsterdam and Bruges. The winter weather that hit the UK also affected the weekend trip. We left London early on Friday morning. I had to leave campus at 6 am to meet a larger group at Waterloo Station. I had an essay due the same Friday which I had to submit online before leaving, and I ended up staying up all night to finish the paper and finish packing for the trip. We got on a coach bus at Waterloo Station and drove to Dover. Once we were in Dover, we had to wait about an hour to get on the ferry that would take us to Calais, France. This was the first instance where the weather impacted our travel plans. The snow storms hitting Europe were causing the Channel waters to be really rough. Once we got on the ferry, I understood why we had to wait; the boat ride was not exactly the highlight of the journey. At first I thought that the boat wouldn’t be that bad, but the ship started rocking back and forth the instant we left the dock. I had to put my head on a table and sleep the whole 90 minutes so that I didn’t get sick. I was really wishing that I had Dramamine.

We FINALLY made it to Calais. We got back on the bus and headed toward Amsterdam. At this point it was close to 2 PM. We were supposed to reach Amsterdam around 6 or 7 that evening, and the rest of the night was initially set aside for us to explore the city. Unfortunately, the weather interfered again. It started snowing once we drove into Belgium. At first I didn’t think anything of it. It was very, very light snow, and it didn’t seem like it was settling on the roads. But then traffic started to slow down.  Belgian drivers apparently have something in common with drivers in the South; they totally freak out when the slightest winter weather hits the streets. We ended up driving through these traffic jams in Belgium for almost seven hours. At one point, we had to stop at a very sketchy roadside diner for 45 minutes because our coach driver was about to hit his legal driving limit. Then we kept driving for a couple more hours. It took forever. We didn’t arrive in Amsterdam until about 11 PM. Although I napped a bit on the bus, I hadn’t really slept for almost two days, so while some people decided to go out into the city that late, I decided to sleep.

We left at 8:30 the next morning to head into the center of the city. I had bought tickets to visit the Anne Frank House and several of my friends joined me. I have read the Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank in school, so it was pretty fascinating to visit the actual house that the Frank family hid in. At one point of the tour, you walk from the business area of the building to the secret annex section by walking through the door behind the hidden bookcase. It was kind of eerie to enter this section of the house, I felt like I was intruding. The house felt haunted, not in like a creepy, scary movie type of way, but in more of a sad, “I know the fate of the people who lived here and their memory is lingering here” type of way.

Later in the day, the tour group we traveled with went to Edam and Volendam, two smaller towns about half an hour from Amsterdam. They were so cute! There were small Dutch shops and cafes everywhere. The canals in Edam were frozen over and it seemed like the entire population of the town decided to go ice skating that afternoon. Volendam had fishing boats all around the harbor, but that body of water was also starting to freeze over around the bank (y’all, it was COLD). We made the drive back to Amsterdam in the late afternoon, and while I was dying to get off of the coach the night before, I was thankful for the warmth it provided this day (I can not emphasize how cold I was guys).

Back in Amsterdam, me and three of my friends decided to go to the Van Gogh Museum. I’ve recently watched Doctor Who, and an episode in fifth season of the new series centered around Van Gogh. Since watching that episode, I’ve been more interested in Vincent van Gogh than I would’ve been in years past. The museum was fascinating, and while I didn’t see The Starry Night (because its in the Museum of Modern Art in NY), there were hundreds of Van Gogh’s works. If I had a “McKenzie’s Recommended Must See” list, this museum would be on it.

The rest of the evening was spent exploring the city. One of the girls I’m friends with here at Roehampton also went on the trip, and we got to go see the building where her great-great-grandparents used to live. While the city as a whole was wonderful, the weather was not, and by the end of the night I was very ready to defrost in the hotel.

The next day, we got back on the coach and headed to Bruges, a medieval city in Belgium.  So far Bruges is my favorite place that I have been in Europe. It was beautiful! I ate a Belgian waffle in Belgium, and it was DELICIOUS. Literally the best waffle I’ve ever eaten. I got whipped cream and milk chocolate as my toppings, but the waffle was so good I could’ve eaten in by itself. Y’all, SO GOOD. I also bought Belgian chocolate from one of the many, many chocolate shops in the city. Also, SO GOOD. It started raining while we were sightseeing in Bruges, but it was no where near as cold as it was in Amsterdam the day before, so it barely bothered me. Overall a near perfect day in one of the cutest little cities I’ve ever visited. If I ever come back to Europe in the future, I will be going to Bruges again.

After visiting Bruges, we got back on the coach and took the much shorter, uninterrupted (by weather) drive back to Calais. We got back on the ferry, which was so much smoother the second time around, and arrived back in Dover. We drove back to London and headed to Roehampton. Although I probably ended up spending half of the weekend stuck on the highway in a coach, I had an amazing time!!!

The next couple of weeks will probably be my most stressful here at Roehampton. While the classes here don’t hold a candle to Hendrix, all of my major assessments (essays) are due within three weeks of each other. While I have plans to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with friends, I don’t have any trips planned until after all of my class work is due. But that gives me something super fun to look forward to in April: Spring Break!

-Kenz

Michelle

“Michelle” – Rubber Soul

I can’t speak French.

I took Spanish in high school/college so that’s really the only foreign language I’ve been exposed to. The only French phrases I knew before hopping on the train to Paris were, “Bonjour,” “Merci,” and “Michelle, ma belle, sont les mots qui vont très bien ensemble.” (That last one is Beatles lyrics, of course.) The Brits speak English, I speak English, everyone at home speaks English. I had never been thrown into a new place where I didn’t understand 99% of the things I was hearing or reading, so that was definitely an experience!

I left for Paris in the late afternoon on Valentine’s Day, and because we rode the Eurostar train rather than a 9 hour bus, it was still the 14th when we made it to the City of Love. The train ride only took about 3 hours, and it was a weird feeling knowing that about half an hour of that journey was spent underneath the English Channel.

Once we got into Paris, we found our hostel and grabbed food. At the small diner, the group I traveled with obviously stood out as being tourists, so one of the French customers started to ask us where all we were going to go while in Paris. We told him that our main stops were going to be the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and that we didn’t really plan out much after that. He was shocked that we hadn’t named off more culturally significant places to visit and started naming off churches, streets, neighborhoods, and restaurants that we needed to see. (We were only in Paris for 2 full days + travel days, so we didn’t actually end up going to any of these places, although I’m sure we would’ve checked them out if we had been there for an extended amount of time.)

After eating, we decided to go see the Eiffel Tower at night. It was awesome. Its lit after dark, but for a few minutes at the top of each hour it gets ~extra lit~ and a flickering light show goes off. We took a bus to the Tower, arrived at the top of the hour, and got to see the light show. We walked around the perimeter of the base (while being badgered by people trying to sell us various Eiffel Tower themed touristy items) and took pictures along the way. Of course I had to get a good pic for the gram, I couldn’t be in Paris on Valentine’s Day and not take up the opportunity for an Insta caption making fun of how single I am. 🙃

The next day, we navigated the subway and ate crepes for breakfast in an adorable cafe before visiting the Louvre. The Louvre was MASSIVE. We were there for two and a half hours and we barely scratched the surface of things to see. When we attempted to find new areas to explore, we often ended up walking around in circles. Every room was different and though there were amazing pieces of artwork around every corner, some of my favorite parts of the entire museum were the incredible ceilings. We did manage to see the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa although there were huge crowds gathered around both. On our way out, we bought macarons at a small pastry place inside the museum. I bought two cheesecake and five chocolate and wow were they DELICIOUS.

 

After the Louvre, we decided to return to the Eiffel Tower. Although it was rainy and overcast, it was only 4 PM, so we had a chance to see the Eiffel Tower in the little daylight that was peeking through the clouds. We also bought tickets to go up the tower and visit the observation decks. The views of Paris from that height were amazing. If I go back to Paris, this is something that I would definitely pay to do again.

 

Friday was my favorite day in France. I went to Disneyland Paris with one of the girls from the group I travelled with. Having been to Walt Disney World seven times with my family, I was excited to finally visit another Disney park! Our unofficial family theme song is “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” from Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress in Magic Kingdom (which is my mom’s favorite attraction), and this was the song that was playing at the entrance to the park when I arrived! It was Disney Magic!✨ Walking through the turnstile into the park almost felt like being home. While Disneyland Paris isn’t exactly like Magic Kingdom in WDW, everything still felt super familiar. Main Street USA was so similar to Magic Kingdom. I basically knew the layout of the park without having to look at a park map. Many of the rides were generally the same, with a few  minor differences. We rode almost every ride in the park, I bought new pins and ears, and we watched the parade and fireworks show. It was also very comforting to hear way more English being spoken around me. Every cast member I interacted with spoke to me in English and most of the signs in and around rides and attractions were in both French and English. The only thing that kept it from being a perfect day was the fact that Fantasyland closed super early for the fireworks and I didn’t get to ride “it’s a small world” for a second time. (I know that’s a silly reason to be upset but it’s one of my faves and one ride just wasn’t enough.)

Overall, Paris was a successful trip. Although I might get criticism for saying so, Disneyland was the best part of my entire trip. Paris was very cool, but it isn’t my most favorite city I’ve ever travelled to. Maybe I had weird, idealistic expectations of what Paris would be like. The streets felt less safe than streets in London, both in the day and at night. The buses and subway systems were harder to navigate and generally way more run down than those in London. Me not being able to understand many of the signs or messages presented to me while in the city might’ve had some impact on the uneasiness I felt while out and about. I’m still very thankful that I got to visit Paris at least once in my lifetime! I know that not every single place that I visit in the world will be perfect for me and I might be uncomfortable in new and unfamiliar environments, but that shouldn’t stop me from going and experiencing something new.

-Kenz

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Magical Mystery Tour

“Magical Mystery Tour” – Magical Mystery Tour

Witches. Wizards. Wowzers.

I’ve been putting off writing this post for 3 or 4 days now, and since I only have one more day before I leave for Paris, I thought I might need to stop procrastinating!

The past few weeks have been magical in more ways than one! There seems to have been a recurring theme of witches/wizards surrounding some things I’ve been up to lately.

Last Sunday I got to go on a Harry Potter adventure starting in central London and ending at the WB Studio tour! It honestly might’ve been the most excited I’ve been for something since arriving in London. I was with a tour group that started at King’s Cross Station and worked its way around various HP sites in the city, including Leadenhall Market (which was used as Diagon Alley in Sorcerer’s Stone), the Millennium Bridge (the bridge that collapsed in the beginning of Half Blood Prince), the Australia House (used for the interior shots of Gringott’s Bank in SS and DHP2), and more. We rode a coach to the studio in Leavesden and were given three hours to go through the tour.

The studio tour was massive and packed full of things to see, so three hours definitely didn’t feel like enough time. The tour had large sets from the movies still intact, including the Great Hall, the Gryffindor Common Room, Dumbledore’s Office, The Burrow, Privet Drive, Diagon Alley, and the Forbidden Forest. There were real props and costumes everywhere; the Triwizard Cup and the Mirror of Erised were among my favorites. There was so, so much to look at everywhere, I’m afraid that I missed a ton [I guess I’ll have to go back 😉 ]. I bought some Butterbeer at the little food court area halfway through the tour, and I even decided to splurge and buy the souvenir cup. (I didn’t buy the souvenir cup when I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal in Florida so this was making up for that time.) My favorite part of the studio was the green screens they had set up for you to “ride a broom”. You get to wear your house robes (Gryffindor!) and make a video of yourself riding a broomstick throughout London and around the Hogwarts grounds. I didn’t end up buying the video because it was super expensive, but I did buy some of the pictures! The majority of the people who were doing the green screen videos while I was there were younger kids, but I wasn’t embarrassed and wore that robe with pride. No shame, no matter how nerdy it might’ve actually been. 😂

Thursday, after years of listening to the soundtrack, I finally got to see a production of Wicked! It was amazing. It was the first major theatre production that I’ve been to since seeing The Lion King on Broadway in 2011. I bought the cheapest seats possible (£19 pound tickets to a West End show!), and even though I ended up in the next to the last row, the seats were right in the middle and I could see the entire stage. There were binoculars in front on each seat available to use for a pound, but when I put my one pound coin into the coin slot, my binoculars got stuck and I ended up not being able to use them. Just my luck. 😂 Its a good thing I have pretty good eyesight so I wasn’t too inconvenienced by the binocular mishap.

After the show, I had the Wicked soundtrack stuck in my head for days! It also put me on a musical kick. Since then, I’ve watched four movie-musicals and I even bought more West End tickets, to HAMILTON!!! I’m obsessed with Hamilton and because its almost impossible to get tickets in the US, I didn’t except to be able to find any here in London for a reasonable price, but I did! Those tickets are for May though, so I have a little while for my excitement to build.

I’ve also visited more museums and historic places around the city. I’ve been to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Imperial War Museum, and Tower of London. I always seem to be rushed when I’m at these places, so I always feel like I’m missing so much information. I know that I was in the Victoria and Albert museum for almost four hours and I only saw about half of the exhibits. I think I’m going to have to make multiple trips to some of these free museums.

One negative to being here in the UK is my sleep schedule hasn’t recovered since my flight. I don’t think I ever really got over my jet lag during the first couple of weeks, and now I think that jet lag has morphed into horrible insomnia. I can hardly ever manage to fall asleep before 4 or 5 am UK time, and when I don’t have class I end up sleeping well past noon. I’ll lay in bed for hours while being wide awake, and even though I set alarms super early, I usually end up turning them off in my sleep. I’ve taken Benadryl a few times to help me fall asleep because it makes me pretty drowsy, but I don’t want to get into the habit of having to take that every night to be able to sleep. Hopefully I’ll be able to get this under control soon.

I leave for Paris on Valentine’s Day! I haven’t even started packing yet. I’ve fallen into most of my old messy habits and keep procrastinating on doing things like cleaning, dishes, and laundry. I hope to dedicate most of tomorrow to doing that so that I’ll be ready to go to France on Wednesday!

-Kenz

Day Tripper

“Day Tripper” – Past Masters, Volume Two

The adventure continues…

Well everyone, I’m two and a half weeks into my semester. It doesn’t even feel like I’m at school. Here at Roehampton, each class only meets once a week. So far, I’ve only been to class five times, and one of those was a field trip. This is totally different from Hendrix where classes often meet two and three times a week, depending on the class. I also only have three classes here and each meets on a different day, so I end up with quite a bit of free time. This past week, my Thursday class was cancelled, so I had a five day weekend (not that I’m complaining!).

I definitely miss home already, and while I’m not ready to leave, I’m also ready to go back to the US. I know those feelings contradict each other very much but, what can ya do? I keep getting weird cravings for food from home. I very much miss the awful, disgusting junk food that America produces, even though I know its garbage for me. I really want some Sonic mozzarella sticks too. Wow, I thought it would be a good idea to include this paragraph in this post but I’ve just managed to make myself really hungry. Moving on!

I’ve travelled a bit more around London and have seen a few more sights. I’m trying to fill my free time with day trips to various parts of the city. Last weekend I joined a few friends on a trip to Central London to see the Palace of Westminster (where the two houses of Parliament meet) and Buckingham Palace. We walked past Westminster Abbey, which I want to go back and take a tour of, and also made our way through St. James’s Park. I took a picture by an iconic red telephone box while wearing a Walt Disney World sweatshirt, so when I sent the picture to my parents, my dad of course had to crack a joke and ask if I was at the UK Pavilion in Epcot. We ate lunch at a small restaurant close to Buckingham Palace and then ended up in Piccadilly Circus on the hunt for desert, which we did eventually find (I had a very, very good piece of chocolate cake 😛 ).

Another night, I joined a couple of people to go and see the Lumiere London light festival. Our initial plans were to first visit the Victoria and Albert Museum during the early afternoon, then head toward the festival after it got dark, (which is at like 4:30 everyday here, my internal clock is still off). When we got the the Victoria and Albert museum, the line to enter was out the door and around the block. There were hundreds of people there. It was probably bad planning on our part to try and visit a free museum on a rainy Saturday. We altered our plans and visited Harrod’s instead. Harrod’s is a massive luxury department store, that made Macy’s in Herald Square feel like the Dillard’s at McCain Mall (Okay, that is a huge exaggeration, Harrod’s and the NYC Macy’s are actually pretty similar). Harrod’s is super fancy and I felt like my jeans and Nike’s weren’t up to the dress code of the store. It seemed like every major fashion brand that I could never afford was represented on the racks of this store. The seven floors were like mazes and we wandered around the entire building for several hours. The sun had already gone down by the time we exited Harrod’s, so we decided to head toward the light festival. We were less than a mile from where  we wanted to go, so we decided to walk. We never actually reached our destination. We got lost several times, and after walking for what felt like an hour, we decided to get on a bus and ditch our light festival plans. I wasn’t too upset though, my feet were definitely glad to be sitting down after walking a couple miles through Harrod’s.

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On Monday, my London Studies class took a field trip into the city. We are currently learning about London while it was a Roman city, so we got to see where the Roman London Bridge was located, remains of London’s Roman amphitheatre, and pieces of the London Wall which was built as a way to defend the Roman port of Londinium. We went to the Museum of London, where a whole section is dedicated to Roman London. The museum tells the entire history of London, and I only got to walk through the first few rooms, so I will be definitely be going back some day to explore the entire museum when I don’t have class.

This weekend, we went to Notting Hill to visit the Portobello Road Market. There were hundreds of people shopping at the stalls in the street. Because of my love of rom-com movies, I stayed up a little late the night before to watch Notting Hill. The travel book shop that Hugh Grant’s character runs in the movie was in Notting Hill, though it was actually a souvenir store. We only made it down half of the market before it started raining. I didn’t buy any antiques from the market, but I did buy (and eat) my first crêpe! (How have I gone twenty years without eating a crêpe?!)

While I’ve been exploring the city and hanging out with new friends, I have also made some time to sleep in and watch Netflix. I needed some me-time after running around like the Energizer Bunny for two weeks straight. (Did I mention that British Netflix has Doctor Who?! 😍 )

While London is amazing, I’m itching to go see other places. I’m a little more than two weeks away from my trip to Paris and I’m so excited!

Next Sunday, I get to nerd out a bit on my Harry Potter tour! I’ll be going to King’s Cross Station to see Platform 9 3/4, I’ll get to see places around London that inspired the movies, and then I’m going on the Harry Potter WB Studio Tour! I think I might go watch the movies right now to mentally prepare myself!

-Kenz

Eight Days A Week

“Eight Days a Week” – Beatles For Sale

One week!

I can’t believe I’ve been in the UK for seven days! I could probably use an eighth day to squeeze in some more sightseeing! I also can’t believe I’ve been here for seven whole days and I haven’t seen any Beatle-y sites yet. Right now I’m writing this blog post while on a bus towards Abbey Road. (I’m still not convinced that this isn’t a dream.)

I know that I’m still in the “honeymoon” phase of my trip, but I thought I’d have way more homesickness by now. When I was a kid (I say kid, but this happened until I was about 14..) I didn’t even like sleeping over at friends’ houses because I wanted to be at home with my family. Because I can be so shy and introverted, and because I might be the pickiest eater in America (some of y’all know, I’m not exaggerating…), I anticipated the culture shock to hit me immediately. But I’m making new friends and I’m not starving! But of course, I do miss my family (and my favorite foods tbh) a ton. Thankfully I have been able to FaceTime my parents every day! They also said they would mail me some American food, thank the Lord.

The hardest adjustment I’ve had to make so far is related to sleep patterns. I’m still not totally over the time change. I never have a very stable sleep schedule at home, which probably hasn’t helped me out much here. I haven’t been able to fall asleep before 2 am. It also doesn’t help that the bed in my room is very similar to beds that you would find at summer camps. I’ve had back issues for years and my new mattress definitely isn’t helping.

The first few days at Roehampton we’re spent exploring the campus and surrounding areas. Within 24 hours I had gotten lost at least 10 times on campus. I had to rearrange my room several times, and it took me 4 days to figure out how to turn my heat on in my room. I got my schedule finalized and thankfully my classes were accepted to count toward my major at Hendrix. A few of the study abroad students took a trip to Hammersmith on our second night to learn how to operate the buses and to visit the shopping center.

On Saturday, we had a photo scavenger hunt around central London. The group that I went with had good intentions to win the game, but we got distracted by sites and stores that weren’t included on the hunt, and ended up not even finishing. We did have fun making our own route though! We successfully rode the tube into the central part of the city, only getting assistance from the CityMapper app. We saw the London Eye, traveled through St. Pancras International, walked through the Tate Modern, ate lunch at Nando’s, and eventually ended up in Trafalgar Square. Along the way I also saw the Millennium Bridge (all my Harry Potter people know, Half Blood Prince Bridge scene) and King’s Cross Station (the line for Platform 9 3/4 was too long, I’ll be back though!). We ended the night at a bar in Putney before heading back to Roehampton. Most of the day was spontaneous, and its nice to know that I don’t have to rush and try to see everything the city has to offer in just a few days, I have till May to explore the rest!

Classes started this week, and so far I have been to 2 out of the 3 classes I’ll be taking. The first was my London Studies class, where I’ll be learning a lot of history of the city, as well as taking several class field trips into central London. My remaining two classes are both sociology classes that I will be adding toward my major at Hendrix. I only have classes three days out of the week, so I’ll have plenty of time to work on homework [gotta stay studious 😉 ], explore the city, and travel outside of London.

In the last week, I’ve learned two important things:

  1. Always make sure your bus is going the right direction. Yesterday I tried to go out and get myself a pizza and accidentally rode the bus the wrong direction for a good half and hour. I eventually made it to the right place, and I wasn’t too upset because I got to see some cool neighborhoods along the way! I’m just glad I wasn’t on a time schedule, because I would’ve been very late.
  2. These boots are NOT made for walking. I brought two pair of really cute black boots to wear while in London, and neither pair are comfortable after an hour of walking around/standing on public transportation. While I brought tennis shoes, they are all white, so I can’t wear them when it rains or gets muddy. I also brought my Chacos, which I would honestly wear all day every day if it weren’t super cold and if they didn’t make me stand out as a total tourist. I might just have to buy a new pair of shoes (or 2) …

Next week I am going to start planning out some trips that I’m going to take this semester, both in the UK and in other countries in Europe! If anyone reading my blog has ever been to Europe and has any recommendations on places to visit, drop me a line, I would love to hear suggestions from others!

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When I started this post, I was headed toward Abbey Road… and I finally made it! It was AMAZING of course and I’ll definitely be going back (probably more than once tbh) to get the ~iconic~ album cover picture. Next Beatle stop…Liverpool!

-Kenz

Ticket to Ride

Hey y’all! I’m McKenzie, I’m a junior at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, and I’ll be studying abroad in London this semester. I will be attending the University of Roehampton until May!

I’m obsessed with The Beatles, which is why the web address to my site, the title of my blog, and the title of my first post are all references to Beatles song titles (“She’s Leaving Home”- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, “Across the Universe”-Let it Be,“Ticket to Ride”-Help! ). Be prepared for heaps of Beatles references throughout my entire blog, I will shamelessly try to squeeze them in wherever possible.

I’m also obsessed with Harry Potter, Doctor Who, BBC shows on Netflix, and other various music by English artists (lookin’ at you Queen, Ed Sheeran, Led Zeppelin, Niall Horan, Fleetwood Mac, etc., etc.).

I have never been out of the United States, I’ve barely even been out of the South. I’ve also never been away from my family for more than a couple of weeks. I’m very nervous but also super excited to have the oppurtunity to travel to new places and learn about new cultures!

I will try my very hardest to update this blog at least once a week so that all of my friends and family members have an easy way to keep up with my adventures across the pond! You can also check out my Instagram pages to view photos that I take while abroad! (@kenz_cress & @mccress22).  Also feel free to message me on social media or shoot me an email if you need to get in touch with me while I’m away!

See ya in May, USA!

-Kenz

 

 

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