Sunday 5/11 First Stop: London
The trip to London went fairly well. No major mishaps occurred. The flights were slightly delayed each way but we made it here nonetheless. Our first impression of London was the airport, which, was seemingly not much different than any other airport I have ever been to. The first difference I came across was when we were waiting for our bus. Someone commented that we needed to be looking down the opposite side of the road. This is because they drive on the left side of the road as opposed to the right like we do in America. Once we were on the bus and driving, it wasn’t very noticeable that we were driving on the other side of the road, unless you really paid attention to it. The second difference between London and America that I noticed was the architecture and layout of the suburbs. There were many houses very close together on a main street. This is common in America as well; however, the style of the homes was not like ours. They are much more ornately designed than houses of that type would be in America. As we drove along to the Tower of London, we saw more amazing buildings. The architecture in London is so beautiful and different compared to the United States. London is much older than America and has much more history. We learn about European history but being here, it is hard to believe that the things we see here are from so long ago. A great example is the Tower of London. It was such a cool place to be, I wish we would have had more time to explore. I did get to see the crowned jewels which were beautiful. It’s amazing to think how old they are and who wore them. Everything was so elegant and extravagant which is not like the United States.
After the Tower of London we checked into our hotel. I noticed very few differences from an American hotel to a London hotel. The only real differences to me were the elevator and the plugs in the rooms. There aren’t many plugs and they are different than the ones in America, but we knew that before we came over. After settling in, we went to explore the city. The city of London is amazing in its architecture and history. At the same time, there are brand new buildings right next to buildings that are hundreds of years old, which our tour guide Vincent made note of. This occurs in America as well but it does not occur as often and the buildings are not nearly as old.
Another interesting thing I noted when walking around was that the bars were full of people and many of them were singing chants. This does happen in America but not for the same reason. The people here in London were watching the soccer (football as they call it here) championships. I don’t think that we would ever see bars full of singing people for soccer in America. Football, yes. Hockey, maybe. But never soccer. It’s something different about the culture here. I did not get to interact much with the locals the first day but I look forward to the rest of the week and experiencing more of the culture!
Monday 5/12 London Travels
Today was our first full day in London and our first of the media visits. Our first activity was to watch the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. To get there, we took our first trip on the tube. I was expecting traveling around a foreign city to be tricky and confusing. It was quite simple however. Pittsburgh does not have an elaborate underground transportation system so my only comparison is the New York subway system- which I have used few times. Other than being tricky, I don’t believe that I expected much of the Tube. For each trip we took on the Tube, Vincent would point out the stop on the map and tell us how many stops it was from our current location. I think that I would have been just fine traveling on my own, without the help of our tour guide Vincent. Everything was colored coated and labeled and the maps were very easy to understand. I have not used the New York subway system much and only a couple times without someone who knew how to use it. But my impression of the New York subway is not a good one. They are very dirty and crowded and I have seen so many rats there. The system also seemed very confusing to me, then again I don’t have much experience there. But here in London the Tube was very simple and very clean. Those were the biggest things that I took away from the Tube. I had a much better impression on that system of travel in London rather than in New York.
I have noticed, in my opinion at least, that the city in general is very clean here. There is not much litter or soot. I already mentioned that when referring to the New York subway which is very dirty. But above ground, when walking around for a day in New York, I would feel absolutely disgusting and that I needed a shower right away. I don’t get that disgusting feeling here. I also get a trapped feeling in New York with the tall buildings and lack of greenery. London is much better for that. It feels much more open and breathable with many parks. It feels much more habitable to me than a place like New York. I have realized that I have mixed feelings about London. On one hand London feels too city- esque for what I was expecting. I obviously knew that London was a city but with the history here I thought it would have less of a city feel and more of a historic feel. I get that feeling in some of the older areas, but I feel too much modern city sometimes- which may be only because of wrong expectations on my part. It is a great city though and I look forward to spending a couple more days here exploring and learning!
Tuesday 5/13 A Little SAEM and Americanization
Today a couple of us Sports, Arts, and Entertainment Management majors separated from the main group to get an SAEM activity in. Four of us went to Wembley Park to visit Wembley Stadium. It was a bit farther out than we had gone yet, but, it was a simple straight shot on the Tube. We had to wait a little bit for the next tour as we just missed one. Our tour guide was really amazing; he knew a lot of great information and answered every question that was asked. The tour started by heading up to the main concourse which circles the entire building. From there we went to the tunnels and the player locker rooms. The stadium was setting up for the FA Cup which is to be played there at the end of May. It was cool to see the set up and advertisements in place for the game. The tour guide told us that the stadium goes through a changeover for each event played. So, the sponsors of each event will be posted around the stadium as sponsors change depending upon the event. While on the tour I was comparing the building to Heinz field. It is actually interesting because Wembley Stadium hosts a couple NFL games a year and Heinz Field will be hosting a soccer game this summer. I think it is very cool to have the link between the two.
This leads me to the relationship between England and the United States, which is an interesting one. At home there is a fascination with the British. I have noticed that there is the same fascination going the other way. It is very Americanized in Britain. All of the music that I hear when walking around to shops or pubs is American. At the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, the band played a Michael Jackson medley. McDonald’s, Burger King, and even KFC and Pizza Hut have a big presence in London. There are many mentions of New York when looking for restaurants or other food stands. At one of the pubs, a British girl came up to talk to us and said that she wished that she was from America and that “it stinks here”. I found it so surprising that some British people can be obsessed with American culture as we are with British culture. It was not something that I realized could be possible as I thought the British figured to be superior and more proper. Of course it would make sense that we have a connection as we came from the British. However, I didn’t think it would go to that extent. There is still clearly a difference between America and Britain but it does seem that the gap between the two is closing with more sharing of culture. I have felt very comfortable in London and I think it would be easy to live here. It would be interesting to see the difference coming back in the future to see how the culture and Americanization has changed. I hope that I will get to visit again and see for myself!
Wednesday 5/14 Good-Bye London, Hello Paris!
The last day of London was been bitter sweet. We started the day by visiting Bloomberg London. The Bloomberg building was amazing. Our first impression was how tight security at the building was, which started in the lobby. As guests, each of us was required to show photo identification. We were entered into their system and given a temporary guest badge. In order to get past the lobby and up into the actual offices, we had to scan in with a guard at the bottom of the stairs. This was not a practice only for guests but for employees of Bloomberg as well. Each guest and employee is required to scan in and out of the building each time they enter or leave. Not only does this help with security but it also helps employees know if a person is accessible at a given time. Once we were all credentialed we scanned in with the guard and went upstairs. At the top of the stairs was a cafeteria style food and snack area. Various types of snacks and beverages were available to all staff and guests. This was the most impressive spread that we had seen yet. It was a very cool place for the employees to have to get a snack and socialize with coworkers during a quick break. We were able to check this area out before the presentation and tour. During the presentation we learned some about Bloomberg and what they do. It was really interesting to learn about and it was great to do something a little different than the previous visits we had, as Bloomberg is about the financial world. Another interesting fact about Bloomberg is that all of the walls are glass and there are rarely doors. The workspace is very open which is not very common, especially with such high profile information and people going around. Overall I think this was definitely the best visit in London. I’m excited for more in Paris!
After Bloomberg, we had the rest of the day free to enjoy London. It was the first time we really had time to explore on our own so we went to Camden Town where we were told the markets were. It was such a shock to see the place. There were so many places to shop it was overwhelming. Each time we turned down a row there were five different other directions we could go. I had never been to a place like that before so I was very much in awe. Even though it was slightly overwhelming it was really awesome to be there and experience that part of London. It was definitely an experience I won’t forget. Because the market was so big there was no way for us to possibly see it all so we left and came back to the hotel to pack our things up and get ready for our morning commute to Paris. London has been really amazing and I am sad to leave. I do wish that we had a little more time to explore and experience the city a little. But, I am excited for Paris and what France has to bring. It will certainly we another experience, I’m sure.
Thursday 5/15 Paris! (And Happy Birthday Sam!)
Early, very early, today we left London and went to Paris. It was bittersweet as we left something familiar for something new. Riding the train was fun but being up so early was not. Most of us fell asleep for the ride to Paris. Once we arrived we boarded out coach bus and went on a city tour stopping at the Eiffel Tower first. It was a really awesome experience seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time, the only deterrent being extreme fatigue. We only stayed at the tower for a little bit before heading back on the bus and towards Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter. It was really awesome to see Notre Dame. When we saw monuments in London it was hard for me to believe that it was real. Notre Dame felt real though. It’s so ornate and elaborate and I really felt like I was seeing a piece of history. It was really interesting to see all of the carvings and statues and learn what some of them meant. We also visited the Latin Quarter and got lunch. The streets were beautiful and nothing like we would have in America. It was also our first time having to interact with the locals when getting lunch. It was something that I was worried about but the waiter spoke English so it wasn’t really much of a challenge. While sitting at lunch, which was delicious, we found it interesting to listen to the music playing. The music in London was largely American and I thought that France would be different considering the culture and language difference. However artists like the Bee Gees and Louis Armstrong were being played in the restaurant. It’s interesting to see how similar places are and how American even France can be.
After our visit to Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter we went to check into the hotel for some much needed rest. The hotel was just slightly different than other hotels I have been to and mostly just the bathroom and the fact that the windows opened. I think most hotels in America do not have windows in the rooms that open. At least big chain hotels. Instead of having an enclosed shower, the room was open with a shower head hanging in the corner with a drain. It was just a little something different than what we’re used to. After a much needed nap, we headed out for a group dinner. It was nice to walk around the area a little on our way to dinner. Paris is such a beautiful city. Smelly, but beautiful. I was somewhat nervous going into the dinner because I am not a fan of uncommon foods. In other words, I’m picky. I ended up having duck for the first time and I have to say that I very much enjoyed it. I think that it is important to try new things, even if it doesn’t seem like something desirable at first. Going to a foreign country, this is something that is bound to happen and should be considered going in. Keeping an open mind is very important. Once dinner was finished, the group traveled to take a boat cruise on the Seine. We were able to see most of the great monuments of Paris. It was pretty chilly being on the water at night but it was definitely a great experience. I’m excited to see what else Paris has in store for us!
Friday 5/16 Paris vs. London
Our second day in Paris was definitely a good one. First item on our agenda was a lecture on the current Landscape of the French Media. It was interesting to hear how French media differs from British and American media. It gave us another perspective to consider. The French media differs mostly from American culture in that there are fewer restrictions on what can be sent out to the public. On the front cover of one of the French magazines, profanity was clearly visible. That was different for us to see because that is not the commonplace in America and would not be allowed to put on public newsstands. In both London and Paris it was especially interesting to hear how each culture viewed American media. It seems that we are viewed as more serious and conservative in our media and reporting than others.
After the lecture we traveled to the location of our next visit, Ketchum. Because of the size of the offices, the group had to split into two for the meeting. We had time to grab lunch before meeting with our group so we walked around the area looking for a good place. This was our first time really having to navigate and interact with people on our own who did not speak much English. It was somewhat difficult to communicate with the restaurant workers. We decided to go to a quick take out sandwich shop and had to order by pointing at what we wanted as the employee did not speak English. I know only some French, not enough to hold a conversation but enough to show that I am trying. It doesn’t help very much when the other person does not speak English at all, which I would expect being in another country anyways. I am hoping that by the end of the trip I will be able to speak French a little better!
Ketchum was a really great experience. We met with the president, Philippe Beteille, and he gave a very good presentation. We were able to ask plenty of questions and received very good information. I think that it was really awesome that the president took time out of his day to speak with us. Very few companies would offer that same experience. One thing that stuck out to me in his presentation was when he spoke about the French work ethic which has the reputation of being more relaxed than the American work ethic. Mr. Beteille gave the example of how he differs from another employee. He said that his email is always on his phone and he will continue working after work hours. Many other employees do the same; however, one Ketchum employee will not check his email on vacation. So what we as Americans think about the French work ethic is not necessarily true. It mostly depends upon the person and the type of work they are doing. I think that even applies in America. Not everyone is a workaholic but we have the reputation of being so. I think these kinds of things can only really be understood by visiting the country and speaking with the locals. I am really glad that we have the opportunity to do so!
Saturday 5/17 & Sunday 5/18 Free time!
Over the weekend we had tons of free time to explore. I think it has been two of the best days so far. On Saturday was probably the longest day of the trip thus far. In the morning, the group took a walking tour of Montmartre, a district of Paris on the hill past our hotel. Montmartre is the artist district of Paris. There were many cool things to see on the walk such as places where famous artists painted. At the top of the hill sits Sacré-Cœur Basilica, a famous and beautiful church and basilica. Also at the top of the hill is an amazing view of Paris, one of the best. Around Sacré-Cœur is a market where artists set up to sell their paintings as well as caricatures. A lot of the paintings were really amazing. I wish that I would have been able to buy one, but they were kind of pricey. We ate lunch at one of the restaurants where the markets were. I had croque-monsieur for the first time, which is a popular French sandwich. It was alright. Not nearly as good as the ham and cheese baguettes, but not bad. From Montmartre, the groups separated for free time. A group of us went straight to the Musée du Louvre. Seeing the Louvre in person is definitely an experience. It is absolutely beautiful and bigger than you could even imagine. It is very easy to get lost inside, which we did. I wasn’t really a fan of all of the paintings, they were somewhat boring. Even seeing the Mona Lisa was anticlimactic. My favorite parts were Napoleons Apartments which were so extravagant it as amazing, and the Medieval Louvre, an old castle they found buried underneath the Louvre. Walking around the Louvre is pretty exhausting but we kept going afterwards walking around Paris and exploring. Sitting in the Tuileries Garden was very relaxing and a great French experience. All of the locals were gathering enjoying lunch in the grass. This was one of my favorite things to experience thus far.
The most notable thing that we did on Sunday was visiting the Eiffel Tower to see the lights sparkling. We were originally supposed to climb the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile but it was closed when we got there. Instead we decided to travel to the Eiffel Tower to make it for the sparkling lights which only go on at 10pm, 11pm, and 12am for 5 minutes. We just missed the 10pm lights so we decided to walk around and wait for the 11pm lights. Past the Eiffel Tower is a park with grass where people gather for picnics and to watch the lights. We found a spot on the grass and waited for the lights. I got more and more excited as the time got closer. Once the lights turned on it was magical. Sitting in the grass on a beautiful night watching the lights on the Eiffel Tower was definitely my favorite touristy thing that we did the entire trip. It was so nice and relaxing; I was really happy at that moment and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it, along with the entirety of this trip.
Tuesday 5/20 Disney!
Today was one of the most hyped up experiences of the trip- the media visit to Disneyland Paris. This may have been the visit that everyone was most excited about, including me. Not only was I going to see Disney for the first time, but we would have a presentation on Disney media and park management. I was especially excited for the presentation on park management as it pertains most to my major. Unfortunately I was disappointed by the day. The first part of the day consisted of presentations by the PR department. These included an introduction on Disney, Disneyland Paris, 20th Anniversary case study, cultural difference and working for an American company in Paris, and an introduction on park management. All of these sound really great and I was excited for a great presentation. But I was disappointed. There were definitely some very great things but it wasn’t as good as I expected for the Disney presentation. After all, it’s Disney. One of the really awesome things about the presentation was that we were able to look at press releases and press packages that were actually sent out for events such as the 20th Anniversary and a new Ratatouille attraction. The packages were very impressive and it was very interesting to see what went into them. The next part of the presentation that I liked was the section on cultural differences which is always something interesting to discuss. We talked about how Disneyland Paris operates with so many different cultures visiting the park on a daily basis and how they reach out to other cultures. The part that I was most excited about, park management was the most disappointing. It was very brief and did not include much information on park management. It may have been better to ask questions but it felt very rushed and I was not confident that I would get an answer based on the answer to a question asked by another student. I understand that they were trying to make sure that we had time to enjoy the park but the rush gave the presentation a negative aspect and I felt discouraged to ask questions.
Once the presentation concluded we were able to visit the park and see the attractions. We were very excited going into this; we were practically like the children. I had never been to a Disney park and so I was very excited. Before we went off to explore, we went to get some lunch. This slightly put a damper on things as it took an extremely long time to order and get our food. Not a positive experience at all- and not even good food. As we walked through the park and went on attractions I was having a good time but I was slightly unimpressed. It definitely seemed like a place for the more timid child. Which is understandable but I thought there would be more thrills for the adults. The rain did not help the experience any and I am sure it would have been much better if the weather had been nicer. We left the first park to go to Disney Studios, not realizing that it closed earlier than the other park. Therefore we missed the things I was most excited to see such as the Tower of Terror. Overall there were really good and impressive things about the visit. However, I was mostly disappointed; I expected more from Disney.