Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

A Day at the Museum

With my paper nearly finished, I thought today would be a perfect day to reward myself with getting out of my shoe box of a room before my break comes to an end (*tear*). I decided to embark on a rather cultural excursion after hitting the gym this morning. Mission: Explore the museums at South Kensington. There are three museums in South Kensington, all within ten minutes walking from the tube station: the Victoria & Albert Museum, The Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. The best part is that they’re all free (donations encouraged, of course). In hindsight my mission was clearly too ambitious, nevertheless it still got me to the area to explore. I ended up only seeing the Natural History Museum, but it definitely inspired me to go back for more museum time. I tend to take for granted the fact that some of the world’s best museums are in my backyard; upon coming to this realization I have decided to make much more time for cultural experiences while I live in the epicenter. Duly noted: only in England do you run into museums that look like this (see the facade at left).

I had my doubts about my general interest in so-called ‘natural history’, but thankfully it ended up proving me wrong! It was such a cool experience and definitely lives up to its reputation. Plus, it’s definitely a great place to bring the kiddos – they have loads of interactive exhibits. Plus, they have this if you want to get out of teaching your kids about sex:

Does anyone else think this is a little too Rated R for a museum? They had an entire section dedicated to human biology and ‘how babies are made’. Literally, an entire section showing the birthing process with super-sized human models… it was a little aggressive for me; not entirely sure how a little one would take it. My guess is that they’ll be traumatized for life and never have sex. Maybe that’s the point?

Though that exhibit traumatized me a bit, I was elated when I got to the fossils, volcanos, solar system and the ‘earth’s treasury’ sections: all Grade A!

You definitely have to see this in real life to appreciate the magnitude of it, but the Earth section is seriously cool! There’s an escalator leading up into this massive globe, and then you’re inside of the earth where they have loads of goodies about the earth’s core, volcanoes, magma, etc. I’m not even that much of a geek (a point which I realize can be argued, but I digress…) and I appreciated every second of it.

The treasury… well, that was like shopping without the fear of spending. I think any woman could spend a couple of hours perusing the merchandise… er, I mean, enjoying the natural beauty of it all. They had case after case of precious and semi-precious stones. Gorgeous! I didn’t even realize how many amazing gems there are… definitely gave me some space to think about my engagement ring (*cough, cough, wink, wink*).


Plus, more importantly, I got to check out the diamond case and see what different weights look like; this display ranges from 1 carat on the left to about 1/8 of a carat on the far right. 1/8 of a carat looks like a nose stud. Seriously. So small. No offense to any newly minted brides showing off their 1/8 carat of bling.

After spending a few hours there (you could seriously spend the whole day if you’re into this kind of stuff… there was a whole dinosaur section that I sort of breezed by), I headed back home only to find that it was dumping snow outside! It had been snowing pretty lightly when I was on the way to the museum, but the skies started falling on the way back. Pretty crazy seeing London semi-snow covered!

Can you guys see the snow fall at Covent Garden?! So intense!

Despite the mini snow storm, or perhaps because of it, the museum was a perfect way to spend a few hours! Snow-free, free admission plus loads of cool stuff. Still on my list to check off: Victoria & Albert, the Science Museum, Tate Modern, and the Imperial War Museum!

Have you guys been to any of the museums in London? Any that you recommend?

Lots of love,


‘Wicked’ & Wine!


Considering the fact that I have been diligently holed up for the past week, working voraciously on my presentations, papers, etc., I felt (semi)justified in going out a few evenings this week! After Wednesday’s Arsenal match, I needed another amazing event to top off Thursday night! I organized a trip to see ‘Wicked’ at the Apollo Victoria theatre (which is conveniently a stone’s throw away from the Victoria tube station) for my Social Policy & Development group. In total there were 16 of us and it was a blast! I happen to be a lover of musicals/plays/general live performances and Wicked definitely exceeded my expectations. The set, the lighting, the singing, the music — it was all amazing! Plus, because we were a large group of students, I managed to snag superb tickets for £17.50 per person (versus £45-£60 that they would normally be)!

Andy & I at the TheatreLadies
We all had such a blast, we’re hoping to plan Round 2 at the Gielgud Theatre in Soho to catch a showing of Avenue Q! If Wicked is playing at a theatre near you, I highly recommend it. It’s almost tied with the Lion King for amazingness!

Last night, after having too much fun on Wednesday and Thursday, my flatmate and I wanted to keep it low key with date three at Mildred’s in Soho. For the record: the risotto cake was out of this world! Whether you’re a veggie or a carnivore, it is definitely something that can be appreciated by all. After a few glasses of wine there, we met up with a group of folks at Gordon’s Wine Bar, apparently the oldest wine bar in London. Rudyard Kipling actually lived in the building back in the day! The place has a very cool vibe; it’s underground in what could best be described as a cave. It’s dimly lit, reasonably priced and a great place to mingle with a slew of different people! A must visit if you enjoy wine.

Gordon's Wine Bar

After three nights of fun, today is dedicated to finishing up my presentation for Monday and working on my paper for the coming week. Only a few more weeks of crazy intensity and then back to having a semi-normal schedule!

Hope everyone’s weekend is fantastic!

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Arsenal v. AZ Alkmaar!

So, I feel like I’ve finally been inducted into British life. I saw my first football game at the Emirates last night! In a Champions League game, Arsenal played Dutch team AZ Alkmaar (pronounced ah-zed allck-mahr) and won 4-1!

I met up with my friend, Nick, who is an Arsenal fanatic and had saved a ticket to the game for me so I could witness European football first-hand. We met up a bit before the game to explore the Arsenal grounds and hit up a local pub/shrine to Arsenal!

Our first stop was the new stadium (built in 2006, I think):

We also hit up ‘The Armoury’, Arsenal’s gift shoppe of sorts where all things Arsenal exist: normal things like shirts, scarves, boxers, mittens, hats, etc. grace the store, but there are also sections dedicated to dog toys, video game controllers (emblazoned with the Arsenal logo), Christmas ornaments, gift wrap and even a toaster that imprints AFC on your toast!

The Armoury

Needless to say, I learned very quickly that football is definitely not just a sport… it’s more like a religion here! In fact, I dared not say the world ‘Tottenham’ or mention my most favorite team, Manchester United, too loud anywhere in the midst of Arsenal fans.

The pub was covered in pictures of Arsenal players, memorable moments and fans and nearly every single person in the pub was wearing an Arsenal shirt or scarf to show their support. Ridiculousness!



I also made some new Dutch friends who sang ‘I wish they all could be California girls’ to me a number of times throughout the night. To anyone who’s wondering, there’s pretty much nothing funnier or more entertaining than watching a group of drunken grown men singing.

Dutchmen!Despite being from Amsterdam, they were supporting Arsensal, too. I’m sure if they had said otherwise, they would have been eaten alive. (Also, please note my sweet Arsenal jersey). Following the pub, we went to the game around 7.30, just in time for kick-off, and our seats were spectacular!

Up close & personal!We were nine rows up and had an amazing view of the pitch, the players and the entire, jam-packed stadium! The new stadium is absolutely gorgeous and it was definitely a good induction into British culture. Plus, the fact that they won 4-1 (along with the fact that I’ve just recently discovered that Cesc Fabregas is absolutely gorgeous) adds to my London love. Although I’m still a Man United fan, Arsenal’s definitely my London team to support!

Lots of love from London,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Platform 9 3/4… plus the National Gallery & Buckingham Get a Visit!

It’s 110P right now and I’m currently sitting in the third floor of the library, where I have comfortably been stationed since 9A. I find that trying to handle my readings and note taking in my room is next to impossible with all of the nearby distractions: the kitchen, facebooking, flatmates to talk with, etc. In the library, I feel a bit more dedicated. I do need a break though, so I thought it would be a good time to post some fun pictures from yesterday!

Friday night, I put my new mattress topper (courtesy of Argos!) on my bed and if sleep time is any indication of the mattress’ success, then this thing is Grade A. I slept in until 1030A. For anyone that knows my sleeping habits, you know that 1030 is about an hour longer than I have ever slept in in my life! I’m normally up by 730A on weekends to get a good start on the day; occasionally, I find myself sleeping in until 830, but it’s very rare. 1030… that’s definitely one for the books. In any case, I hit Oasis Sports Centre immediately and got a good solid workout in by 12P. Alex and I met up with a bunch of fun Canadians at the National Gallery for a quick run-through around 130P to get a start on our afternoon. The National Gallery is quite a sight; admission is free and there are loads of amazing artists that have their work displayed. We passed by some works by Van Gogh, Cezanne and other influential artists, but only got through about 30 minutes of artsy gallivanting before ADHD/general short attention span syndrome peeked its nasty little head.

The National Gallery

Although Alex was pumped to see Van Gogh’s sunflowers, this painting (below) was my most fave. Random, but definitely amazing up close:Van Gogh

After the Gallery, we headed to Buckingham Palace to check out the sights and snag a picture of a beefeater (and a picture with a bobby!)

Bobby Action!

Gates of Buckingham

After doing the super fun/touristy Buckingham deal, we decided to make our way to King’s Cross, the site of the infamous Platform 9 3/4. Due to the fact that most of us are huge Harry Potter geeks afficionados, we were intensely pumped on nabbing some awesome shots.

Platform 9 3/4 // King's Cross

We headed to a nearby pub to grab a few drinks and a bite to eat before I headed home for the evening and locked myself up to get some readings handled. I am happy to announce that London is official veg-friendly; the menu had veggie bangers and mash, veggie lasagna, veggie jacket potatoes and (my choice) a veggie burger with chips! Absolutely delish!

Now that I have spent 15 minutes away from my readings (and cleared my head), it’s time to get back to work. Social Policy for Development is calling my name, and it’s high time I answered!

Lots of love,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Scotland’s at the top!

I thought I would post a snapshot of why Scotland is on the top of my list of places to visit. It’s not the mountainous, glorified scenery. It’s not the incredible culture, the history, or the legends of Loch Ness. It’s not the arts, the music or sport. And it’s not the food or drink, though any of those items could have been a substantial impetus. Here’s why Scotland is #1:

gerard butler

Any country that produces men of this caliber is a must-see.

That’s my thought for the day,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Also: Still waiting to hear back on my visa. Getting anxious.

Festivals Galore — Mark Your Calendars!

love parade

In line with my anal preparation tactics, I decided to check out what festivals take place throughout the United Kingdom and other neighboring European countries. I definitely think that planning a trip when a festival is taking place is probably the coolest way to get a glimpse into another culture and meet loads of people (locals and tourists, alike!) So, here’s the rundown of some super cool (and some not so much…) festivals I ran across {in order, based on an academic calendar}; mark your calendars:



12 – 13 // The Thames Festival, free admission {art, music, eats & drinks} // London
12 – 27 // Rye Arts Festival, free admission {art} // Rye, England
17 – 29 // Riverfront Jazz Festival, free admission {music} // Greenwich, England


1-4 // Norwich Food Festival, £30 {food} // East Anglia
9 – 18 // Bewdley Festival, admission fee {drama, music & comedy} // Bewdley, England
9 – 18 // Cheltenham Literature Festival, £20  {literature} // Cheltenham, England
17 – 31 // Canterbury Festival, £20 {theatre, dance, film, talks} // Canterbury


13 – 15 // Good Food Show, £18.50 {food} // London
26 – 31 // Bath Christmas Market, free {arts & crafts} // Bath, Englannd
26 – 29 // St. Nicholas Fayre, free admission {gifts, crafts & produce} // York


1 – 24 // Christkindlesmarktfree admission {market, foods} // Nuremburg, Germany 
4 – 9 // Clothes Show Live, £25 {fashion} // Birmingham
5 – 6 // St. Nicholas’ Day, free admission {holiday, food} // Prague, Czech Rep.
29 – 1 Jan // Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, £ per event, {music, dance, celebration} // Edinburgh


1 // New Year’s Day Parade,  free // London


1 – 8 // Sami Winter Fair, free admission {market, reindeer races} // Jokkmokk, Sweden
15 – 20 // Jorvik Viking Festival, £ varies {historical} // Yorkshire
6 – 16 // Venice Carnival, free admission {masks, parades} // Venice, Italy 
11 – 21 // Berlin Int’l Film Festival, £ per event {film} // Berlin, Germany


12 – 17 // St. Patrick’s Day£ per event {drinks & fireworks} // Dublin
19 // Up Helly Aa, free admission {bonfire, historical} // Brae, Scotland


3 // Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race, free admission {sport} // London
28 – 31 // Faire of Seville, free admission {dance, music} // Seville, Spain


1 – 10 // Dorchester Festival {art, music} // Oxfordshire
8 – 17 // Dulwich Festival, some free events {art, dance} // Greater London 
8 – 22 // Newbury Spring Festival, £ per event {music} // Newbury
8 – 24 // Bury St. Edmunds Festival, £4- 50 per show {arts, theatre} // Suffolk
9 – 15 // Loch Shiel Spring Festival, free admission {chamber music} // Scotland
12 – 23 // Cannes Film Festival, free evening screenings {film} // Cannes
12 – 30 // Prague Spring Music Festival, 20% off for students {music} // Prague, Czech Rep.
23 – 25 // Festa Della Sensa, free admission // Venezia, Italy
21 – 24 // Wave Gothic Meeting, £ TBD {markets, gothic bands} // Leipzig, Germany
21 – 29 // Dumfries & Galloway£ per event {arts, theatre} // Scotland


11 – 26 // Grassington Festival, £5 student standby! {film & art} // Skipton
23 – 27 // Glastonbury Festival, £175 for weekend {music & performing arts} // Glastonbury
22 – 15 Jul // Warwick Int’l Festival, £ per show {performing arts} // Warwickshire
26 – 11 Jul // Hebden Bridge Arts, £ per show {music & arts} //Hebden Bridge


1 – 31 // Grec,  £ varies {music, dance, theatre} // Barcelona, Spain
1 – 31 // Epidaurus Festival, €10 – 15 for student {theatre} // Athens, Greece
4 – 31 // Festival of 2 Towns, most events free {music, arts, dance} // South of France
6 – 11 // Llangollen Int’l Music,  £ based on seating {music} // Wales
7 – 29 // Festival d’ Avignon, € varies per show {art} // Avignon, France
15 – 18 // British Open {sport} // St. Andrews, Scotland
18 – 26 // Whitstable Oyster Festival {food} // Canterbury


1 – 8 // Billingham Int’l Folklore Festival, £ per show {dance & music} // NE England
1 – 9 // Interceltic Festival of Lorient, student discounts {cultural} // Lorient, France 
1 – 15 // Lake District Summer Music, £ per event {music} // Lake District
1 – 31 // Love Parade {culture, art, music} // Duisburg, Germany
4 – 8 // Great British Beer Festival, £6 {eats & drinks} // London
6 – 9 // International Balloon Fiesta, £7 // Bristol
28 – 31 // Edinburgh Int’l Festival, £ per event {arts} // Scotland

There are loads more that could theoretically be included, but many didn’t seem fitting for the demographic that’s likely reading this post (college-aged, 20s to 30s). If you’re interested in a book talk or a seniors literature fair, I’m sure you can google it, but I thought it’d be wise to breeze over it.

Anyone know of any other festivals worth mentioning?

Lots of love,
Signature Stamp - Shannon

The Good, the Bad & the Bleh of Manchester.

Since I gave London it’s proper hype (which it undoubtedly deserved — it’s amazing!) I thought I’d give Manchester it’s props, too! We spent three out seven days in Manchester, so we definitely got a good feel for our little home away from home. Now, let me preface this with the fact that I was leaning towards the University of Manchester as my home for next year primarily because Chris (my boyfriend) is a massive Manchester United fan and the “northern charm” that I’ve heard about incessantly seemed to make it a nice fit.

Our visit was charming enough, but the city didn’t seem to grab me in the same way that Bristol did.
Now, our hotel, The Thistle, was very cute. Definitely a great value for your money on the whole although the internet charges (£5 per hour?!) bummed me out a little; not being able to keep up with the world for three days was more than a little annoying. {Note: this wasn’t only at this hotel — internet doesn’t seem to be a standard hotel amenity in England which is a little saddening… hopefully they’ll catch up soon!} The restaurant that’s a part of the hotel is also not worth the money. We didn’t eat there, mind you, but as a tourist it was on the pricier  side and lacked the real British experience that we were looking for; it’s like eating at the grill inside a Best Western.

We did, however find an eatery that we lovedBella Italia on Piccadilly. The service was FANTASTIC (our waitress was the cutest!), the place was reasonably priced (£25 for both of us including dessert & a drink) and the food was delish! The vegetarian risotto is top-notch and the tiramisu/mascarpone/berry-laden dessert was beyond amazing. The only downside for us was that it was Italian (we didn’t think it was very British of us to be at an Italian restaurant) and that it was romantic. The romantic part could work to your advantage if that’s what you’re looking for — it’s darling — but it was a tad weird for a dad/daughter dinner. We put the candle on another table and all was cured.

An eatery/pub that we didn’t love so much? The Old Monkey. It wasn’t awful, but after finding out that they didn’t have what I wanted (on their already limited list of pub grub) the food that I did get was mediocre (as was my dad’s). The Cider was good, but I’m sure you could get that anywhere. Skip it. Not worth the little money that it cost.


Now, as for sights, on behalf of my father I have to give the Manchester Museum it’s proper due. We loved it for a few reasons.

  1. It’s free! Who doesn’t love free? It’s part of the university so it cost us £0 to meander through there!
  2. The exhibits were amazing. They have new exhibits all the time, but their Egyptian, Mediterranean and Prehistoric sections were awe-inspiring. They had genuine mummies and told the stories of these people that lived thousands of years ago and they had a full T-Rex skeleton on display.
  3. It’s part of the University. This was kind of cool because a) it made the museum free for visitors, and b) donations go to help strengthen the university’s exhibit.

    The Manchester Cathedral also has to get it’s fair notice. This was the first cathedral that my dad and I got to see so we were just amazed at the architecture, the stained glass, the history (built in 1421!) and the story-telling staff. Our friend, Joyce, who we met at the Cathedral told us stories about how it came to be and all of the amazing things that had happened there. Definitely worth a visit. Again, this place is free and it’s walking distance from Piccadilly Station!


    ** Also, just as a side note, if you have time to kill in Manchester, take the train over to the city of Chester. My dad and I spent a day there and it’s the cutest thing ever. It’s a medieval town with buildings (built in the 1100s and 1200s) that have been converted to modern-day shops. Definitely worth seeing!

For anyone that’s been to Manchester– are there any other places that are worth seeing? Any restaurants worth a visit? Spread the word <3.

Manchester University

Manchester University