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London Update

So, I've definitely been remiss in updating this journal. I'll try to be better at it. While I was in the UK last week, the week before was pretty frantic, since I had to get grades finished before I left and come up with four days of sub plans.

Last week I was in the UK for training in the International Baccalaureate English A1 course. I'm teaching the IB program to juniors and seniors and have to coach them through 5(!) tests. The training was from Monday-Wednesday, and since we work Sunday through Thursday and I would have to take those days off to travel, I decided to extend the trip into the weekends on either side to give myself a mini-break.

I flew into London on Friday evening(10/17 for those of you keeping track) and stayed a few days. Since I've done a lot of touristy stuff there before, I mostly wanted to go to some of my favorite places and enjoy the green and cool weather.

Saturday I went down to Camden Market to meet up with quarblotz and her bf Andy. I went down a little earlier than I was supposed to meet her so that I could wander around a bit. I haven't been to Camden since 1996 when I visitied the JMU folk who were doing their semester abroad. It's both similar and different than what I remember. It's still a little "edgey," but I also remember there being way more antiques and vintage clothing shops there.

I had to restrain myself from buying another pair of Doc Marten boots. It used to be my tradition that I'd buy a pair every time I went to London. The last two times I was there, it was hard to find a pair. However, like all good things, it seems like Docs are coming back into style again. Many of the Camden shops sell them and I saw two girls walking down the street with pegged (!) jeans Doc boots.

Speaking of re-living my young adulthood.... man, if I were 10-15 years younger (not to mention a lot skinnier), I would have been all over the gothic wear that abounds in Camden. I would have been totally into that gothic lolita look-- petticoats and black? Sign me up! Now it would just be mutton dressed as lamb, a look I try very hard to avoid.

So, Camden with KT and Andy was quite fun. We walked around and talked and caught up, then we went over to their car and took a ride to another part of London. We walked to Wagamama's, where we had lunch, and then took a stroll beside them Thames down past the Tate Modern (I need someone to explain the installation in the turbine room, please), the Globe, until we got to Borough Market. They were closing up the market, so I vowed to come back another day.

Sunday I did a little bit of wandering around London and went to Fortnum and Mason, a very posh store that sells tea "by appointment to her majesty" and other fancy things. An example: this is a wedding cake they had on display that costs 2000 pounds (that's $4000)!

I bought some of the tea I liked, then went back and got my bags from the hotel in order to catch the train to Oakham.

My workshop was in this tiny town in the county of Rutland, England's smallest county. The place was quite picturesque, with not much to the viallage. Oakham is a posh public (in American, private) school that was on midterm break.

I stayed in a very pretty (but a bit out of the way) hotel called Rutland Hall. The view from my window was lovely, but you had to hike up a hill to get to the restaurant and everything was quite expensive. They have timeshares at this place, and I could see going when you've got time to sit around outside and soak up the natural beauty. This is my balcony view:

That's Rutland Water you see in the background, a manmade lake that is about the most famous thing in Rutland.

The workshop was good and I learned quite a bit about IB. I'm not sure that I've really bought in to the whole cult of IB, but it certainly has its posive aspects. Even the IB types say that it's like a religon! Everyone in my group was new to IB, so that was handy. I met some nice people that I will stay in touch with as I'm teaching.

Wednesday the workshop ended and I was back into London on the train. I stayed in a different hotel this time, and it was fascinating. I had been warned by the website that it was very small and had no elevator; I just didn't realize that I would be booked into the top floor! Fortunately, the hotel propietress helped me drag my giant suitcase all four flights of stairs to get to my room. The room itself made me think of the word garret, with the bed pushed under the eaves of the house. It was cozy, but everything was quite clean. The bathroom was fascinating. The whole floor was like a shower floor, with the shower in between the toilet and the sink.

You just pulled the shower curtains around you (don't want to get the toilet paper wet!) and the whole floor just held the water until it drained away. It was a really interesting use of space. A litle odd at first, but the water temperature and pressure were good, so I got used to it. Wednesday night I went out to a pub and watched the Liverpool v. Madrid Atletico game. It was lots of fun watching it with a huge bunch of crazed English soccer fans.

Thursday I slept in, then I wandered around the shops (must spend lots of time at Lush,of course!) in Covent Garden and elsewhere. I went to the half-price TKTS booth in Leister Square and got a ticket for Avenue Q that night.

I've been wanting to see Avenue Q since I missed the trip last year to NYC with the other teachers. This night was kind of neat, since it was the 1000 performance and the show ends in March. For anyone who hasn't seen it and has the same derranged sense of humor that I have, I highly reccomend it.

I was flying out on Friday, but my plane didn't leave until 9:20 PM, so my hotel graciously agreed to store my luggage while I went out and played that day.

I went back to Borough Market, which is right near the Tower Bridge tube stop. The Borough Market is like a farmer's market on steroids. They have anything and everything you could want there.

Here's a picture to get the scope of it:

I took this picture just for Marnie. There were about five or six different varieties of beautiful tomatoes in this stall:

All of these things really made me want to cook again. I'd love to be able to get super-fresh cuts of meat and fish like what they have here:

They even have beer!

I loved this display of handmade truffles. They were all stored in beautifully polished tree trunk bowels:

After dealing with the tube during rush hour (NOT fun, especially with a giant suitcase), I made my overnight flight and headed back to Bahrain.

I had two more attacks of homesickness, one when I was in London and another when I got back. I think the London one was about being in an English-speaking culture that was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, I wanted it to be like home, but it wasn't. Coming back to Bahrain I was just struck by how ugly it is here. I know there are spots of beauty, but when you fly in, all you can see is brown. I'll go and take some pictures soon so you can see what it really looks like. There's just very little growing here and everything is always under construction.

I'm better now, and I have a school event tonight-- the Spooktacular! Tomorrow and Thursday are parent conferences, so no students. I'll be glad of the break. The kids were all nutty today.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 28th, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC)
Love the bathroom info! I stayed in a place that the toilet was so tiny it was only about 12" off the floor; it featured a tiny chopper blade at the bottom of the bowl -- sort of like a garbage disposal -- to minimize blockage in its tiny pipes.
Oct. 28th, 2008 08:12 pm (UTC)
Hey...I don't think I ever experienced anything like good water temperature and water pressure in a British shower, so take what you can get, weird layout and all!
Oct. 28th, 2008 10:19 pm (UTC)
My friend Sally had a good shower but she had all of her pipes replaces. This is one of the reasons I love Iceland - land of good hot water and plenty of it. :)
Oct. 29th, 2008 01:38 am (UTC)
The Rutland "Water" - are you serious? Those Brits and their crazy understatement. :)

Loved all of your photos, btw! I've been taking shots of the fall colors here to send to you. Unfortunately, I can't seem to figure out a way to capture the drastic drop in temperatures or the insane gusts of wind...
Nov. 1st, 2008 06:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks for keeping us posted on your adventures! I love hearing your stories and especially checking out your pictures. You made friends with your new camera fast - your pictures are wonderful. Fall is turning into winter pretty fast here, so think of me shivering when you are sweating! :)
your country mouse sister Julie
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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