On Saturday, Wala, Kailea and I ventured out to the beautiful beaches of Brighton 🙂
We were arriving on different trains, so Wala and I went to have breakfast while we waited for Kailea. We probably could have ventured further around North Laine, but we stopped when we stumbled upon Breakfast at Tiffany’s, where we had food, and I had tea to warm me up, while Wala had a milkshake that looked delicious, with sprinkles and everything.
Next, we went to the station, for the first in a series of missed connections. We had miscalculated Kailea’s arrival time, so she had gone to the beach. We went there to find her and it was wonderful. The beach is rock instead of sand, so you can walk around in your shoes without worrying about getting sand in them. Also, just seeing the vast expanse of water, with the pier and the seagulls and…it was exactly what we needed.
We next headed to the Royal Pavillion, a palace that looks out of place with its Asian architecture in the British coastal town, but it also somehow fits perfectly. You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but it is amazing. The rooms were made so you walk in, and each subsequent room is more grand than the one before, until you get to the dining hall which is just gorgeous. Everything is very heavily inspired by Asia, but the dining hall has a 12 foot dragon holding up the chandelier, and some spitting fire out of lotus plants. I could spend hours in the room and still not have captured all of the intricate details. The rest of the rooms are very interestingly styled, and beautiful, but the dining hall has to be my favorite.
Since we still hadn’t caught up to Kailea yet, Wala and I went to Brighton Pier, where we would wait until she got our message and found us. After going up and down and exploring said Pier, we decided to warm up a bit inside the casino like arcade place, where tickets and coins can be found in abandoned slots, and games become addictive. Although we won and claimed many things, we left with nothing new, since we had no real use for the tickets, or a slinky.
We finally found Kailea and went to Bardsley’s for fish and chips, but we were too early and they were closed. We went to the Cosy Cottage cafe to kill some time, and not only was my flapjack delicious, but the staff was incredibly friendly and kind.
We finally made it to Bardsley’s, which I had been told was the best fish and chips. I opted for the smaller portion of the haddock, which was in fact, delicious. The home-made tartar sauce and the chips were delicious as well 🙂
We went down to the beach one last time, to breathe in the sea air and enjoy the view before heading to the train station. We missed our train and had to take the next one, but even that couldn’t ruin our wonderful day 🙂
This past weekend, I took a trip to Edinburgh, which is still technically the United Kingdom, but it’s Scotland, so I am counting it as a new country, even if there was no border and I didn’t actually have to bring my passport.
I opted for the overnight bus, which was supposed to arrive around 7 something in the morning, which I thought would give me ample time to freshen up and be ready for my day. Instead, we took a more direct route and I got there before 6:30, which would be awesome, except it meant I got less sleep, and had more time to kill before the rest of civilization woke up. I chose a Starbucks to settle in, have some tea and write some stories 🙂 You see, I was in the city alone, and so decided to make it a writing weekend.
At 8 o’clock, I headed to my hotel, the Kenneth Mackenzie (it’s actually more like student dorms), to drop off my backpack while I went sightseeing. I was planning to use the free bag storage, but they actually checked me in, so I got to go and change, get ready… I even had a safe to store the passport I hadn’t needed to bring!
My phone’s map tried to make things more complicated, but I was actually super close to Holyrood Palace, my first stop of the day. I was at the gate before it opened, and although I had people with me in the first few rooms of the audio guide, I soon found myself absolutely alone in a gorgeous palace. There were employees scattered throughout the rooms in case I had questions, but in most of them, I could ignore the ropes and imagine I was walking down my own hallways. It truly was the absolute best way to explore a palace 😉 The audio guide is free, so it was nice to find out all about Mary, Queen of Scotts, how Queen Victoria would stay on her way to Balmoral, the Order of the Thistle, and so on.
It only took me an hour to go through the entire palace, the ruins abbey and the gardens, so I walked along the Royal Mile, that connects Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle, and even visited the Museum of Edinburgh before changing for my Afternoon tea at the Balmoral, which happens to be where J.K. Rowling finished the 7th Harry Potter book, to get away from the distractions at home. This is the first of many Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling references in this post, so be warned…
I don’t think they were used to people coming alone to afternoon tea, but this was on my list, so I was coming with or without company. Still, it was a classy place so I was very well treated, and hardly had time to write through all of the food that they kept bringing me.
After ordering my tea, I got the amuse-bouche, which was a kind of tomato soup, absolutely delicious and warm to fight the cold rain outside. Next, I got my Balmoral Scottish tea.
At first, I found my tiered plate looked kind of underwhelming, until I realized it was 3 tiers of sandwiches, each more delectable than the next. The traditional cucumber and salmon with cream cheese were at the bottom, while egg and coronation chicken were in the middle. I have no clue how to describe the crunchy box like thing that contained the coronation chicken, but it was soooo good. I think the chicken is tied for my favorite with the mushroom muffin that was on the top tier 🙂
Next, I got another 3 tiered plate with the sweet stuff. There were the traditional scones, which were warm and so delicious. Crisp on the outside, soft in the middle, square instead of round, and with blackcurrant jam to make things different.
There was also a passion fruit smoothie, blueberry crumble, chocolate cake, and a pumpkin marshmallow moose cup thing that was heavenly.
You also got to choose from the cake trolley, where I got a piece of fruit sponge cake, I believe. I am really bad at listening when they tell me what I am eating, but I can tell you that it tasted wonderful.
I was expecting the bill when the waitress came over and brought me a lemon sherbert ice cream. A perfect touch to end the meal 🙂
It was raining really hard when I got out, so I stopped to visit St. Giles Cathedral to get out of the cold and warm up a bit before continuing on my way to Edinburgh Castle.
When I asked people or researched what I should see in Edinburgh, this castle kept coming up, and although it was really interesting, with a lot of museum-like exhibitions, Holyrood Palace was more the kind of castle I like visiting. The state apartments had no furniture in them, and a lot of my time was spent outside, which would probably be lovely in the summer, but the rain made me have to fight the urge to give up early. If you have time, definitely see both, because the stone of destiny and crown jewels and all the exhibitions are really interesting, but if you only have time for one, I would go with Holyrood.
When I left the castle, I stopped by the National Museum of Scotland, and did some window shopping, before finally making it to the Elephant House. This was at the top of my list for Edinburgh, because it is there that J.K. Rowling wrote a lot of the first and second Harry Potter books, in a room in the back, staring out the window at the castle that could definitely have inspired Hogwarts. I spent hours there, sipping my tea and writing stories. When you go, because you obviously will, make a trip to the washrooms, which are covered with notes from fans, to Jo, in the hopes that she will return and read them.
I checked out the Frankenstein restaurant next door before making it back to my room, with a slight bout of homesickness. I had an amazing day, but there was something about spending the night alone, not only away from home, but away from the temporary home I have made in London, that made me feel the miles separating me from HOME.
On Sunday, I woke up early to be able to witness the sun rise from Arthur’s Seat. I had read up on the best way to go up, but I didn’t trust myself once I was there, and just started climbing, worried I would miss the sun. In case you have the same worries I did, rest assured that although the official sun rise was at 7:27 a.m. that day, it wasn’t until I was pretty much at the bottom, a little after 8, that the sun actually rose above the mountain and took my breath away. Again.
I say again, because the views from Arthur’s Seat are breathtaking. (The wind is also intense, which could contribute to knocking the wind out of you, so be careful up there!) I read an article that recommended an empty memory card and full battery before going, and I thought they were exaggerating. A couple of pictures at the top and you’re done, right? Wrong. It was exactly like my trip to Hawaii, where I was so amazed by what I was seeing, so I would take a picture, then look at the picture, see it didn’t do it justice and take another picture. This went on for my entire way up, the whole time I was up there, and my entire way down the mountain. I still didn’t even come close to capturing the beauty and wonder of being up there, so you will have to see it for yourself 😉
I went back to my hotel for breakfast, which again impressed me. There was a cold buffet, but all of the food that is normally in those hot plate trays, you ordered from the waitress, so it all came to your table fresh and hot. Have I mentioned that breakfast was included, and this was one of , if not the cheapest hotels I was able to find (hostels were not included in my search). Would definitely recommend it.
I checked out and went to the grave that inspired Tom Riddle’s in Harry Potter, then climbed the Scott Monument, on my friend’s recommendation. The view was beautiful, but don’t go if you are claustrophobic or afraid of heights. I am neither (at least not when inside a building) but going up was not an enjoyable experience for me. It was worth it, but there’s a spot at the top where it gets really tight, and for a second I wondered if I would ever get out (remember, I had checked out and so was carrying my huge bag on my back).
I killed my last few minutes in the Portrait Gallery before my bus back to London. The landscape was gorgeous, so I was that weird person taking a million pictures while everyone else was trying to sleep on the bus.
Last week, everyone in my semester program spent 3 days getting close to Shakespeare. We did have a short workshop I mentioned in my last post, but most of our time was spent being tourists, which included a lot of food 🙂
When we first got there, we went for lunch at Hobson’s Patisserie. The mac and cheese was calling my name, but I still indulged in a scone with clotted cream and jam. We only took the large ones, because if you take the giant scone, it is at least 10 inches high. The kind of thing you have when you’re not also having pasta.
Next, we checked into the Falcon Hotel, which was beautiful, and has a bath! I definitely took advantage of that 😉
Breakfast and supper was included with our stay, so after eating at the hotel, we went to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. It is one of the Shakespeare plays I have actually read, and I am working on a Helena monologue in class, so it was really exciting to see it live and off the page 🙂
At night, you have to go to the Dirty Duck, a nice pub where you can mingle with the actors you were just wowed by on stage.
On Thursday, we had a tour of Stratford, including the cottage that Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare’s wife) grew up in, and the house where Shakespeare was born. The birthplace had an actor, David, who just hung out in a room or in the yard, reciting Shakespeare monologues to us all day. I heard 3 of them, and it was quite impressive.
We had free times after the tour, so we went to Quickly’s for lunch, followed by a milkshake at Blue Cow. It was probably….or definitely too cold for a milkshake, but it was delicious nonetheless.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking along the water and visiting Shakespeare’s grave before going to see Dr. Faustus. I didn’t know the story going in, and I am definitely in the minority for saying it wasn’t my favorite play. However, the performances were incredible, and my mind is blown at the fact that at the beginning of every show, the 2 leads come on stage and each light a match, that determines who will play which character based on whose match goes out first. Not only can they play both parts seamlessly, but they go on stage each night not knowing which part they are going to play. Absolutely amazing. Also, there is a girl whose body is art (in the wise words of Elizabeth).
On Friday, we left Stratford and headed to Warwick Castle, which was super exciting for me, because I love all of the Philippa Gregory books and although they don’t really take place there, I still know that the Sons of York grew up there with Anne and Isobel Neville, under the watchful eye of the Kingmaker. It was worth a visit for the history, but also for the beautiful views, both inside and out of the castle. You even get to mingle with the wildlife, that struts around like it owns the place 😉
We had a little time left over for lunch, so after checking out a couple of menus, Molly and I decided on the Oken Tea Room. Afternoon tea (without cakes) was about the same price as a cream tea normally costs, and it came with crisps (chips) and a salad. Not to mention the sandwich was huge and everything I had been hoping for, as were the scones. And the clotted cream. Basically, the food was delicious, and the staff was also super nice. I definitely recommend it, and all you have to do is follow the signs 🙂
Cold, but beautiful. That’s probably how I would describe this magical town that Sydney and I spent the day in last weekend. Although if I had visited on a warmer day, Perfect might have been used instead.
I got there a little after 9, with plans to explore the Covered Market, but it only opens at 10 on Sundays, so I got a little breakfast and met up with Sydney. We were at the market right when it opened, and although it was really cool, and I could imagine spending hours there on a rainy day, we had places to be, and as much as we wanted to, it was way too cold for Milkshakes.
We visited Alice’s shop, which was not run by a sheep, in case you were wondering. The prices were pretty reasonable for such a touristy shop, and I had my eye on the multiple key necklaces.
We wandered to Fudge Kitchen, to see if the fudge makers in Oxford were as awesome as the ones in Windsor, but they weren’t cooking yet. The salted caramel fudge is delicious, however.
We had a walking tour at 11, so we spent the next 2 hours seeing all of the beautiful sights that were so deeply enshrined in history, either because of the buildings, or all the incredible people who lived/attended school in them. We didn’t get to go inside, as most places charge, or aren’t open on Sundays, but even the exteriors are magical. The tour itself was with Footprints, which offers a variety of tours in Oxford, and operates on a tips only basis. So you pay what you think the tour was worth. In spite of the cold, our guide, Jamie, was really entertaining, and we had a wonderful time 🙂
After the walking tour, I took a short bus ride to Blenheim Palace. The home of the Duke of Marlborough is definitely very majestic and beautiful. It was very interesting, and I would have been sad had I not seen it, but I think that given the little time I had in Oxford, I could have used it better in the City center. Still, you can get a yearly pass for the price of a day’s admission, so I could theoretically go back for free as often as I’d like. Maybe for a walk and to explore the gardens in the Summer?
Once I got back to the City Center, Sydney and I had supper at the Eagle and Child, better known as the Bird and Baby, meeting spot of the Inklings. Basically we were eating where J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and countless others had met pretty frequently to read from and discuss their novels. I took a few minutes to write a bit of my own stories, so I could take a bit of its magic with me 😉
A few hours and some Four in a Row games later, Sydney and I headed to our respective buses to go back to London. A wonderful Valentine’s Day 🙂
“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”
The afternoon tea at Brown’s Hotel not only looked spectacular during my research, it was also the one place that was consistently recommended to me, no matter who I talked to. Lucky for Molly and me, it did not disappoint 🙂
I got there early and was brought to our table to wait. I didn’t even have to ask for the comfy chairs by the fireplace, to warm my hands and bones until I could order my tea.
I ordered the Brown’s Morning Blend, and it was delicious. At the end of the meal, we also got a little package each to take home 🙂
When the food trays arrived, there were 2 plates of sandwiches, with a plate of 5 different desserts on top. I would have been worried about the lack of scones and not getting to try everything again, but our waiter quickly explained that scones would come once we finished the sandwiches, and that everything would be replenished as frequently as we wanted. He also gave a description of everything we had in front of us.
I love it when all of the sandwiches have their own special bread, like in this case. I have no idea what any of them are called, but the coronation chicken was on a kind of bagel, the smoked salmon and cucumber was on a really dark colored bread, the cheese, tomatoe and chutney had a seedy bread, and the egg and paprika was on plain white bread. The last one was a kind of ham with coleslaw, but there was maybe an onion or something in the coleslaw, so I didn’t have it. All the other sandwiches were absolutely amazing. We did get another plate of sandwiches, that we shared, then got a couple extra coronation chickens for good measure. And when I said that they would replenish everything as much as we wanted, I don’t mean that we ask and they bring. For the first plates of sandwiches and scones, it was the waiter or waitress bringing them before we had even decided we wanted more.
The scones were slightly smaller than at other teas, but they were sooo warm and flaky and buttery and delicious. They also kept on coming, so their small size was the perfect excuse to just have one more. As always, we covered them with clotted cream and the hotel’s homemade strawberry jam, which I like to convince myself was healthier. I was too full at the end, but otherwise, I might have just taken the spoon and eaten the rest of the jam by itself.
As for the desserts, we didn’t get a second plate, since we were too full for it to be worthwhile, so I didn’t get to try everything. Everything that I did try though, was sublime. The raspberry puff thing had an actual raspberry in the middle, and I think it tasted like roses too. The macaron had a hard shell and soft interior, just the way I like it. The mango coconut square was the perfect mix, and the one thing on the plate I didn’t think I would like turned out to be a ferrero rocher halzelnut square thing, so obviously delicious. And Molly says the apple dessert was like a sweet apple sauce in cake form. I might have to bring my mom when she comes and pace myself through the sandwiches so I actually have room for dessert 🙂
This probably doesn’t sound so great, but I felt feeling stuffed, like I couldn’t possibly have another bite, which is exactly what I like in an afternoon tea. Not only did they not make us feel awkward for wanting more, I think they would have kept on bringing more food indefinitely. And the setting was so beautiful, the fireplace so warm, the chairs so comfy, that I would go just to hang out there for an afternoon. The pianist played some songs that I actually knew, as well as a song from Phantom of the Opera, which made Molly really happy. Would definitely want to come back, and will be recommending it to anyone looking for a good afternoon tea in London 🙂
So maybe it wasn’t the best idea to sign up for a semester highly focused on Shakespeare when I have no idea what iambic pentameter is. In my defense, I have been very vocal about letting everyone know that I am completely at a loss when it comes to this concept. This week, I found out that everyone assumed I had learnt it and just didn’t really get it, as opposed to: I went to French school and we never learnt Shakespeare or Iambic Pentameter! Luckily George made it a learning exercise by having students explain to me, then the exercise for them to get a better understanding of it introduced me to it, and now I finally understand what iambic pentameter is. Which might seem like a really small accomplishment, but I feel like so many things make so much more sense to me now.
In stage combat, we started using the sword and dagger, which is an arm workout and a half. The teacher himself came over to be my partner for a while until he was sure I had every part right, which was scary, but fun. My normal partner lets me get away with things, but he did not.
Singing really wasn’t good this week. I can blame it on being busy or not knowing how the song goes, but the truth is that I just didn’t put in the effort. Knowing that I struggle more than the others in singing should make me ensure that every other part that I can control (the words and the character) are flawless, which they were not this week. On the bright side, I never want to feel that guilty and slightly ashamed again, so I am pretty sure I will know all my songs backwards and forwards from now on.
Dance class was fun, as always, although I am realizing that I am really not as great as I thought I was at remembering the steps. I either need to write them down or practice between classes, especially since we might be getting another social dance night before the official dance night with the entire school. I say another, because on Tuesday, all of the semester students, as well as everyone in the first year of the 3 year acting program gathered to dance together. Some dances I knew, others I thought I did and clearly didn’t, but whether I was flawless in my steps or absolutely going the wrong way, I had a fabulous time 🙂
We got a masterclass on the painted men and women of the restoration period, including a demonstration on one of the guys in our class. It was hilarious, not just seeing it on someone I know, but imagining that this is how people tried to look during that period, and how they kept wearing the lead based makeup, caking it on heavier to hide the signs that it was killing them instead of stopping…
On Friday, I realized that it was a week since I had started standing in the superhero pose instead of with my arms crossed, and tried to see if I noticed a difference. More due to this knowledge than to my standing position, I found myself spending the day volunteering for things and going up first even when I really didn’t want to. This let me find out that I have a lot of difficulty with the ‘lot’ sound in RP, although Molly told me that when I stood in the middle of the circle and said my lines (the thing I went up first for) it was the loudest and clearest she had heard me speak since she met me. As for the rest of the day, we played games and put up a scene in Acting with Nick, who was replacing Debbie, before I wore a mask and tried to show the class a forest. Still really don’t get the concept, because of all of the contradictions, but apparently I really smile a lot when I watch an imaginary butterfly fly.
As for rehearsals, this was our first week with Robert, working on Comedies of Manner. These have been my most physical days, where we spend hours doing warm-ups, which involve lots of bouncing and swinging our arms. Everything has a point, and I can feel the difference after we do them, but it’s crazy for someone like me, who is used to school being sitting at a desk taking notes, to spend so much time working with my body, which is usually what makes me more self-conscious than anything else. It was always physical activity, and then speaking in public that terrified me the most in school. I absolutely loved everything written. So this reversal is interesting, and really good for me, but also something I am having to get used to.
We have already been cast in our smaller scenes, as well as in the big, ensemble scenes. In the first one, I play Lucy in the Rivals. I had wanted to be one of the young lovers, but ended up with the maid, which might be why I didn’t find the time to work on it as much as I should have before Thursday. It was when we did the reading that I regretted not reading the full play and doing more character work. All I could see was that she was the maid, and kept leaving the scene, which really shouldn’t have bothered me even if all I had was one line, because we are working on building an ensemble here. Thursday I realized that even though she is of a lower class than the other characters, and does frequently leave the scene, she is also a really interesting character, who definitely plays a role in the story, even if you don’t always see it, and she even has a monologue at the end of the scene. They say there are no small parts, only small actors, and I don’t want to be a small actor. Especially when I have a role like Lucy to work on. So I have spent a lot of my weekend reading plays and doing research and getting to know Lucy.
The first time we read the scene, I did it with my novice version of RP, since some of my text was written in a way that implies an accent, but no one else used an accent, so I stopped. I kind of regret that, looking back, because I shouldn’t let what others do affect me, but it did. On Thursday, there were a few of us using the accent, and Robert asked some of the people who weren’t using it to try. So, next time, even if I am alone, if I want to use an accent and it works with the scene, I will.
As for the non class-related stuff, I went to see 3 LAMDA shows this week. The Wild Duck and No Quarter I had never heard of before and Five Women Wearing the Same Dress I did a scene from for my first Tom Todoroff workshop. Not to mention that all of the semester students did the background voices for it. I found myself judging the acting more than just whether or not I liked the play (which is what I usually do), probably because these are students studying at the school I am also studying at. All in all, the plays were amazing, the casts were incredibly talented, and I smile every time I run into them in the hallways at school 😉
Then, this weekend, in honor of Nutella Day, I had a Strawberry, Banana and Nutella Crepe at Portobello Road Market. I also gave up on trying to stumble upon the filming locations from Notting Hill and finally looked them up, before hunting them down. Here are the door to Will’s apartment, the bookstore that inspired the Travel Book Shop from the movie, as well as the location they used for filming. I did not, however, run into Hugh Grant or Julia Roberts.
Last weekend, I ventured from the city and off to Windsor with Molly. I knew this town was intricately linked to the royal family, and most of the blogs I read from people abroad in London raved about it, so I absolutely had to go.
Molly and I got there at 9, when the admissions office was still closed, so we walked along the main street and found a little place to have some tea and breakfast!
Once we were done, we headed straight to the castle. I had spent a lot of time trying to figure out when to go, since a lot of the areas are closed at various times of the year, and I did not want to miss out. We started off by joining an organized tour group, subtly hanging out like we belonged while the guide told us about the fire in 1992 and the round tower. We soon realized that the tour guide wouldn’t be coming into the castle with the group, and we didn’t want to be stuck behind that many people, so we scurried off and went to see Queen Mary’s dollhouse on our own. As soon as we got there, I realized that Molly loves this stuff just as much as I do, which was absolutely awesome!
Now, I think it is a good thing and a bad thing that we were not allowed to take pictures of the dollhouse or in the State Apartments. Bad because I would have taken pictures of absolutely everything, and good because…I would have taken pictures of absolutely everything and would therefore still be there. The dollhouse was never meant to be played with, which I think is incredibly sad for the children who would go to their grandmother’s house and have to look at the miniature version of the castle with fully functional plumbing and electricity and not be able to touch it. But it is definitely something to look at. The details and intricacies of it all are unbelievable.
While the dollhouse is extraordinary for being such a small representation, the state apartments are overwhelmingly beautiful and full of grandeur and just so gorgeous. We spent longer in each room than the audio guides expected us to, and if the castle guides, who were stationed in each room, mentioned something we had missed, we sometimes had to back track so we could check out the floor. The audio guides were fun, but I definitely recommend asking the people who work there what their favorite room is, and whether they have any interesting stories for you, because most of them do 🙂
Once we made it to the semi-state apartments, I came up with a new life goal. I would like to be there from March to October, when they are closed off to the public. You see, when the Queen is at the Castle, this area is closed off so that she can use it to entertain. There are rooms specifically designed for inviting people over for late dinners and letting them sleep over. My goal is to be invited to one of these dinner parties, which I think is a distinct possibility. I have even come up with a list of ways to get my name on the list. Ideally, I will become such an incredible actress and a good, caring, philanthropic person that I will become a Dame and be invited for the pleasure of my company. If that doesn’t work out, I can donate a lot of time and money to charity so I can be invited to the Royal Ascot, or simply marry someone who will receive an invite. For now I will work on Plan A, since it is the most in sync with my current life goals 😉
Once we were done exploring the castle, we went to St George’s Chapel. I knew that it was not open for visitors on Sundays, but you could attend services, so we went to the 12 o’clock one, which was mostly singing. Since we were such a small group, we didn’t sit in the bigger area, we sat in these little individual alcoves where we had to walk over Henry VIII’s vault in order to receive communion. Definitely worth seeing from the inside (I mean the chapel, not the vault).
Since we had some time before our tea reservations, we wandered the town, finding the Last Supper painting at the Parish church, sampling some delicious chai teas before finally locating the Fudge Kitchen. It was on both of our lists of things we wanted to see, even though I don’t really like fudge. We got there at the boring part, or so we were told, but Jimmy kept us very entertained while he stirred the batch of fudge he was working on. We had to leave before he got to the fun part, but we promised to come back with Kailea, who was meeting us for tea.
Once we got to the Sir Christopher Wren hotel, the girls both thanked me for my excellent research and planning skills. I had nothing to do with it, really, but the view was incredible, our waiter was really funny and the food was delicious. It was also really fancy, with a singer and instruments, but really not expensive.
We had a variety of sandwiches, including cheese and tomatoe, ham and mustard, egg, then salmon and cucumber together.
The scones were really good, and warm. These were the best scones Molly had tasted so far on the trip, and her mother owned a tea room when she was younger, so we can trust her opinion.
For dessert, there was a red pouf thing with a greyish cream in the center and a macaron, but my favorite were the two cakes, one chocolate and one banana bread. They were sooo delicious.
As soon as tea was done, we rushed back to the Fudge Kitchen to watch Jimmy make the Canadian maple and walnut fudge. Even if you don’t like fudge, the entertainment is reason enough to go, although it is also really good, and you should definitely buy some. He might even tell you which royals sometimes make their way down from the castle for some salted caramel fudge 😉
We wandered over to Eton and just walked around a bit before taking our train ride home. It was a wonderful day and I just might have to go again with my parents when they come visit 😉
I can’t believe today is the last day of January. I am already done my fourth week in London, which is crazy!
On Monday, Debbie had us working on our monologues, and she saw me standing there with my arms crossed, so she told me to stand more open, and to take up more space. Harder said than done for someone who tries to take up the least amount of space and go unnoticed most of the time, but I was determined to try.
In stage combat, after we spent most of the class practicing what we had learnt and adding more things to it, we were asked to do the routine in front of the rest of the class. We did it twice and me and my partner went second both times, partially to get it over with, partially to …yep, mostly to get it over with. But part of me hopes that volunteering to do something like that before we are told we have to kind of shows it we’re not afraid of it, right?
Monday night was Burns Night, which my grandmother had told me she used to celebrate, and they would have haggis and everything, so I dragged Sydney and Kailea to the Island Grill with me where we had the Burns Night Menu. I had haggis croquettes, to show my grandmother, who later told me that she doesn’t think she actually likes haggis. The risotto was absolutely delicious, with butternut squash, and they let us switch the blue cheese for aged cheddar, which was perfect. My favorite part, however, was the dessert, which I forgot to take a picture of before devouring. It had cake and a warm sauce and ice cream and honeycomb and pistachios and it all blended together to be amazingly delicious. I plan on going back and ordering it again under the guise of getting a picture to show you, but I can’t promise I won’t eat it before remembering to take a picture next time too.
Wednesday we had our songs, both verses, which I think went well. I definitely improved, at least on pitch, which greatly surprised our teacher. He was also intrigued to learn that I was more familiar and comfortable with film, since my performance made people feel things, but was way too small for the stage. The next song he gives me will challenge me to adapt and be bigger for the stage.
That afternoon, we had a masterclass on Restoration/Comedy of Manners, which was really interesting, because I didn’t really know much about them. It also finished early, which meant Molly and I were able to push our tea earlier and get home at the same time we would have without the tea.
We went to Orchidee, which is actually in the middle of a mall, which was interesting. The sandwiches were pre-made somewhere else, and although some had two so we could each try them, others had one, so we had to cut them in half. There was a Mediterranean vegetable one, cheddar and pickles, smoked salmon, chicken, roast beef, and egg. Molly’s favorite was the vegetable one, but I absolutely loved the chicken salad, since it tasted just like the one we buy at the grocery store back home 🙂
We each had 2 scones, that kind of tasted like the ones from Pillsbury, but I happen to be a fan of those, so it was lovely. We got to choose our macarons for the pastries portion, so I got one red velvet and one vanilla. Both were absolutely perfect, with the crispy outside and the yummy filling…macarons are what they are known for. We also got chocolate cups filled with whipped cream and berries, some salted caramel cake bites and a blueberry vanilla macaron which was also really nice, because the blueberry takes away some of the sweetness and balances it out.
On Friday, we learnt more RP in the morning, which is so exciting for me! Then Debbie caught me crossing my arms again. I feel like I did it a lot less this week, but it still creeps out. I got to tell her how I want her to keep bugging me, even if I might look like I don’t, and we had a conversation about why it all matters. She was very accurate in saying that my brain works really well at understanding and analyzing everything, but then something blocks me from letting my body act it out, even if I want to be free and got for it. She also pointed out that crossing my arms makes me an observer rather than a participant, which is not something I want. So, instead of focusing on not crossing my arms, I have taken to standing in the superwoman power pose, with my head held high, like I mean it. So be warned.
Debbie also suggested that our movement and Alexander classes would help me open up. Our movement teacher likes to keep us away from our comfort zones whenever he can, so I think she might be right. This week I did cartwheels and handstands before we started, which was a lot of fun. Handstands are still iffy for me, so I had Molly catch my feet, but by the end of the semester, I plan to be able to do them with nothing but the wall to catch me if I go too far. I also plan to be a ninja by then, since Sydney and I did pretty well with the throwing the stick exercise. Most of the time.
After classes were done, Molly, Kailea and I went to Wagamama for supper (see Carolyne, I am working my way through your list 🙂 ) and then we went to Sleazy, the kind of open mic/talent show for LAMDA students. This week there were a few acts by students in the semester program with me, and they were amazing! There was also a poem reading that broke my heart, an original poem that was made a million times more powerful by the way the girl’s hand was shaking as she read it, a singalong that made me smile, covers that were awesome, original songs that inspired me and I want to buy, with a final act that had me twisting and shouting. I am definitely going to miss Sleazy nights when I go back home.
My week ended yesterday with some laundry and Red Velvet. Not the food, but the play. I went in having no idea what it was about, other than it was based on a real person. I had really high expectations, based on my friends’ posts about it, and I wasn’t so sure after the first few minutes, but then it completely pulled me in. The end was kind of heartbreaking for me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the rest of the night. Which is the best kind of story, isn’t it?
Now, you might be wondering about the title of this post. And if you were following along, you might be wanting to point out that I skipped Tuesday and Thursday. That is because this week marked the end of our work on Shakespeare’s histories, and we had our first performance of the semester. It was just in our little rehearsal groups, but for someone who has never done Shakespeare and was slightly terrified at the thought of performing with that language, it was a big deal. And, it was my last time working on and learning the role of the French King in Henry the Fifth.
Since our director was still too sick to come in, we got a new one on Tuesday. While the majority of our rehearsal classes had been spent playing games and building an ensemble these last two were kind of intense, at least by comparison. He started out by asking us each what we wanted to work on in our scenes, making notes in his notebook, then came back with a bunch of exercises for us all to do which targeted what each person wanted to work on. He was insistent that the point wasn’t for all of the exercises to work for everyone, but for us to have so many options that we can find the ones that work for us with each particular role we end up with. We also did our scenes multiple times in front of the group, as a kind of dress rehearsal, which I found terrifying. In a good way. I think. Since this is kind of exactly what I came here for. We did an immersive improv, which meant the whole group spent an hour in various situations as our characters, which wasn’t my favorite, since I was French in a room of English, but I think it was an awesome exercise that I would love to try again. I really loved and would no trade the rehearsals we had the first few weeks, but I also feel like I got so much, including a whole lot of tools from our new director.
For our final presentations, we decided to just do all of our scenes chronologically, moving through the room and having the others get up and follow us. This meant both of my versions of the same scene would go back to back. This was kind of nerve-wracking, first because I had to go up twice, and second because I did them both really differently. At first, it was hard for me to reconcile what my research had told me about King Charles VI from a historical perspective, versus the way he was written in the play. Then, one of my groups wanted me to be sitting on a chair to represent my throne, but without a platform and with everyone else standing, I just felt really small and powerless, which is how I might feel if I were a King who no longer had any ruling authority because I had bouts of going mad. With the other group, I stayed standing, and went with what I knew from the play. I still had the history in mind, but I didn’t let it define me. I was a King who was worried for his country and didn’t want to show fear to my enemy. And even when I was scared of the whole thing, I still really enjoyed being able to explore both sides and do the scene so differently.
We opted not to film our performances, and I am still not really good at gauging my own, especially when I was a ball of nerves for most of it, terrified I would forget a line and people would know because it messed with the iambic pentameter (which I still haven’t figured out). But, in the end, I did forget a line. I’m not sure if it was in the dress rehearsal or the final performance, but I know I skipped a line once, and once I said the completely wrong word. But both times I just kept going. And nothing happened. No one called me out, nothing bad happened…the show just went on. And I was okay. More than okay, because apparently, I looked completely at home on ‘stage’. Which is kind of hilarious, considering how I felt inside. My tells were talking extremely fast and lifting my heels. The talking fast I know I do when I want to get through something, so I wasn’t surprised, but I had no idea I was going on my tippy toes sometimes. My notes were to taste every word and let it land, as well as to be grounded. Which is actually good advice in life as well.
“Think like a Queen. A Queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.”
On Sunday, I decided to cross two items off of my list for London; the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and Afternoon Tea at the Orangery.
Although I had excellent intentions to be at the Palace an hour before it started so I would get a prime spot, I found myself meandering to previously unvisited places in Hyde Park, as well as getting stopped to talk to a boy on a bench overlooking the pond with the swans. Luckily, people weren’t lining up to the side gates, only at the front ones, so I got a prime spot for all of the action.
The whole thing at the Palace lasts about 45 minutes (you can also choose to follow the new guard from their prior location, I believe), but I don’t think you would be missing out if you had to leave after 15 minutes or so. You might, however, miss out on a rendition of the Star Wars theme.
Since I had a few hours before our tea reservations, I decided to check out Kensington Palace, since it is right there and I walk by it all of the time. Initially, I thought it would just be a pretty palace to look at, but then I walked in and found out (possibly rediscovered) that it is where Queen Victoria grew up. I have already mentioned that she is one of my favorite royals, and touring the rooms where she grew up, reading snippets of her journal entries…it was an amazing way to spend an afternoon. I learnt a lot, but I think my biggest takeaway is that I want to rewatch The Young Victoria, and Mrs. Brown and I want to read some biographies on this incredible woman!
As for the tea, Sydney and Molly were already there when I arrived, then Lucy and Kailea came not long after. My reservation had been for 4 people and it kept saying there was no availability when I tried to change it, but the maitre d’ said it was no problem and brought us straight to a bigger table.
Since I enjoyed the darjeeling so much, I ordered the Afternoon at the Palace tea, which was perfectly delicious.
After having been so full after our previous tea, we were a little disappointed that there wasn’t enough of everything for us each to try it, and that you had to pay extra if you wanted more of anything, but everything that we did get was amazing.
The mini sandwiches were each on their own bread, so the salmon and cream cheese was on a bagel, the super delicious chicken was in a wrap, the cucumber and cream cheese had white bread and the egg was in a little bun.
We each got two scones, one with raisin, one plain, that we all covered in clotted cream and jam, as we continuously assure ourselves is the custom. The desserts were where it got tricky. I missed out on the lady finger, but the lemon mousse, the strawberry shortcake and the pink checkered things were delectable.
It was definitely a beautiful location and a lovely experience 🙂
For my first excursion out of Central London (and school and Notting Hill) I opted for Greenwich, since it is but a tube ride away, and I had friends who were willing to come with me 🙂
We started off with the Painted Hall, which was actually pretty cool, and had displays, including a list of all of the movies that were filmed at the Royal Naval College.
Next, we ventured to the Royal Observatory, which is at the top of the hill, to see the Meridian Line, and learn a lot about time. It was slightly underwhelming for one of the lines that divides the world in two, but it was still pretty interesting.
Since I am obsessed with afternoon teas, and the clipper was on the list of things to see and do in Greenwich, we went to the Cutty Sark.
Touring the ship was interesting and informative, including interactive stations and a bench that lets you feel what it was like at sea, but my favorite part was definitely the tea. I chose a Darjeeling because it smelt nice, even though I had never been impressed by them before, and it was soooo good. Then the food arrived…
The chef came out and explained what she had made for us, including ham and cheese, chicken and dijon mustard, egg and cress, salmon and cream cheese, cucumber and cream cheese, then my personal favorite, cranberry and brie. It was soooo delicious, I am still craving it. The pastries were bite size, with a brownie, a lemon and mint square, carrot cake and a flapjack. Loved every one!
But, the best part was the scones. Which were warm. As in fresh out of the oven. They definitely did not need the clotted cream and jam I put on top, but I couldn’t resist. Even though it was nearly closing time, they still brought us fresh pots of tea, and two more scones, which they actually had to cook, because there were none ready made. They were so worth it. We were willing to pay for them, even though we were pretty full, because they were that good, but they didn’t charge us. I definitely recommend the tea, which includes admission and is still cheaper than almost every other afternoon tea I have found, to anyone who finds themselves in Greenwich. And you also might want to find yourself in Greenwich just for the tea.
Kailea and I finished the night with Henry IV Part II, the third in the cycle but the last one that we saw. I know, we didn’t do them in order, which confused Sam Marks when I got his autograph and picture after the show. A perfect ending to an awesome day 🙂