London Day 1: Excitement & Exhaustion
My first day as an international traveler was nothing short of incredible and exhausting. Having never been overseas or on a plane longer than two hours, I was extremely excited and very nervous. What if I couldn’t find my group? What if I got separated from my group? What if my luggage got lost? What if I got sick on the plane? These were all things that crossed my mind before getting on the plane – after all this was only my third time travelling via plane.
However, once I was on the plane, my excitement overpowered my nerve and I was able to relax and watch a movie on the plane – a luxury I had never enjoyed before. I didn’t want to fall asleep right away because I was excited to be served dinner on the plane – another luxury I had never enjoyed. While I felt like a child getting all excited to eat on a plane, I knew it was a normal thing. However, once I was served my meal, it was kind of weird. One of my best friends is a flight attendant, so I was aware of how everything was packaged, but I was not impressed with my “chicken.” At first look, it looked like dark meat, but tasted like meatloaf. I was very hungry, so I continued to eat it, along with the potatoes and veggies which were quite tasty. I also enjoyed the roll, cheese and crackers. But I learned a very important lesson: never eat meat on a plane.
We had a connection in Paris, which I found very interesting because I thought we would have to connect somewhere at a bigger airport in the States. Once we finally landed in London, we met up with our tour guide for the whole duration of the trip: Vincent. An adorable French man with a wonderful accent, Vincent is super nice and very knowledgeable, and I’m so happy we have him with us, showing us around the city.
Immediately from the plane, we had a bus tour of London on our way to the Tower of London – our first major touristy stop there. The tour was quite interesting, with a certified London tour guide named Janet pointing out cool places for us to see. However, I was extremely exhausted from the plane ride and only getting about 3 hours of sleep, so I had to fight to keep my eyes open. Once we arrived at the Tower, I was rejuvenated and ready to go. The beautiful medieval towers and buildings were quite enchanting. We got to see the Crown Jewels and the Line of the Kings in the main tower. I felt like I was transported back in time with the architecture and the metal armor on display. Another thing I noticed was that this area was extremely touristy and I don’t think I heard a single British person speak – everyone was speaking in a different language – and this is something I was mostly looking forward to: hearing British people speak.
After a quick hour at the Tower, we headed to the hotel – a Holiday Inn, which I was sort of disappointed about – to rest up before a late dinner. We ate at a restaurant called Thistle. I wasn’t really impressed because it was attached to a hotel and didn’t really seem “authentic” British cuisine. We did have a fish dish for our first course which was quite delicious. But for the main course, we had chicken, mashed potatoes and vegetables – something I could eat at home, so I wasn’t really happy about that. For dessert we had crème brulee and it was amazing! We then took a walk around the block and Vincent showed us some more interesting places – none I can think of right now – and we headed back to the hotel to catch up on some sleep and get prepared for the following day.
London Day 2 & 5: My Secret Royal Life
Today I felt like royalty as we walked down the long street toward Buckingham Palace to (attempt to) watch the Changing of the Guard. Sadly I could not see an actual Palace guard because of the huge crowds around the entrance. And sadly the Queen was not at the Palace this morning, but the whole experience was unlike any other. I feel like I was transported back in time to when kings and queens ruled.
A parade of guards and soldiers marched through the square and inside the palace gates, majestic music filling the area. About three parades of guards walked through the square and inside the gates. Because everyone was crowded toward the front, trying to peek inside, I couldn’t really see what was going on and mostly just heard the commands and music from inside. Between marches and what I would guess to be Great Britain’s national anthem, I heard a lovely rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” which I found quite fascinating. This didn’t seem like the appropriate atmosphere for that kind of music to be playing, but I guess they will play whatever the Queen wants.
After the Changing of the Guard ceremony, the soldiers marched back outside playing music. At this point, we had crossed the street so we could follow them down the road and back to the barracks or guard’s house. It was kind of magical and totally felt like something out of a movie. I actually wanted to leave my group and dust off my old piccolo to join them as they marched through the streets. We followed them all the way to the end until they went inside their gates to finish the ceremony. As it was finishing, a little old man named Peter walked up to us and talked about his days as a British soldier and Royal Guard. It was the perfect way to end the afternoon.
Today was a sad yet exciting day. It was sad because it was our last day in London – which I had quickly came to love and adore. Because it was our last day in London, my friends and I wanted to squeeze in as many activities as we could so we could explore all that we wanted to. We’re all obsessed with the Royal Family and since we had already seen Buckingham Palace, we knew we had to visit Kensington Palace and the Gardens, so that was the first stop of the day.
Walking through the gardens – an actual garden and a neighborhood where all of the ambassadors and other very important people live – was absolutely amazing. Each house, if you can even call it that, looked like a miniature palace, with the flag or crest of its homeland displayed outside. As we approached the park, we could see the backside of the palace, wondering if William, Kate and Prince George could see us. We made it to one of the main entrances, the sun shining down on us, and we noticed a lot of people sitting in the park, jogging through the park and playing with their kids – very mundane, every-day types of things. Yet here we were in awe that we were standing on Royal ground, with Royalty (very possibly) within our vicinity.
The garden itself was beautiful with a lot of grass, trees and flowers, and the fluffy white clouds and yellow sun just made everything better. We stopped into the gift shop for some royal garb and treats and walked around to the front of the palace, wishing William or Kate would come out to greet us. While we were there, we kept wondering what it would be like to be them; having their home and yard open to the public. While I would much enjoy all of the perks of being a Royal, I don’t think I would like any of the negative aspects like paparazzi and having random strangers walking through my property. So I am much more appreciative of what all of the Royal Family’s roles are as public figures and how difficult their lives must be sometimes.
London Day 4: Wherever the Road Takes You
When I arrived in London, there was so much I wanted to do that I couldn’t even pinpoint exactly what I wanted to do and when. So when we had free time to explore I was wide-eyed with confusion and anxiety, not knowing what I should do, knowing this might be the only time I’ll get to visit the beautiful city – though I really would absolutely LOVE to live here. I tried to take advantage of the free time we had – while desperately wishing for more – and battled through exhaustion to explore the city.
Today, after our visit to the Bloomberg offices, we had the rest of the day for free time, and my friends and I had a plan. After walking through the Kensington Palace Gardens, British Museum, Kings Cross, and the British Library in search of food and fun, we all ended up at Regent’s Park and it was b-e-a-utiful! There was a pond, or maybe it was a lake, full of little mallard ducks, swans and other aquatic birds that seemed to be unique to England. They were very friendly birds as children and adults alike fed them pieces of bread or whatever food they had. Big willow trees lined the opposite side of the lake, reminding of my childhood vacation home in Deep Creek (which we sadly had to sell last year). Tiny little daisies spotted the bright green grass, as the British version of our dandelions. The sun was getting to set, and it peeked from behind the trees shining its bright light on the park, making for the perfect way to end a busy day. I wanted to just sit in the peaceful park with my friends and enjoy a relaxing evening in the grass.
But alas, the day was not over! Being a lifelong fan of The Beatles, I knew I had to visit Abbey Road. And while part of me doubted this choice, knowing I could be spending time doing something else, once I was there, my whole perspective changed. My heart beat faster and faster with excitement and anticipation as we walked closer and closer to the famous street. Of course other tourists were there taking pictures and stopping traffic while some of the local drivers kindly and not so kindly waited. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time we were there, knowing this was the place George, Ringo, Paul and John not only recorded but also shot the album cover of Abbey Road. I definitely felt their presence as I got an adrenaline rush walking across the street trying to reenact the cover with my fellow classmates. It took a few attempts, but we finally got some good photos. We even took our socks and shoes off to feel even more connected to them. Still buzzed from the excitement, we stood outside the studio in awe of how significant the small building is. Along the wall and gate people left signatures and notes, so of course we did too! Who would’ve known that four guys walking across a street would have made such an impact?
London Day 2: British Media vs. American Media
Today was the first of many media visits we will attend on this trip. Our first lecturer was Barbara Schofield, a senior lecturer from the City University of London. We met her at The Hangout, a friendly and open working atmosphere specially designed for student entrepreneurs. As a former broadcast journalist at BBC Local Radio, Capital FM and BBC, Ms. Schofield was an expert and an excellent educator to help us understand British media and how it compares to American media. Ms. Schofield explained to us that a lot of British media revolves around the tabloids which focus on sex, crimes and sport. The belief is one job of the British media is a to scrutinize the government, businesses, public services and to expose corruption and malpractice, whereas in America, the media’s job is to report what is going on in the world and with the government, businesses and other world issues.
She told us that British people view American media as very serious and investigative. I thought this was surprising because I always thought the Brits were more serious than us Americans, but being over there, I realized everyone is very laid back and quite funny. We then learned that British media is also very investigative, but in a different way. It has a culture of intrusion and invasion, which is how most reporters get their information. A major issue the British media is facing is a legal investigation into phone hacking because a lot of the press is being accused of hacking people’s phones for information. One example is Rebekah Brooks, (former?) editor of a tabloid and CEO of News of the World and a major question was if she knew phone hacking was illegal or not. In my opinion, how could she not know? It is common sense: you don’t hack into somebody’d phone, especially without permission. It’s an invasion of personal privacy. Brooks was intruding into the private lives of the Royals and stories were appearing in the Sun and the information reported was “found” through phone hacking.Another issue with the phone hacking happened in 2002 and involved a schoolgirl who disappeared and was found murdered in a London suburb. Her phone was hacked during the search.
With these two issues, there is now the Leveson Inquiry, set up by Prime Minister Cameron to investigate and discuss the ethics of the press. I was surprised and fascinated to talk about some of the issues and topics we discussed in our previous media ethics and communications law classes during the discussion with Ms. Schofield. What also intrigued me was who owns and runs the British media. Most if not all of the British media is owned by individuals or corporations and it is not owned by the government. While some is funded by the government, it is not owned by the government. And while there are twelve national daily newspapers coming out of Great Britain, each individual newspaper chooses which political party they support, and about 80% support the right wing conservative party. Another interesting fact Ms. Schofield shared with us was that while newspapers can be politically biased, broadcasters are bound by law to be balanced and impartial.
Finally, despite the number of national and local newspapers and magazines, there is a dramatic incline in circulation, as it fell to 25% in the UK. I didn’t expect that because the UK does have a lot more local and national newspapers and a lot of them are actually free to the public. But I guess it does make sense because everyone wants digital copies. The newspapers realize this, and in order to stay afloat, many are going multimedia. Overall, it was a great learning experience to have Barbara Schofield lecture and teach us about the British media. It really opened my eyes to how things work in the UK when it comes to reporting and newspapers and I’m really happy we got to meet and discuss with her.
London Day 4: A Review/ Comparison of British Fashion Magazines and American Magazines
One thing I was really excited to do when I went to London and Paris was to look at their fashion magazines to see how they compare to our fashion magazines. In London, I noticed that some of their fashion magazines were just British versions of the ones we have in American: i.e. Vogue, Cosmo, Glamour. These issues were also usually bundled to include lip gloss or nail polish samples or even another magazine. I thought this was really cool because I don’t see a lot of that at home. Then on the top rack of the magazine stand were all of the British fashion magazines and they were BIG! Most of the magazines were thicker and “taller” than the standard magazine size. There were also a lot of them with names I never even heard of. Another thing that struck me were the magazine covers because most of them were “plain.” By plain I mean simple, with just the magazine title, cover model and her/his name. There was not a lot of text to preview what was in the magazine. I really like this because I think it makes the magazine cover stronger and it leaves a surprise to the reader. And it’s surprisingly eye-catching, making it feel more like a book rather than a magazine. After scanning all of them, I carefully selected a fashion magazine, a culture magazine (something similar to NYLON) and a music magazine. For the fashion magazine I chose Lula, which was about half an inch thick and nine inches tall. On the cover was singer Lykke Li dressed in an oversized jacket. The bright colors and simple text immediately caught my eye. Little did I know, this issue of Lula had three different covers: one with Lykke Li, Langley and Say Lou Lou, three (well, four) women making it big in the music industry right now.
The inside of the magazine is gorgeous, with thick glossy pages that draw the reader in. As I skimmed through the pages, I noticed that most of the ads are, while for the same brands you’d see in the American magazines, different than the ads in American magazines with different models and different product. Another thing that stood out to me was the way the pages were laid out. The text on the pages with stories was interestingly placed with long and bold subheads and a lot of white space. The magazines look so much cooler than the American fashion magazines.
Also, in London, there are a lot of free newspapers and magazines available at magazine stands in the tube stations. While on the tube one day, I saw a woman reading a magazine that had Lorde – one of my favorite singers – on the cover and I knew I had to find it. I searched the magazine stands again looking and scanning through the stacks of magazines but I couldn’t find it. I knew what it was called and exactly what it looked like: Lorde posed on the cover her hair in a braid crown, an ornate emerald dress and a Dior ad on the back cover. But I couldn’t find it. So while out adventuring on our last day in London, we were in the tube and I spotted a magazine sitting all by its lonesome on the bottom of a rack. I recognized the Dior ad on the back cover and I knew I had found it. When I picked it up, I noticed that it was free and was really excited because I’ve never heard of a free fashion magazine. And when I opened it up – its newspaper-like pages soft between my fingers – I was intrigued. It was kind of like a People magazine but about fashion, beauty, travel and politics. I was really surprised at the quality of the articles and pictures because the magazine is free and I’m curious to see how it can stay afloat.
I also found a music magazine that came with a free CD with 12 songs on it as well as a culture magazine that gave off a very cool 1980s/1990s vibe. Overall I really like the British fashion and music magazines and I can definitely see myself working for one one day.
Paris Day 1: Bonjour Paris!
It was a long day for us as we “landed” in Paris. I took my first ever train ride from London to Paris and I slept through 97% of it because we were at the train station at 4:30 am and I was excited to take a four hour nap. Although I wish I would have stayed awake because we weren’t on just any old train. We were on the Eurostar Chunnel: a train that goes underwater through the English Channel.
But when we arrived in Paris, the sun was shining and even though I was tired and my suitcase was literally on its last wheel as we walked to the bus that would take us to our hotel (which by the way we had JUST booked the day before because our original hotel reservation had been accidentally cancelled and nobody told us about it), I was extremely excited to be in Paris! As we drove through the city, I felt like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in “Passport to Paris” as they drove through the city pointing out the different landmarks like the Arc de Triomphe.
We then stopped at the Eiffel Tower and it was more wonderful than I imagined. It was bigger than I thought it would be. I mean I knew it was tall but I had recently been to Chicago and went to the Wilson (formerly Sears) Tower and they showed it in comparison to other world landmarks and the Eiffel Tower was much smaller than the Wilson Tower. But standing next to it I felt very small and realized how big the tower actually was. I also felt like Audrey Hepburn in “Funny Face” when she sneaks away from Fred Astaire and Kay Thompson to take in the beautiful sights of the city. The song “Bonjour Paris!” played in my head as I enjoyed the atmosphere – and tried to ignore all the people trying to sell me little plastic Eiffel Towers.
We then went to Notre Dame and walked inside the beautiful immaculate church. I could not believe it took 300 years to build it. Well actually I could because even though it was really old, everything was so detailed and stunning. We walked through the first level of the church and I could not get over how beautiful everything was. Even though it was crowded inside I still felt the holiness of the cathedral and I imagined what it was like back in the 14th century when Notre Dame wasn’t a tourist attraction and just a church. I also had flashes of scenes from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” as I walked around.
We then walked through the Latin Quarter, which was the neighborhood Notre Dame was in, and we had an hour to eat lunch. We went to a little bistro where I ate mussels, chicken and amazing chocolate mousse.
After checking in to the hotel and a few hours to rest and get ready for dinner, we headed our for our first group dinner in Paris. I don’t remember the name of it but it was AMAZING. We walked in and tables were already set up and ready for us. An old man was sitting at a piano playing music all evening and two bottles of wine sat on our table. I was in heaven. For my first course, I chose the warm goat cheese salad: plump, warm, soft goat cheese on hardened crunchy bread laying on a bed of crisp fresh lettuce with French dressing. It was the best salad I’ve ever had in my life. Heck, it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. For my main course I decided to be daring and try the duck and oh my goodness was it good! It was so juicy and rich and delicious. Finally, for dessert, I had apple tart which was also very delicious. The wine was good too and of course all the bread that was brought to our table was wonderful!
Later this evening, after our dinner, we went on our boat tour along the Seine and it was amazing! We saw so many beautiful buildings but the thing I liked the most was seeing all of the locals hanging out on the river bank. There were groups of people enjoying a picnic, drinking, playing music, dancing and it really made me want to be a Parisian. My friends and I made it our goal to sit along the river one night. We also got to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night and it was gorgeous. I’d have to say the first day in Paris was a complete success.
Paris Day 2: Is This Real Life?
The day started out with an amazing breakfast at the hotel. First off, let me just say that my favorite thing about staying at a hotel is the free breakfast in the mornings. Breakfast is also my favorite meal so I was really pumped for breakfast. I had a croissant, a chocolate croissant, two cheese wedges, crepes, yogurt and coffee. It was all so scrumptious and prepared me for the busy day ahead.
We had two lectures today – one at Sarbonne on French media and another at Ketchum on public relations – with free time in between. For our visit to Ketchum, we split up in to two groups, and since I was in the second group, I got to enjoy a nice lunch with the rest of my group. Because I was still dreaming about the salad from last night, I got another goat cheese salad. It was very yummy but not as good as the first salad. After lunch we walked around the neighborhood and to the opera house – the one that inspired “Phantom of the Opera” – and it was gorgeous.
On our way back to our meeting place, we passed a theatre and noticed “Beauty and the Beast” was playing. Two girls walked in to see when the shows were and came out with tickets. We had a free night that day and I decided to go to the show too. So after our lecture at Ketchum, we went back to the hotel to get ready and went to buy tickets and eat dinner before the show. I was really excited to see the musical on stage because I had never seen it on stage before – other than a high school performance of it – and it is one of my favorite Disney movies.
When we got there, the usher told us she would let us move our seat once everyone was seated if there were extra seats left, since we were back pretty far. We were only seated for about a second when the usher moved us over a section and down a few rows which gave us a better view.
The lights went down and the music from the live orchestra quickly filled the room as the opening song began. While everything was in French, I was still able to follow along since I knew all the songs and the storyline. In the middle of the first song, I couldn’t help but think “I am sitting in a theatre watching ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in French in Paris right now. What is my life?” It was a moment of pure clarity and awe. I could not believe I was in Paris, and I still can’t believe it.
The rest of the show was amazing, the actors very talented with beautiful voices. I was mesmerized and engaged the whole time. And the fact that I was in Paris made it even more magical.
Paris Day 3: European Restaurants vs. American Restaurants
Now that I’ve been in Europe for a week and a half and I’ve eaten in a lot of restaurants in London and Paris, I’ve really gained an understanding for the way restaurants and servers work over here on the other side of the pond. Having worked in restaurants for almost four years, this was something I was really interested to see how the servers worked. I’ve heard that being a server was a respectable job in Europe and I wanted to see how the servers in Europe differed or compared to ones in America.
The first thing I noticed was that the servers take a while to greet a table to take orders. In both of the restaurants I’ve worked in, it was always important for us to greet a table within 30 seconds of them being seated. However, in London and Paris, the waiters would wait at least five minutes before coming to the table. I guess it was a good thing though because that gave us all enough time to look through the menu to decide what we wanted. And almost everywhere restaurant we went to had offers for a three course meal – appetizer, entrée and dessert – for discounted prices and I thought that was pretty cool. In Paris, most of the menus had English versions or were written in both French and English, which I thought was very tourist-friendly.
Once our food was ordered, though the food came out very fast which I found very impressive. And it was always fresh, hot and delicious! And there was ALWAYS fresh bread on the table. That made me extremely happy because I love bread. However, there was never any butter which I thought was kind of weird. But the bread was so good it didn’t even need butter. Then once our food was brought over to us, the servers did not come back to our table until we would ask for them. I found this strange too because in America, servers always check on their tables after the food is brought to their guests. We call this “first bite check back” when we go check on our guests after they take a bite of their food to make sure their food was cooked to their liking.
Another thing I noticed oversees was how they process credit cards in a restaurant. I saw this in London more than in Paris. But while paying with credit cards, the servers would bring over little portable machines to swipe the cards and print out receipts. It found this interesting because in America, we just take the credit cards to our computers and process them through that. In London, when the server said she needed to bring the machine to process a card, we asked her why they used those. She simply stated “So I don’t steal your credit card information. We’re not allowed to take the card from the table.” I thought that was pretty cool and possibly something we should do in the states, especially after the Target credit cards scare that happened last year.
Finally, while at a pub in London, we weren’t sure if we were supposed to tip the server or not because we knew that in some countries that was actually offensive. So we asked our server if we were supposed to tip him and he said people usually do if they think he did a good job, so it was optional (as it is in America but servers in other countries get paid more). And a lot of the times a service charge was added to the bill automatically. Eating out at restaurants was quite an interesting experience for me.