October 31, 2011

Catch My Fall

 

Sometime over the course of burying myself in coursework I forgot that my favorite season was happening. London is a marvelous place to be in the fall -- the scattered parks blaze in fiery puffs against monotone greys and beige of the surrounding architecture, and the wind seems to urge you into every cafe for that perfect, strangely comfortable feeling of a porcelain mug between your fingers. Granted, most of this can be found in Seattle as well, but if there's one thing London does better than perhaps anywhere it's its parks. So I took this Sunday off, put on my boots and mittens, and took off in the direction of Regent's Park.

Walking through there again made me realize I'd forgotten to upload half the pictures I'd taken during my last few days at the hostel -- I must've gotten distracted with decorating my dorm then. Anyway, many of them featured Regent's Park, so I'll try and work them in here along with the fall stuff for comparison...

First off, Regent's Park is HUGE. I mean, there's a lot of stuff in this city that's huge, but it literally took me about an hour just to trek from one end to the other. (Add 40 mins from and to the hall, plus hill time, plus a coffee break and you've got about a 4 hour adventure!) My destination was Primrose Hill, a decent distance from the Baker Street entrance (way south). Here's a map, just in case you care:


On my way I passed through UCL:



Muh school! Always reminds me of Suzzallo.


The building in the photo above was apparently once the hospital where George Orwell died. Ironically, it is now where I have Modern Lit.

Entering Regent's Park I already knew I was in for a gorgeous walk...
Coming here in September was like entering a crayon box:




...and October felt the same, except someone had removed all the blues, purples, and pinks:




The summer roses were headed into hibernation, though this little guy was still holding strong:


(from Sept)

Sometimes in summer I have this paradoxical feeling of everything being dead. Fall is like the last great breath before the sleep of winter, and it always fills me with a sense of energy that summer just isn't capable of. Compare:

summer dead lake

autumn blazing tree

summer quiet brooding leaves

autumn tree armies in full combat
summer heron, lonely
autumn pigeon friends, munchin' berries

I moved through the park, across the ginormous soccer fields, through a leafy forest, past this adorable gingerbread house:

...and onto Primrose Hill!



It's not very fantastic at first glance. In fact, it hardly seems like much of a hill at all. But once you get up there you can see the whole London horizon...




It felt like being at Gasworks, in a way.

I camped out up here for a little while, then it started to mizzle, so I continued north and found the most charming cafe haven of my life. French pastry shops, Italian sandwich shops, Limonella-something-or-other for the fancy business suits, a Russian tea shop, a bookshop espresso.... just row after row of appetizing little eateries. Unfortunately I got so excited by all the places that I couldn't decide where to go, and I felt so ridiculous by the time I'd gone down one side, up the other, and arrived back where I started that I decided I'd just not decide, and press on.

I distracted my stomach and my cold fingers by oogling lovely array of townhouses and flats around here. If I could choose a place to live in London it would definitely be here. It felt like I'd entered Mary Poppins, and I was just in the midst of imagining an alternative life where I was a rich something-or-other with a well-groomed cat and fresh flowers in my dining room every day, who was baking pumpkin bread and buying candy by the cartload for trick-or-treaters (This would be the house that hosted a neighborhood Halloween party every year and where all the kids knew the best candy was at, of course) -- when I happened upon this church:




It was so picturesque, but I couldn't help thinking how close it was to Halloween and kept expecting a headless horseman to lurking just beyond that gate. It was awfully quiet around there for a Sunday *shiver*.

I never found a place that served chai lattes, though I did happen across a Whole Foods! I got so excited for this ounce of home that I raced inside, determined to find one of those silly iced pumpkin-shaped cookies or some other Halloween sugarbomb for my walk home, but there weren't any to be found. This Whole Foods was about a tenth of the size of the one in Northgate, so I settled on a bran muffin and stopped for tea back in the Regent's Park cafe.

It always feels so wonderful to get out! I'm always much more willing to sit down and edit an essay after spending 4 hours all to myself outside. Still, work is calling, and today it's back to the books before Halloween celebration at a club in Picadilly. I've been to this place once before, and though I'm not much of a club fan, it was pretty fantastic -- there was this one room that looked like Sherlock Holmes' office and had all these leather sofas you could relax in. Another level has those Dr. Evil (Men in Black?) egg chairs with these creep-o mannequins hanging off the ceiling above you. Hopefully I manage to keep myself awake long enough to enjoy it, cause we all know I'm a grandma when it comes to going out for drinks.

Best wishes and Happy Halloween to all! I've really been enjoying stalking errybuddys costume pics on the FB.

And after this (cause there's no Thanksgiving speed bump on this side of the Atlantic) it's a straight shot to CHRISTMAS!!!!

Even the park knows it.

Best wishes, 
Rach

October 25, 2011

In Two Shakes

What with Halloween coming soon I've been Stumbling "costume ideas" for inspiration. It hasn't yielded much help. The only stuff that comes up is that awful pre-fab skank affair ("Why not this year be a slutty turkey?")

I did, however, come across a slideshow of some really creep-you-out vintage Halloween shots. One of them stuck out to me in particular. This group, who honestly look like something out of a Donnie Darko-induced nightmare:


As if the dude with the beard and that (WTH) guy with the HUGE eyes front and center weren't creepy enough (there also seems to be a Prospero/Gandalf guy, possibly a member of the KK, a Hagrid pirate, and an awfully questionable cowboy here...) they had to add these guys:


Seriously, WHAT are those twin creepo-lambs doing in there? Trying to blend in to an alternative holiday to dodge Easter slaughter? They freak me out, but a weird part of me also finds them oddly endearing. I like that they seem to be made out of sheets. They're kind of lamby-ghosts.

So I did some research to create my own version.

what?


huh?


why??

It's kind of inevitable that people would turn this animal into all kinds of crazy; sheep are super weird. I guess that makes it all too appropriate that my name links me to them. 


I took a trip to Primark today and searched all things lamb. I've bought two white pillowcases, one of which I'll wear as a dress a la Dobby, the other I'm going to cinch some ears into, Sharpie, and wear over my head.

Then I found these amazing slipper/boot things -- they're white and super fuzzy. I kind of just bought them cause I wanted to snuggle up in them, but I think they'll make some great paws. I was looking around for white leggings, but then found these black stockings that turn cream somewhere mid thigh -- the perfect sheep leg. So all this is soon to become my Creep Sheep Halloween costume, plus or minus a few cotton balls.

It may be my most creative since Punk Cat. Or Professor Bozo. Or the Horse from the Dead. I've always loved Halloween.

The rest of my day was pretty bomb. This is the extent of it:

Halloween + favorite clothes, old and new + package + letter = HAPPY.


Why Moms rock.

The extent of last weekend.

RAWWWWWWWWWWWRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!



10/28 update:
Making progress...

October 15, 2011

Bueller?...Bueller?

That's right, today I took a day off. I still went to class in the morning, but during my walk back to my place, seeing the weather looked like this outside:


I decided I'd best make the most of it, and making the most of anything rarely involves responsibilities. To be fair, I don't have any of the "titles" (that's what they call prompts here -- so confusing!) for my essays yet, so any work I try to do at this point may prove useless anyway.


The sun had that quality of overtaking the whole sky -- like everywhere you look you had to squint. I'm sure I'm going to jynx it saying so, but London has yet to live up to its reputation for providing miserable rain 24/7. I'm sure those days are coming; my hopes are that this weather will persist at least through Halloween. Judging from the clear skies outside right now, as well as the weather report for the next few days, I might just get my wish!!




I had wanted to go to Kensington, but that's several tube stops away, and my craving for ice cream called for at least a little walking. So I strolled past Russel Square (above) and down:

Represent! Oh wait, I was a Capulet...
which curves around toward the British Museum...



...and lets you off again on Tottenham Court Road. Tottenham turns into Charing Cross, by and by, which I have found is a zany suture of a street blending the commercial atmosphere of Oxford St with the quirkiness of Soho and the charm of Covent Garden. It houses a variety of bookshops, instrument stores, and affordable international restaurants. It's crazy to think that much of this area, until the 17th century, was agricultural!

I'd left in search of a specific pastry/ice cream shop but, as is often the case with my adventures, I got distracted with whatever scenery was happening when I should've consulted the map (I think it was the British Museum, actually) and had traveled 5 blocks away before I even thought about it. I tried to retrace my steps, then got distracted again by this:


I already knew about the Matilda musical in theory, but it was exciting stumbling into it like that. This area -- a little roundabout in the Covent Garden area -- has some of the most adorable shops I've ever seen...

Candy Cakes Cupcake shop (Google images)
Mistress Poste (Google images)
Freed pointe shoe shop -- I've always been a Bloch girl, myself... (Google images)
I pranced right in here (Google images)
Pop Boutique, where I bought my tangerine beret (Google images)

there's also about 20,000 shoe stores, including two brands I'm currently obsessed with -- Fly and Dune (respectively).


On my way out of Covent Garden and back onto Charing Cross I passed a bookshop called "Any Amount of Books." "Any" is an amount of books I have always agreed with (like I said, library limits are sinful in my eyes), so I decided to pop in and have a look around.

The store owner caught me in the Shakespeare section thumbing through a 1915 version of Henry IV. "We have more plays downstairs, if you don't find what you're looking for up here." Downstairs didn't turn out to have much more Shakespeare, but it did have a some-on-else's-basement-style array of boxes, musty-smelling reference materials, and old hardbacks which I adored. I probably spent 15 minutes or so down there (it was kind of crowded) looking for absolutely nothing, but unearthing all sorts of treasures anyway. On my trip back upstairs the bookseller looked a little let down that I hadn't found what I was looking for (I felt bad telling him I wasn't really looking for anything, after his help), but he asked if it was Shakespeare in particular I was interested in. "Well, I am fond of him..." He smiled and climbed up a ladder and brought down a 1996 Norton edition of the folio, bound in emulation of the 1600s one, and told me about how at Eton College he got to see one of the originals. It turned out he'd lived in Vancouver, Canada for some time, and we had a nice chat about the Northwest. In the end, I bought "On Ten Plays of Shakespeare," a critical book from 1905, with an inscription in the front to a Miss Gladys Seymour, Sussex, 1930 (I am an absolute sucker for inscribed books...)

Quite happy, I turned out of the bookshop and ran right into another version of the pastry/ice cream shop I'd set out to find in the first place. Life's funny sometimes. On occasion it can hand you what you thought you'd lost right when you least expect it, but at the exact right time nonetheless.


And serve me well it did.

I headed down to the fountain at Trafalgar Square. Trafalgar is one of my favorite spots in London -- it's always bright and a-buzz, and connects my favorite shopping areas with my favorite lounging areas, St. James Park and Kensington Gardens, and on the way takes you through some really great statues and museums. At times I get frustrated with London's labyrinthine avenues, but it's actually pretty hard to get lost here -- and on days when you're just wandering you begin to realize with what divine inevitability it's constructed.



I found a little bit of home outside the National Gallery.

It's easy when you travel -- and really when you live anywhere -- to sort of forget where you are and all that place has to offer. I'm going to try and make sure to get off campus at least once a week from now on, cause some of the best bits of the world are literally just beyond the mile radius that is my day-to-day. I've even gained a new perspective on Seattle -- there's a lot going on there that I don't take advantage of, and it's probably something I'll come to regret when I move away. It's easy to get sucked into the land of school and work and responsibility and think that you don't have time to enjoy a double chocolate ice cream cone on the rim of a fountain, but I promise you DO.

You always do.