Kick Off to Summer Reading: Birdsong

Well, what can I say?  It has been far too long since my last post.  I can blame the terrible internet connection that I had in my flat, however I do not think that is an adequate excuse.  Anyway, I have left London and am back in sunny California on the brink of summer.  This can only mean one thing to an English Major… it is time for summer reading!  Can anyone think of a better way to spend their summer other than opening a literary classic or the newest fad novel while laying out by a pool, or in my case the beach, on a sunny afternoon?  I sure can’t.  This is the time for all English Major’s to take those “Must Read List”s and read the books that they have always wanted to.

As soon as I returned from England, I began Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong. It was recommended to me by a friend that I met in London who said that it was his favorite novel, and I can now see why.  This book was amazing.  It had everything that you could want in a novel: war, romance, betrayal, friendship, and history all intertwined with symbolism, foreshadowing, a suspenseful plot, and character growth.

The novel is set in the early 1900’s right before World War I, when Stephen Wraysford, an Englishman, is sent to live with a factory owner in Amiens, France.  The book travels through his experiences there and then follows him into WWI, where, as a captain, he is forced to feel emotions for the men under his control, or else die without having a purpose to his life or a hope for the future.  Throughout the story, Steven discovers his own heart and why he feels the way he does about events, people, and life.

Along side the main plot, Faulks created a sub plot, following the path of Wraysford’s granddaughter, Elizabeth, as she begins to understand the importance of WWI and the impact it had on those that were a part of it.  By understanding this event of the past, Elizabeth is able to better understand her own life and what she wants her future to look like.

The novel was recently made into a BBC mini series staring Eddie Redmayne (My Week With Marilyn) and Clemence Poesy (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).  I haven’t seen it yet, but my good friend Julianna said it was amazing and wants me to watch it.  Here is the BBC One trailer


I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone.  Do not be afraid of the length or plot intensity because the novel is amazing. Happy reading!


The last 3 Weeks…

Sorry for the lack of posting.  I cannot believe that I am already in the middle of my fourth week here in London.  So much has been going on, with classes, day trips, and going out with the other students on the program.  Here is a recap of what has happened since my last post.

We have seen all sorts of places in London including Trafalgar Square, Southwark Cathedral, Regents Park, the Sherlock Holmes Museum, Abbey Road, Brick Lane for curry, the London Museum, shopping in Oxford Circus, clubbing in Soho, and we saw the Imperial War Museum.  Here are some photos from those adventures.

Southwark Cathedral

With my flatmate on Tower Bridge

The Olympic Countdown in Trafalgar Square

Sherlock Holmes Museum

Crossing Abbey Road

Swans at Regents Park

The monument that I climbed to the top of

Curry Night!

So good!

Imperial War Museum

With the gang in Soho

I have done so much and have had so much fun and it has only been 3 and 1/2 weeks!    I will try and get better at blogging so I can keep you all updated!

London Day 3!

Today was a fun day filled with a bus tour, a new lunch spot discovered, the Natural History Museum, and Princess Di’s Memorial.  Our program planned a bus tour around London with Blue Badge Guides for us this morning.  I thought it was going to be like the Red Bus tour that I had taken the first time I came to London, but it was actually much better than that.  Our guide, Nigel, was hilarious and told us a ton about London and the places we went.  He took us to a great view point of Tower Bridge, brought us to a great spot to watch the changing of the guard, and even pointed out to us where the Gringotts Bank scenes were shot in Harry Potter!!!!

After the bus tour, a bunch of us went to find a good fish and chips place by our campus.  However, we did not fare too well and Sarah, my roommate, and I decided to eat at a place called Pod.  We had passed it a few times before and the menu looked good.  We got Curry Chicken over rice with vegetables.  It was so good!  It was amazing quality of meat, and the sauce was spicy which satisfied my mexican food craving.

After lunch, Sarah and I decided to head over to the Natural History Museum.  It was so easy to get to.  We just took the Piccadilly Line to South Kensington and that tube station has underground tunnels which will take you right to whichever museum you want to go to.  So instead of walking up and through the streets to get to it, we just walked down a tunnel that was not very crowded at all.  The museum on the other hand was pretty crowded, but it was pretty cool to see everything they had.  One thing that was cool to see was Lucy.  Lucy is the skeleton that students learn about in science classes as the missing link, or at least the closest thing that scientists have discovered.  Also, the building was absolutely gorgeous with tons of fantastic stone work and stain glass windows.

Harry Potter stairs?

After walking through most of the museum, Sarah and I walked to Hyde Park to see Princess Diana’s Memorial.  It is a circular fountain with water flowing in opposite directions.

We then walked back through Hyde Park to the closest Tube and stopped at Paul’s on the way to our apartment for some coffee and French pastries!  YUM!!!!

What a day!

London Calling

Hello from London, England!!!  Sorry for the lack of posting.  With the holidays and the last few weeks in the states my life was pretty busy, but I have officially made it through one whole day in the city!!!

This is what I expected, but at the same time it is not what I expected.  We haven’t really seen any sights at all because we came straight to our apartments after we got off the plane.  Yesterday afternoon and night was mostly devoted to grocery shopping and sleeping.  Grocery store shopping was my main expectation where I knew what to expect but was not completely ready for.  We had to buy things like hand soap, dish soap, paper towels, and toilette paper, and these are all minor things, but it has taken three shopping trips for basic necessities.  I knew I would have to do this one day, but for some reason studying abroad just did not hit me as living on your own.  Besides buying food, apartment living is another skill that I will have to gain entirely!    There might already be something wrong with our toilet, you have to turn a switch to make an electric plug work, and we are still figuring out how to work the heater.  I wish that the program packets had come with an instruction manual for us to use.  It would have saved us time and we would not have almost froze last night!  Also there are a few more kitchen appliances that we need.  Well not even appliances, more like a non stick pan and a cutting board.  I also need to become a pro at budgeting.  I need to sit down and start planning out all of my spending for food and trips.  My cash that I came with is going fast and I don’t want to get any more out until next month.  Yes, it is mostly because I bought a blow dryer here so I wouldn’t ruin mine and because we needed toilet paper and such (I am not just spending it on silly things), but I do need to figure out a weekly plan to start to live by.

Other than grocery store shopping and figuring out our apartment the last day, this morning and afternoon all of the students in the program had orientation which was how you could imagine it: the basics in safety, getting around town, and culture shock.  We had an hour break for lunch and a small group of us went down a few blocks to Pret and it was so good!  They mostly have sandwiches and salads and I got a tomato mozzarella sandwich.  It was so fresh and was just what I needed after a long morning of walking, climbing stairs, lots and lots of stairs, and hours of meetings.  I forgot how many stairs there are in London!!!  There are stairs in the apartment, we are on the 2nd floor (technically 3, but over here the first floor is called the ground floor), in the tube stations (the subway), and the school, our classes are on the 3rd level (but it is really 4).  Everyone in my program keeps saying how we will all be coming back home with fantastic legs!!!

Tomorrow we have a big bus tour before classes start on Monday!  Hopefully then I will have some pictures for you all, I just haven’t really had time to go take pictures and we are not around anything that I NEED to take a picture of!


A Time to Reflect

As this year comes to an end, I thought it would be a good idea to transfer the last half of my year from my planner to my 5 year journal.  Last Christmas my sister gave me the “One Line A Day: A Five Year Memory Book” and I was so excited to commit to writing down everything that I did everyday.  One word… fail.  I got up to around April and stopped.  I was not too surprised, this tends to happen with me.  I did start up again around June, but then stopped again.  Then when the school year came up, I bought my planner and wrote down everything I did.  So now I am transferring the information over from August to now.

Some of the days I do not remember at all, but then there are the days where I remember everything.  The best part of this is getting to find the days where I met my new friends.  I have never really been able to know the exact dates of when I have met people, but now I have a handful of people that I can say to “I met you on…”.  What a better way to bring in my new year than to remember all of my past days filled with joy and happiness!  Happy New Year everyone!

Winter Reading

Finals are completed and the holidays are just about over, and with a grand total of only 24 days until I leave for London, I needed to find a way to fill all of my spare time! What a better way to spend my free time than to make a dent in the immense amount of books that I have bought but have never once opened!  Just before finals were over I went through all of the books on my book shelf and picked out the ones that I thought I would be able to finish before I go.  Here are a majority of my choices:

There are not many others, but here is a completed list of what I hope to read this winter break:

  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • In the Cage by Henry James
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  • A Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • Maus by Spiegelman
  • There Are No Short Cuts by Rafe Esquith
  • The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell
  • The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
  • Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  • On Poetics by Aristotle
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • Discourse on the Origin of Inequality by Jean Jacques Rousseau
  • Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord
  • The History of Rasselas by Samuel Johnson

The good news is that I have only been out of school for 11 days and have finished 6 of these.  I am currently on Leaves of Grass, On Poetics, and Leviticus.  I may be too ambitious, but I think I can do it!

Wish me luck!

New York! (Part 3)

On my last full day in on the East Coast, we all went into the city one last time.  It was Monday and we had thought, since it was supposed to rain, that this would be the best day for the Met, which was the only thing that I had wanted to go and see while in New York.  However, on Sunday, we had discovered that the random day of the week that the Met is closed, all museums have one, is on Mondays!  I wasn’t too disappointed, what was there for me to do, but then a friend of the family told me on Sunday at the Christening party that the Met was only closed to the public that Monday, and that it was a members only day, and she was a member!  Even better, they don’t check IDs at the door when you show your card.  So long story short, I was Denise for the day!  That saved the day and even though the main exhibits were closed, I was able to see many visiting exhibits and I got 20% off at the museum store!  

I even got to try a hotdog from a street cart.  I wasn’t too sure about how they were going to be, but they were not too bad.After we went to the Met, we all walked through central park to the Natural History Museum.  We killed some time there before we met up with my cousin Emily.  We were all going to go to dinner at Serendipity 3, unfortunately they do not allow strollers inside because there is a lack of space.  We ended up going to a restaurant just a walk away on the corner of E 60th and 3rd called Brasserie 360.  It was very family friendly and the food was delicious!

New York was such a blast and I cannot wait to go back one day!  I loved just getting to walk around to see the city.  New York in the Fall! It was a beautiful experience that I will never forget and dream to relive.

Photos taken by my sister Heather.

New York! (Part 2)

Our second full day on the East Coast was Sunday, the day of Declan’s Christening.  It was a day filled with getting dressed up, setting up for the after party, getting to see New Jersey Housewives (or at least wanna be housewives), a long ceremony filled with lots of babies in very white puffy outfits, and a night of fun and laughs with my cousin who is at school in New York.  It was long, but very fun.

– photos taken by my cousin Emily

New York! (Part 1)

I finally got to go to the big city!  I never thought I would ever get to see New York in my life.  I always dreamed that I could go there to get to see magnificent works of art in the Met, to walk the streets rich with architecture, and to wander through Central Park. My chance finally came when my sister and brother-in-law decided to have my nephew’s christening in Staten Island the weekend before Thanksgiving!  

We flew out of LAX on Friday and arrived that night at JFK.  We stayed at my Brother-in-law’s parent’s house in New Jersey.  On Saturday we took the Staten Island Ferry into the city and walked on the sky line, went to Union Square, saw Grand Central Station, and stood in the middle of Time Square.

The high line was an abandoned train track that the city turned into a park.  It is a fantastic mix of rustic and modern, with the juxtaposition of the plants and the metal and woodwork.  It is a great place to take tons of pictures. There are so many angles and shots available, you will easily se a majority of people with their cameras out.

We then walked to Union Square for lunch at 4 o’clock (we were definitely still on California time).  We ate at Heartland Brewery, a restaurant and bar with a pub atmosphere.  It was very good.  I had a grilled chicken sandwich that was delicious, and my sister had a pulled pork sandwich which was to die for.  After that we went to see Grand Central Station and walked through Times Square.  I must say you meet the strangest people in Times Square.  There were two men, drunk, who kept saying how cute of a baby my nephew is.  He is pretty cute though.

After Times Square we headed back to the house to get some much needed sleep from a busy day walking all over.

Pictures taken by me and my sister.  Edited by my sister.

A Shakespearian Conspiracy

Last month I went to see the newest Shakespeare film, not based on one of his plays, but on the writer himself, Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous.  So many people already had opinions of this film as soon as they saw the first trailer.  I definitely wanted to see the film, but I often heard people saying to me that they would never see it because there is no way that they could take it seriously.  Ya, because that is the only reason we go to the movies, to take them seriously.  My best friend Julianna and I went to see the movie and told each other going into it that we had to take it simply as historical fiction and we both ended up really enjoying it!  I would easily go and see it again.

Don’t get me wrong, there of course were things that I did not like or that annoyed me a little.  For example it is easy to get mixed up by all of the jumping around in time, but eventually you do realize when and where you are watching.  Other than that, there is nothing I can complain about.  The story is based around a conspiracy that has been around for hundreds of years, so the plot was obviously well thought out.  Aside from the conspiracy theory, there were tons of twists and turns throughout the plot line, but there was also plenty of character development.  No, not of Shakespeare, but of Ben Johnson and the Earl of Oxford, making the story that much more relatable and realistic.

If you are weary of seeing it, I would say go, but don’t go into it with high expectations, otherwise you will only set yourself up for disappointment.  Go into it with low expectations and you will come out of the theater surprised and possibly as impressed as I was.