Wednesday 7/3: Windsor Castle & Eton College

Wednesday began with the usual drill. The group then whizzed off to Windsor, along a tree-lined route that made me ache for Charlotte’s own streetside flora and fauna. However, any homesickness was relieved, at least temporarily, upon the sight of the castle erupting into view on my right, as if ripped right from a science-fiction fantasy, or an action-adventure thriller. (For some reason, the exotic growl of a vengeful promise from the lips of one Inigo Montoya came to mind. I remembered my essay, how I’d pictured gallantly eloping to those same rolling hills on some valiant quest, kicking butt and taking names. Windsor Castle encompasses a sense of magic that’s all its own–not only in a high schooler’s personal divulgences, but genuinely, out there in the real world.)


I appreciated the audio touring device we received for free with admission, a small gadget, clipped to a lanyard, that we could plug our earbuds right into. I could listen to a track several times in a row if I wanted something run by me again, a convenience that I took advantage of on several occasions while waiting in line. I mean, queue. While queuing. Right.








The view from the castle of the town was incredible. Miles of the sweeping circumambient terrain was visible: children playing cricket in a schoolyard, double-deckers whirling around bends where vendors had spread their wares, chipped dinghies bobbing languidly on the Thames. You really got the sense of how safe this place would have been during an attack. It’s the ideal location–invaders would both have been spotted long before they neared the walls, and the hill would have exhausted even the most highly trained combatants.


After admiring the vista for a few minutes, we continued on.



One of the first exhibitions was Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, a project that was actually headed by the granddaughter of Queen Mary (who was married to Henry V), Elizabeth II. The two were very close, so she wanted to give her grandmother a gift that she would cherish, and miniatures were kind of the Queen’s thing. The house was completed in 1924 and features the work of some of the finest architects, designers, craftsmen, and artists of the time, commissioned to incorporate pots and kettles, guns, replicas of famous portraits, books, sofas, the newest gadget on the market: an electric vacuum cleaner. The house is fully furnished, with working electricity. There’s even a fully stocked wine cellar, and a strong room containing miniature Crown Jewels.





The Royal Paintbox, an exhibition of works (including paintings and drawings) by the Royal Family, running now through January 26th of next year, was also source of interest for me. Some of the art was really intriguing, which sort of surprised me. You can’t be royalty and an artist! It’s not fair! But it is, alas, wholly possible… and the diversity of styles was, in itself, really a joy to see. Some of the nobles were more inclined to realism, some to cartooning, but none put exactly the same spin on their subjects. Photography was not permitted, but I’m sure a bit of searching around on the Internet will turn up some finds.






Once the tour was completed, we had lunch down by the river and fed some belligerent swans (there must have been hundreds!) before splitting up and exploring the town on our own. Brandy and I stuck together, stepping into a few touristy shops, and then crossing over the bridge and scavenging around in a (relatively overpriced) antique bookstore, which offered some vintage newspaper comics that I liked. Afterward, Brandy’s hunger led us to a combination cafe and barber shop, where she purchased a lemon pound cake. A significant portion of which somehow ended up in my stomach.

Once the group reconvened, it was time for a ramble around Eton, albeit a guided one. It was actually a private tour, which was cool. Plus, our group is kind of a loud one, so it was really to everyone’s benefit.

I think my favorite thing about Eton (a high school, for anyone else who is as confused as I was! The term “college” doesn’t have the same meaning in the UK as it does in the States) has to be the school uniform. It’s just one of the elements left behind from Eton’s past, and it’s a traditional Victorian getup. (Top hats were also a part of the uniform up until 1948.) Today, the guys have plenty of opportunities to don more casual garb during their free time, but judging by the number of times admin’s offer to alter attire requirements has been declined, they don’t really seem to want to.

One thing the guide made us aware of was just how grueling a day in the life of an Eton student would have been circa the 15th through 19th centuries (the school was founded in 1440 by Henry VI as “the King’s College of Our Lady Eton Beside Windsor”–a name which, being the mouthful it was, many were thrilled to eventually shorten). The boys endured school days twice as long as those typical of today’s students. Younger boys often had to act as servants (then called “fags”) to their older counterparts. All students were served very little food (lots of mutton!), and would beg for leftovers outside of local pubs, and when that didn’t work, they would hide what they could beneath their floorboards, an undertaking that drew hoards of rats and must have seriously deflated the already minimal living conditions of the dorms. Lectures were often so monotonous that they would invent games to play quietly among themselves, like one that was evidenced by a thin channel left carved into one of the antique desks in a surviving classroom we visited: betting on which way and at what speed ink would run when poured from their pens. Today, of course, Eton is much nicer, offering full scholarships to 40 boys a year, single dorms for each student, and about 50 organizations, called societies, at any given time, run exclusively by the students.


Above: What a traditional dorm looked like.



Above: A bronze statue of Henry VI, the founder.


The door where Prince William and Prince Harry, both of whom attended Eton, had their names professionally inscribed.



After the tour, we were all pretty worn out, and headed back to the dorms to sleep until dinner. Definitely one of the most interesting days, however tiring!


Friday 7/5: The Last Night

Oh man, I’m sorry to not have posted everything I expected to today. We’ve been insanely busy, particularly with packing. (For the record: packing for a trip? Fun! Packing for the return? Not fun.) I will, however, be home tomorrow with no definitive plans for a week beyond sleeping and posting here. No guarantees that I’ll be up to the job tomorrow, but you can unquestionably expect a full report on the trip, including the days I’ve yet to chronicle, by the end of Sunday.

Again, guys, thanks so much for all your kindness and loyalty to this blog. And even though this trip has just about come to a close, I will be continuing this blog, so please stick around! I’m just getting started!

Monday 7/1: Selfridge’s & Regent’s Park

Yesterday, I woke up at 6:00 (to drink tea and write!), ran two miles, took a shower, and hopped on the bus headed for Selfridge’s, where we would spend an hour zipping from floor to floor, reveling in the shimmering Shangri-La of 21st century materialism that is Britain’s most famous department store–in fact, so voted the “best department store in the world.”

Seriously, Selfridge’s was immense, glistening from floor to ceiling, decked out in chrome and crystal. It felt sort of like Oz–like I might pass from the dazzling shoe department into the Emerald City at any given moment. I had never felt so American here before, loping around in my Nike shorts and tee, gangly, disoriented, and endlessly out-of-place, my faux leather backpack slung limply across my back and my plastic water jug dangling from my crooked ring finger, rather than clutched in my fist, as if in a gesture of feigned daintiness. I have been assured, in the past, that I do not have an accent or, for that matter, any sort of “vocal extremity,” but in that moment I deemed my voice grating and riotously wrong. Nails on a chalkboard. A donkey braying.

A conclusion that led me straight to where other 16-year-old foreigners undoubtedly drown their sorrows:


The giant candy shelves.

And, consequently, a “candy floss” machine, which invoked childhood memories of Angelina Ballerina and her wonderful mishaps at the country fair.


The food hall (“It sounds so much better than ‘food court!’ Brandy laughed) had dozens of sweets shops and delicatessens set up, all advertising delicious-looking items in their glass display cases.




After Selfridge’s, we trekked over to Regent’s Park, where we admired the flowers and ate lunch on benches, taking photos all the while. (We were in Queen Mary’s Gardens, an inner district of the park that accommodates more than 30,000 roses of 400 types.)






(Yellow roses! My favorite!)


We had some time before the performance of The Winter’s Tale, so we strolled around the park with no particular direction in mind.

Lots of birds–over 100 species of waterfowl.

(Several hundred years ago, these birds might have been targeted by hunters, whom King Henry VIII ushered in by appropriating the area as a hunting ground during his reign.)




I’m not sure what type of bird this is, despite my (admittedly weak) attempts to identify it online later. But there were several in the pond, diving and surfacing continually. It was very cute.


Also a few herons!


Two people brought an entire loaf of bread solely for the purpose of feeding the geese.


This pretty duck was just sitting on the pavement, unflinchingly, as we passed. Just goes to show how good birds must have it in these London parks!


A swan was preening itself in one of the smaller lagoons.


We also saw the home of the British ambassador to the U.S. Which was huge. Not a bad gig.

We made our way back to the Open Air Theatre–the only professional outdoor drama venue in Britain, and a widely acclaimed one at that–just before the doors were opened and the audience began spilling in.




I was thoroughly impressed with the performance. I was somewhat hesitant about the whole thing, mostly because we’d been informed the previous day that it had been advertised as both appropriate and entertaining for children ages six and up. What? A Shakespearean play that’s fun for kids? But, yes, the cast and crew pulled this feat off spectacularly, incorporating (principally as interludes after exceptionally humdrum slices of the show) interactive songs, raps, dancing, and even a stuffed sheep-shearing competition between groups of audience members. Something I really liked was the free movement of actors in and between the seats of the theatre. They weren’t afraid to grab hats off heads, speak directly to individuals, sit on laps, etc.

So that was basically Monday. The weather was amazing–sunny, warm, absolutely perfect. Thanks for the read! Now, on to constructing Tuesday’s retrospection!

Sunday 6/30: Globe & Tate Modern

Sunday began with 2 miles around the track, breakfast, and a shower, as usual. Then we were off to London where, I belatedly discovered, we would be delving into the International Shakespeare Globe Centre & Theatre before having a look at the Tate Modern Gallery.

The bus ride was quiet and relaxing. I read a bit of my new book, Lucky Kunst: The Rise and Fall of Young British Art, by Gregor Muir. It’s an interesting find, and unique in that I kinda sorta bought it by accident; when I’d been picking out my final selections in the book shop on Friday, I’d actually intended to purchase “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” by Antonia Fraser, but by a lapse in scrutiny, I instead handed this one over to the cashier, underneath my other pick. Oh well. I am really enjoying it. It provides a helpful context for everything we’ve been learning in the past week. There’s lots of discussion of the economic climate of London (and even globally) throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and embellishment particularly on policies, politics, and revolution, through the critical eye of an artisan in the interim of a shifting creative era. I’m trying to read 10 pages a day; should take about 24 days, 20 as of now.

We arrived relatively early and killed some time on the pier, taking photos and giving our aching feet some brief solace. The sun on our faces and wispy clouds boded well for our rain-dreading American mentalities.




Also some great shots of London from Bankside, across the Thames.





So we entered with the promise of an hour of exploration, and I ambled along, reading up on as many exhibit pieces as possible and filing away the information in some distant corner of my mind, for when I could later cross-reference it with my authoritative Shakespeare: The World a Stage audiobook.

Currently under construction is the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (so named after the project’s founder), an indoor theatre that will seat 340 and open on January 9th of next year with John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi. Loads of information available about this project in the exhibition, as the Centre is trying to up the hype, I’m sure.

On display was a timeline of Shakespeare’s written works, ordered by year of completion. Despite the noisy design, it was very interesting to see the historical events surrounding each.


I was also captivated by this quote, as it seems to epitomize the true scope of Shakespeare’s influence:


(There was a small-scale poster version of the quote in the gift shop, but the price was too high to appeal to my Oxford University sweatshirt-craving sensibilities.)

Shakespeare’s Will was also on display–lovely to see as I’ve heard a lot about it but never viewed it myself. My gaze flicked straight to his signature at the bottom right-hand corner; curiously enough, he signed this one under the name “Shakspeare.” This is one of only six discovered records of his penmanship, all of them nearly illegible signatures, and none of which are spelled in the “conventional” scheme with which we are familiar. This being said, funny that we should spell his name the way we do.


Some other pieces in the exhibit that caught my eye:




A model of the frost fair held in the winter of 1621 over upstream of London Bridge on the Thames when it froze over was exhibited. Climatologists called it the “little Ice Age” of the early 17th century.


A few shots of the building…



And then the tour. The Theatre was so cool. Of course, it wasn’t an exact replica–for starters, it’s located several hundred yards from the site of the original Globe–but as far as imitations go, it was pretty darn close.







The stage was set for an afternoon performance of Macbeth at the time. The Theatre puts on shows every day from April through October. (And when the Playhouse is opened, shows will be available to audiences through winter as well!) I loved that the band came out and practiced during our tour, the traditional music really took me back in time. Also, the guide made sure to place special emphasis on the fact that, yes, it is possible to pull of Shakespearean productions with a stylistic twist–for instance, modern costuming or the use of a hip-hop soundtrack! I’ve seen one or two of these “New Age Shakespeare” productions before, and absolutely loved them.

Well, I’m very, very, very tired, so I’m going to sleep now. I will complete Sunday’s reflection tomorrow, along with today’s. Our plan for tomorrow is to visit Oxford University–fingers crossed for an affordable sweatshirt!

Saturday 6/29: Parliament, Piccadilly Circus, & Criterion Theatre

(Sorry about the wait on this one, guys. Luckily, we returned to the dorm fairly early today, so I have a little extra time to write.)

Yesterday, I woke up at 6:30 and ran 2 miles. Breakfast included chocolate-filled croissants, which was, of course, very exciting. I showered and pulled on a new shirt (yay!) and we boarded the bus.

The ride was the usual hour, give or take thirty minutes. We arrived just down the street from the Houses of Parliament, and with time to spare. This warranted a stroll through the Victoria Tower Gardens, the sunshine streaming down on us through the cool air. People cycled past. A man played fetch with his dog. It was so peaceful, I could have stayed there for hours.


In addition to picture-taking, we made sure to pay our respects at the Buxton Memorial, a stone erection that bears resemblance to a gazebo, commemorating the emancipation of slaves following the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act. Originally located in Parliament Square, the Memorial was moved in 1957 to mark the 150th anniversary of the 1807 Act abolishing the trans-Atlantic slave trade.


There was a lovely view of the London Eye from the edge of the River Thames! (We’ll be riding it on July 4th! This constitutes an Independence Day celebration, right?)


Parliament peeks through the trees as we approach, its high-seated flag fluttering in the breeze…


Such an incredible building.


Richard I greeted us in front of the House of Lords, where he has been perched on his whinnying horse for over 150 years. Major conservation work was just completed on his likeness four years ago.


We all managed some great shots as we filed in through a thorough security check.


Just beyond the small, tree-lined courtyard outside of the entrance to Westminster Hall, Elizabeth Tower dwarfed us, an enormous glistening beacon.


And then, finally, we entered the Hall–the oldest surviving portion of the Palace, as most of the others burned to the ground in October of 1834. (An echo of this disaster was hearkened when the Common Chambers were, again, reduced to little more than molten ash during a 1941 air raid, when their conservation was deemed less vital than that of the Hall. Our tour guide would later relay to us with a smirk that “the stories of great buildings are often the stories of great fires.” Indeed, London’s track record is certainly a testament to this quip.) Over a thousand years of history loomed before me, stretching into the rafters and filling the cracks in the stone, pressing against the glass panels in the lofty windows. Suddenly, I felt so tiny and unimportant. This was where London was truly born.


We had a tour scheduled for around 10:45, and the guide led us through, and familiarized us with the building: the Robing Room, where the Queen dresses in her Imperial State Crown and ceremonial robes before gliding into the House of Lords, the Royal Gallery, used for state receptions, dinners, and ceremonies, decorated on either wall by a Daniel Maclise mural illustrating a pivotal moment of the Napoleonic Wars, the Lords’ Chamber, lavishly garnished in red and gold, woolsacks arranged in tiers and tasseled with gilded fringe, the Central Lobby, where the four corners of the UK touch, the Members’ Lobby, where Winston Churchill’s dangerous scowl and hip-bracketing fists are immortalized in stone, and the Commons Chamber, which can accommodate only 427 of the 650 Members of Parliament at a time. Personally, I felt myself drawn to the art–for instance, the chivalric value-personifying vignette pieces in the Robing Room, demarcated by runes reading “hospitality,” “generosity,” “mercy,” “religion,” “courtesy.” I was also fascinated to hear about the State Opening ritual dating back to the Civil War wherein the official of the House of Lords called “Black Rod” is sent to summon the Commons, and has the doors to the Chamber shut in his face. He then knocks again, three times (there is visible wear in the woodwork by cause of this), at which time the members of this house acquiesce and file into the Lords’ Chamber. The ritual is symbolic of the Commons’ independence from the corruption of the monarchy.

Lamentably, photography was not permitted in the Palace, so I have only words to hand on, but if you ever have the chance, I recommend paying it a visit. I definitely feel that you get the bang for your buck.

Shortly after the dismissal of our tour group, we clipped along through Parliament Square (the traffic was absolutely terrifying–too many electric bikes!) and wound our way around to St. James’s Park, passing, on the way, Abraham Lincoln’s effigy, carved out of bronze. This is a replica of the somewhat controversial original in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, created by artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens.


Anyway, St. James’s turned out to be a wonderful place–for us as we nibbled at our sandwiches and, I’m sure, the hundred billion other park transients, as girls attempted wobbly handstands and young couples nuzzled one another in the grass. (“Londoners don’t understand Frisbee,” Ms. Nichols chuckled at one point, eyeing a band of teenaged boys repeatedly tossing a yellow disc slantwise and yelling in thick French accents when it inevitably plummeted into the ground and rolled, in lazy circles, to a halt.) We even saw some baby swans, while the estate is home to 29 other species of waterfowl, including mallard, golden eye, tufted duck, shelduck, and wigeon. (Not to be confused with pigeon… although there are plenty of those too.)

When we finished lunch, it was time to see Buckingham Palace!!! This was really exciting for me so I took a few pictures, to say the least.


The group then continued toward Piccadilly Circus, crossing through what Mr. Worthington dubbed the “Ritz” area. Here, Ms. Nichols and the students trailing furthest behind erupted into animated shouts as we turned a corner–apparently, Russel Crowe had walked past them.

Here are a few shots from that part of our walk:


(Right around here, we discovered an excellent photo opportunity. Below, the letters crowning the box stand for “Elizabeth II, Ruler/Royalty.”)






Lots of these little blue plaques around London, as constituents of its blue plaque scheme started in 1866. This is believed the be the oldest of its kind in the world. Each plaque serves as a link between influential persons of the past and the places where they lived and worked.


Long live the Queen! As we entered Piccadilly Circus, these banners flew high, recognizing the reign of Elizabeth II’s 60th anniversary this year.


Upon our entry to the district, we were tossed into an enormous, sweaty, throbbing mass of people, absolutely crammed together for the LGBT Pride March, an event that the majority of us, myself included, weren’t expecting. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am an immensely ardent advocate of all things gay rights-related, but the lack of elbow room was deeply unsettling. Especially as a tourist.


Thankfully, our clan managed to find its way through the Underground to the other side of the road, at which point we split into coteries of two and three and did some of what we like best–shopping. (Even still, I didn’t buy anything.) Many students ducked into Lillywhites for sportswear, while Brandy and I tag-teamed Cool Brittania, after escaping from the commotion into a health chain I’m becoming increasingly familiar with called, quite simply, “Eat.” We even got a few photos of the parade from the shop’s upper level seating space.


Everyone met back again in front of Criterion Theatre, where we received our tickets for The 39 Steps from Mr. Worthington. The theatre was petite and cozy, and our seats were great.


To be “ruthlessly honest,” (as Mr. Worthington says) I was skeptical about the show at first, but it ended up being fantastic, and very, very funny… despite the clear overtones of undeniably British humor, to which I don’t typically respond. I loved it. Arguably most impressive was that a cast of only four managed to effectively take on dozens of roles throughout the hour-and-a-half-long performance. Time and again, these talented players pulled off ingenious stunts, through comedic timing, the employment of “human props,” and breaking the fourth wall. The show conveyed all the cinematic wonder of a film, complete, even, with angle shifts through clever use of visual illusion and a willingness to play with the audience’s perspective. When wind needed to blow, the actors fluttered their coats; when a train needed to move, they rocked rhythmically back and forth. And sure, these tricks sound old hat, but what really lit up this staging was that everything was done in a very humorously self-aware manner that seemed to forge a bond between the actors and viewers. There was no “I’m playing a role,” but rather, “I know you know I’m playing a role.” If that makes any sense at all. Anyhow, I’m very interested in picking up a copy of the book by John Buchan, which the play is based on, if I can hunt it down.

After the show, we had about an hour of free time for dinner and what have you, so Brandy and I settled on Chipotle (a conservative choice, I know, but I needed a burrito like air). For the next half hour, we discussed the possibilities and mechanics of time travel while dipping into pinto beans and guacamole, before scoping out a gelato joint a few blocks down and ordering rosemary orange and salted caramel, and vanilla biscuit, respectively. Perfect accompaniment to our mutual quiet observation of the whirlwind of activities outside the shop, lit by the last flushed light of the sun as it fell across the cobblestone below.


Before the group left London for the night, we watched a street performer juggling knives and unicycling across a quivering tightrope. As I tugged anxiously at my hair and ground my teeth, Brandy whispered breathily beside me. “I hope he knows what he’s doing.” But I guess that’s what London is all about–the magic of not knowing. This city is wrapped in mystery, dark figures in alleyways and unusual smells, profiles in windows and graffitied witticism sprayed against stones of Roman origin, street musicians with no names, crumbling towers with far too many. You could live here for a lifetime and not know the half of it. Two lifetimes. Ten. Exploring a town that built the world as we know it is a joy in and of itself, even if the fact of the matter is that I’ll hardly make a dent in the history books.

Uppity poeticism aside, Saturday was amazing. Now to begin crafting today’s chapter…

Tuesday 6/25: But Wait, There’s More (Studying)

Since you haven’t heard enough from me about my day yet.

Hm. Where to begin? Picking up where I left off, the “walk through the common” to West End was unbelievable. I mean, the trail was beautiful. As one of our supervisors remarked, it’s not everyday that you find huge, winding nature trails available for public use in the US, but this one was open to anybody and everybody (and their little dogs too). There were hundreds of trees, and the range of species was crazy. Some of the hills alongside dropped off into hundred-foot ravines, and you could see through the forest to the sweeping landscape of striped fields and scattered farmhouses below. (My severe compulsion to pee during the entire hike was, unfortunately, somewhat distracting, but as I was blessed upon my conception with the bladder of a rodent, I have experienced many hours of training in the field of “holding it,” and was able to do as much.)

Once we made it to Winterdown Road, some of us clutching our crotches and frantically bouncing in place, the steeples of small churches and equestrians on whizzing bicycles (cycles, scratch the “bi”) had risen into view, and we crossed the street and split up for half an hour to explore Garson’s. It was a great site for photo-taking, a fact to which both the readers of this blog and followers of my Instagram feed can (begrudgingly) attest. So I spent my time walking around a glorified grocery store with my camera slung around my neck, shamelessly embracing my role as The Tourist, to the annoyance of a cashier and several jam enthusiasts. And it was pretty great. They had these Lindt truffles the size of my head, literally. I considered buying one before realizing that I a) had no money on hand (primarily to prevent myself from making terrible investments like this), b) did not yet have enough knowledge of dollar/pound equivalency to confidently make a purchase, c) did not need any more food, and geez, chocolate nonetheless, and d) could not transport it home without it melting/breaking/being confiscated by some well-intentioned uniformed authority/etc, etc, etc. Sorry, Anabel. It would have been for you.

Oh, while I’m making direct acknowledgments, let me say this: PLEASE, PLEASE DO NOT text me while I am here in the UK. Believe me, your gluten-free-vegan cuisine buffet business proposals mean the world to me, but they rack up about 10 bucks per message. So please do not send them. (That means you, Sofie. Although the buffet idea sounds awesome. We should definitely discuss it when I get back.)

Anyway, after the walk back to campus, we had an hour and a half of free time. (And yep, I blogged.) Then it was time for dinner, which was followed by dessert–bread pudding, which I’d never tried, but liked, but would probably not pick out of a dessert lineup. And afterwards, we had orientation for tomorrow and a brief overview of future excursions. One supervisor (I promise I will learn all their names at some point!) recommended that we watch the BBC’s “Pride and Prejudice” in the television-furnished common room, but if the dated tale of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s love/hate relationship didn’t turn the group off to the notion, the length–an excruciating 300 minutes–certainly did. So I went outside and ran about three and a half miles on the track (on which the shepard’s pie I had for dinner seemed eager to join me), and then came back inside. Once I finish this post, I’m going to go throw on my pajamas, pour myself some tea in my complimentary British flag-printed mug, and curl up in the main common room with The Fault In Our Stars. I’ll be in bed by 11 at the latest, and up at 6:30, ready to run at 7, eat breakfast at 7:30, pack a lunch, and spend a day in–yes!–London!!!

…Which we heard plenty about this morning in our Geography and Economy lectures. These were actually really interesting, and NOT just because I’m a freak who likes lectures. The professors talked about things like why it doesn’t get as cold in London as it does in, say, Chicago–despite its location 51 degrees north, just south of the Hudson Bay and way north of Ottowa and Montreal, the Gulf Stream warms the region… which–fun fact–is so intensifying the amount of sugar in the grapes growing in places like Champagne that that the alcohol levels are becoming too high for marketing, and thus more land for orchards is being purchased in other places like Cornwall. Apparently, our generation might very well see a huge shift in the alcohol industry during our lifetime. They talked about the possibility of Scotland’s leaving the UK after only about 150 years of unity, and what that may mean for Great Britain: Should the militaries be separated? Should the use of pounds be continued or should there be a shift to euros? And what about the EU application process? Much of the focus of these information sessions was the global interactions in which the United Kingdom has participated. So, there was discussion of African revolutions which were rooted in London, the United Kingdom’s vision of Japan as a gateway to the Atlantic and the consequent treaties between the US, UK, and Japan that opened markets between the three, and then the consequent Boxer Rebellion. There was discussion of opium sales to the Chinese, of the integration of Jamaicans into the British economy, of the migration of Pakistani citizens into East End, of Communist conferences hosted in unassuming London businesses. The British sales tax–20%, value added–was mentioned, as well as the items exempt from this tax, including baby clothes, books, and newspapers. The economy professor even raised a few existential questions with his suggestion of the opportunity cost of contemporary American society. “America is moving toward gated communities,” he declared. “Is the trade off of affluent society a sense of anxiety?” I’d never considered this.

Okay. I’m being told to go to bed now. Wow, I’ve been sitting here forever. So I leave you tonight with this quote by Oscar Wilde: “We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.”

Goodnight, all!