Sunday, April 13, 2014

Springtime in London

The sky outside of my window is a bright, baby blue and the clouds are sparse but fluffy. I can hear the faint sound of cars driving past on Marylebone Road and the fresh air coming through my window is brisk and refreshing. It's about one in the afternoon here in London and I'm really enjoying my relaxing Sunday after a few days filled with little adventures. I have a few more things to get done before I leave for my trip on Tuesday, but I decided that blogging was more important right now (I'm really just procrastinating).

On Thursday, Anna, Matt and I got together in Marylebone to finalize some of our travel plans for the next two weeks. Most of that meetup consisted of goofing around and buying movie tickets for that night but we still finished what we needed to do. When Matt and Anna finished printing all of their boarding passes and what not, we met up with Megan at Primark on Oxford Street. Primark is a HUGE store that is really popular in the United Kingdom. They sell clothes, shoes, bags, accessories, home goods and tons of other odds and ends. The biggest perk about Primark is that it's dirt cheap. I got sneakers for 4 pounds and a dress for 7. The items they sell aren't the best quality and they're definitely made using cheap and abusive labor practices in other countries, but it's still packed every time I've been there. It always feels like it's Black Friday in Primark. There are people speaking every different language packed into every nook and cranny of the store and clothes are scattered and piled everywhere. I thought Forever21 was bad...

Anyway, we met up at Primark to get some clothes for our trip and Anna had to get some bedding for when her friends arrived this weekend. We all split up and got what we needed and then Matt, Megan and I went to Chipotle to grab some dinner. We really enjoyed our burritos and I was so happy to eat something after dealing with the crowds and lines at Primark.

When we finished eating, we sat and talked for a little while and two guys approached us. They were younger, probably close to our age, and one had a half-finished Corona in his hand. They sat down and one of them asked us where to go out in London at night. We all kind of looked at each other and I honestly had no idea what to suggest since I don't go to many nightclubs. We told them that Soho and Shoreditch are two of the most popular areas for young people to go out in. I kind of expected the conversation to end there but the one guy kept asking us questions. It wasn't too intrusive or creepy but it was still kind of awkward. We told him that we're studying abroad and he said that him and his friend were in London for the weekend. He asked us to guess where they were from in Europe and I honestly couldn't figure it out by his accent. I'm really bad at that kind of thing. We guessed a few times and told him that we really didn't know and he dragged it out uncomfortably long. Finally he said that they were from Germany.

From Left: Matt, me and Megan at the cinema.
We chatted a little more and I mentioned wanting to go to Brighton, England for a day trip before I leave. I was kind of talking to Megan the whole conversation because I didn't want to make a lot of eye contact with the two guys. The one that did all of the talking said "Oh Brighton is were all of the gays are. You don't want to go there." I had one of those Mean Girls moments where I imagined myself attacking him like a lion in the savannah, but don't worry- I didn't do that. I took the high road and once I made eye contact with Matt, who just so happens to be gay (and absolutely amazing, just sayin') we kind of smiled and laughed awkwardly and he changed the subject to something else. I would have said something but it was actually pretty amazing to see how ignorant and mean it made the guy sound. I didn't have to say anything at all.

We talked a little more and at that point we were kind of itching to get out of there, so I said that we better head out. The talker asked us if we wanted to join them for drinks that night and we all politely said no. The second we exited the building, Matt and I started laughing and talking about what just happened. Megan hadn't even heard what the guy said because of his accent so we told her and then talked about how awkward that was on our way to the tube.

I guess it's a given that there are people out there who disagree with homosexuality and some are much more vocal about it than others. It's just surprising when you hear someone say something like that. I'm so used to spending my time and surrounding myself with loving, caring and tolerant people, so it's like a sucker punch to the gut when someone isn't that way. I feel like my generation has become so supportive and tolerant and I'm really proud to be apart of that group. I feel sorry for people who aren't because they're missing out on a lot of love and acceptance. It's much easier than intolerance and hatred.

Anyway, that was an interesting experience to say the least. Matt, Megan and I went back to our rooms and met at Piccadilly Circus around 8:15PM that evening. We walked to Cineworld Cinema and got a bunch of snacks before our 9PM screening of Divergent. I had popcorn, a coke and chocolate candies. It was nice to unwind and see a movie because it's one of my favorite pastimes. I go often at home but I hadn't gone yet in England because of the high ticket prices. I'm so glad that we splurged and got ourselves the tickets and snacks so that I could experience the cinema here before I leave. It was a lot of fun!

On Friday afternoon, Anna, Megan and I met up with about four other girls and one of the Arcadia staff members for afternoon tea at Kensington Palace's Orangery. It was a beautiful, warm afternoon so all I wore over my dress was a cardigan. I never thought I'd see the day when I didn't have to wear a jacket in London!

I ordered a wild berry tea and we all got platters of sandwiches, scones and desserts. The room we sat in was really elegant. The walls were white and there were some little trees in planters throughout the room. There were columns with ornate carvings near the entrance to the kitchen and our table was perfectly laid out with plates and silverware. They were all pretty pastel colors with royal decor. The food was lovely and the tea was so sweet and fruity. It felt like a great way to wrap up my trip with Arcadia.

After tea, we walked around the gardens and marveled at the beautiful flowers and all of the vibrant colors surrounding us everywhere we looked. We took some pictures and walked through the park to get back to the main street. We walked to T.K. Maxx (exactly like T.J. Maxx) and got a few more things for our trip. I got a maxi dress and a patterned tank top and I'm so excited to wear them in France and Italy.

Yesterday was probably one of the best days I've had in London. Megan, Matt and I walked through Regent's Park and spent a few hours at the ZSL London Zoo. The sky was a little gray, but it was fairly warm out again and so many people brought their kids out to the park and the zoo. We saw a tiger, giraffes, birds, gorillas, reptiles, fish, bugs, llamas, penguins and so many other animals. My favorite part was the "Meet the Monkeys" area. There were little monkeys running all over the place. We weren't allowed to touch or feed them but they weren't behind fences, glass or nets. They were popping up everywhere and it was so much fun to take pictures of them and observe how they interacted with one another. The woman working in that area warned all of us about getting our phones too close to the monkeys because they often snatch them. I thought that was really funny.

After the zoo, we walked back through Regent's Park and the sky got so much clearer. The sun was shining and the route we took had a lot of fountains and flowers to see along the way. We stopped and took some photos and Megan and I got sprayed by the fountain. That made for some funny facial expressions in our photos!

We were pretty hungry after all of that so we went to Piccadilly to get some dinner. We ended up at my favorite restaurant, Nonna's Kitchen, which is where we went on my birthday. We split a bottle of white wine and some bruschetta which was great because we were so eager to fill our tummies and rest our feet. We all ordered pizza and they came pretty fast. It was delicious! We talked a lot and after we finished our pizzas we decided to get some gelato. I got one scoop of kinder, one hazelnut and one vanilla. It was amazing but I definitely ate way too much. I had a stomachache and a headache for the rest of the night.

That didn't stop us from going back to Baker Street, getting some snacks from Tesco and coming up to my room to watch a movie. We picked out Jungle 2 Jungle starring Tim Allen. I loved that movie when I was younger and so did Matt. Megan said she had never seen it so when we had to show it to her. We stopped paying attention halfway through and the volume isn't the greatest on my computer but we had a lot of fun talking and joking around. We finished the movie and watched some YouTube videos before they headed out to catch the tube.

I was so tired that I slept really heavily last night and had some crazy dreams about tigers and giraffes. I still feel a bit sleepy so I may indulge in a quick afternoon nap. I think I can put off laundry until tomorrow.

I'm really looking forward to my ten day trip with Anna and Matt, but since I'll have spotty WiFi and no computer, I probably won't blog until I get back to London. I know, I know, you'll miss me too much. Don't worry I'll be posting pictures on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook every chance I get.

Have a lovely week everyone!

Write soon,
xx Sheila

(PS: Congratulations to Stephanie on her acceptance and decision to attend St. Michael's College next fall. You are going to LOVE it and I'm really excited to have you join the SMC community. We're going to have so much fun decorating your dorm room! Love you!)

A scene from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was filmed at the The Reptile House at the zoo.
We got sprayed by the fountain when Matt was taking our picture and it was so cold!

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