Saturday, July 31, 2010

Adventuring with my Parents

Since my parents are here this weekend, I am trying to help them visit many of the main tourist attractions in London. So we had a very busy day today!

We started out our adventures by taking a bus to Hyde Park Corner. This gave my parents the opportunity to ride on the top level of one of the infamous, red, double-decker buses.

We then walked from Hyde Park Corner gate, past Wellington Arch and the Memorial Gate to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. We arrived very early and staked out a place along the fence to get a better view of the actual ceremony.

The crowds were intense, and we got jostled and crunched, so they didn't have the best view, but I was able to get some pictures with their camera.

We left just as the bands were parading out, and headed along our way to Trafalgar Square. Here they were able to see Nelson's Column, as well as a few neat statues and buildings. After that we made our way to Covent Garden Market.

Covent Garden Market was similar to Camden Gardens with its crowds and different foods. We saw a few street performers, ate lunch, and then wandered around the stalls before heading back towards Trafalgar square.

From Trafalgar we walked to the Parliament/Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye.

By this point we were all a bit tired from walking around, so we took a bus back towards where they are staying and they had the chance to enjoy some 'Fish & Chips' before heading back to their room to just relax for a bit.

Hopefully I didn't wear them out too much, as I will be taking them out adventuring again tomorrow!

Friday, July 30, 2010


My parents are visiting for the weekend, Hooray! (Mom was a bit tired, so I'll have to get a picture with her another time this weekend)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Science Museum

Yesterday afternoon I finally found my way to and through the last few exhibits in the science museum. The 'Science and Art of Medicine' exhibit was definitely interesting to visit, however it was arranged awkwardly like a badly built maze.

The exhibit was very thorough and contained everything from Egyptian times up through modern medicine. The most interesting parts of the exhibit (to me) were the the old versions of modern medical machines. I must say I was quite happy that the MRI machine that was used on me earlier this summer was not as old as this one:

The other exhibit that I saw was the 'Launchpad' which was an interactive exhibit. However it was teeming with younger children, so I did not get to try many of the tasks. I did get to assemble a few circuits and play with magnets.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lazy Sunday Afternoon ...

Ever had one of those days where you sit staring mindlessly at the computer playing repeated games of solitaire and don't feel like doing anything? Yeah that was yesterday evening for me. So since I was being lazy, I'll tell you about yesterday's adventuring today!

In the morning I decided to try a different style Church service. So I wandered off to a place known locally as 'The Oratory'...

The service I attended had everything except for the Bible readings and sermon in Latin! Also, everything that was in Latin, was sung. Definitely a different and fun experience for me!

After church I wandered over to the FUSE music/art festival being held in Kensington Gardens. While it was much smaller than it seemed like it would be from the advertisements, it was enjoyable to wander around. I listened to some steel drum music, saw a dance troupe perform and made badges/buttons (whatever you want to call them).

The event was right next to the round pond, so I watched some ducks and swans swim around as well.

After that I went back to my dorm and just relaxed, because sometimes you need time to sit back and do nothing.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

London's Personality

London no longer seems like such a foreign, old, reserved city. Each place I went today showed me the character and heart of people expressing themselves. Now London seems to be a city full of creativity and life.

In the morning I walked through the bustling stalls of Camden Market. Each stall formed it's own little world as each blasted unique music and displayed drastically varying items. I arrived right at the opening time, where it wasn't quite so crowded, but by the time I departed the area was packed. No matter what your style is, there was probably a booth for you on one of the several streets or buildings taken over by the market. However, one of of the best aspects is the food. Whether you prefer Chinese, Indian, Turkish, or some other ethnic food, Camden Market sells it.

In the afternoon I was going to go to an art/music festival, however I had misread the date on the sign, so it was not actually today. So instead I took a trip to Hamleys Toy shop. While my roommate may have rolled her eyes at me when I told her where I was going, it was a fantastic decision. I still am unsure what my favorite part of the store was, but the entire atmosphere was playful and magical.From the moment I walked in there were employees blowing bubbles and a live puppet show that involved children from the audience. Each of the seven floors contained more staff workers showing off toys, shouting at the top of their lungs why the toy they were showing off was the best in the store. Before I left I had been shot at with water guns, engaged in a light saber battle, serenaded by a group of guys doing magic tricks and seen Indiana Jones and Harry Potter made out of Legos.After leaving Hamleys, I wandered down Jubilee Walkway. Once again, the city came to life as I watched an artist painting a mural on the sidewalk, and saw a man carving a horse out of the sand by the Thames.
I watched skateboarders do tricks in a skate park, then walked down along the rocks and sand next to the Thames.I concluded my walk at the Tate Modern because it is open late on Saturday evenings. (Like the National Galleries, taking pictures inside the museum is frowned upon, so I only have a picture of the outside)
There were a few neat displays within, but I found the museum quite small, and I would not rank it highly compared to some of the other museums I've seen. It is hard to make a comparison though considering how different modern art is from something like the V&A.

I chose to walk back along the Jubilee path after visiting, and this choice awarded me with the opportunity to hear several musicians from classics on guitar to smooth jazz on saxophone as individuals played along the path sharing their individuality. I also got to see a street performer jump over six people at once.

Taking this walk also conveniently placed me around Parliament near nightfall, so I was able to see some of the attractions and landmarks lit up, which was definitely a sight worth seeing:

I have seen many museums and I have seen a lot of tourist attractions, but today I saw London's personality. I saw eccentric and eclectic displays. I saw the character and life that makes a person fall in love with a city.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tea and Paintings

When I think of England several things come to mind: fish and chips, double-decker buses and of course tea. However, since being here in London, I have discovered that the British are not all tea drinkers anymore... in fact I haven't met a single British person that likes tea.

Despite this, I've been determined to visit tea shops and so today after work I hopped on a bus and found my way to Twinings tea shop. The shop itself has been around since 1706 and though everything surrounding it is many stories high, Twinings is only one story and about the width of an alley-way.

I enjoyed wandering around smelling the different teas and, since they sell individual tea bags, I got a few flavours to try. I may go back before leaving London and purchase some loose tea.

After my tea shop venturing, I wandered off to the National Galleries which, like the V&A, is open late on Friday nights. Unfortunately, photography is not permitted inside the museum so a picture of the outside will have to suffice:

I decided to rent an audio guide to the paintings, and I was very happy that I did. It was nice to listen to a discussion on the paintings I found interesting, and since I was wandering by myself, I didn't feel like I was holding anyone up by stopping and staring at paintings for long periods of time while my headset told me about the different parts of the painting and what made the painter unique from his contemporaries.

From Rembrandt to Vermeer, Manet to Monet, and da Vinci to Van Gogh and other well known, and less known, artists the paintings were beautiful. All in all it made for an enjoyable evening, but not that many photographs! Cheers!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Where oh where has Sharon been?

I feel like a MatLab super-hero after all I have accomplished this week at work. However, as I was pulling long hours preparing for a meeting for yesterday, I have not been anywhere that adventurous or fun to post about. So, you get to see... *drum roll please*... the Imperial College Campus! HOORAY! Mostly because that is all I have seen this week.

I had posted a picture of the outside of my research building before, but despite it's ancient appearance the inside is quite modern looking. Here's the hallway where I work:
I work on the third floor of the building, though here in London you do not enter buildings on floor one. To get to floor one you climb one flight of stairs. So when I say I work on the third floor, I mean I climb three flights of stairs to get to my hallway:The campus itself is a bit more compact than Delaware. Most of the main science buildings are all connected by a walkway that is above street level:There is also a small 'quad' near the library that is sadly not quite as beautiful or large as UD's green:So now you have gotten to view a little bit of my everyday-life. Tomorrow starts the weekend, and therefore I will have more exciting pictures and posts coming soon!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

The British Museum

Another Saturday here in London. I spent most of today in the British Museum exploring the Ancient Roman and Greek exhibits. Even though I haven't taken Latin in a few years, I still love that era of history. In addition to those exhibits I also wandered through some Egyptian, African, Chinese and Japanese exhibits. Oh, and I also got to see the famous Rosetta Stone!

After adventuring around the museum, I wandered around some of the nearby streets. I stopped in a computer sale that I saw a sign for, and learned a valuable lesson. If you are a female, never go to a really large computer sale by yourself. Literally half of the room stopped to stare at me when I walked in, and several guys abandoned the customers they were helping to ask if they could help me... oh well lesson learned.

After that adventure, I went to Regent's Park, which was quite nice.

It was like a cross between Hyde and Battersea, but since it is far away I probably won't visit it as often. It is also near Baker Street, so I went there to see the Sherlock Holmes Museum, however the line was extraordinarily long, so I decided against it, and just took a picture of the outside. I spent my evening sketching in Hyde Park and just relaxing. I hope you all had a fantastic Saturday as well! Cheers!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Live every day... Love every day

Today was another fun day, as Fridays usually are. The group of us who came over for the Delaware/Imperial Exchange went out for lunch today with a few members from the Undergraduate Research office here. The restaurant was called 'Giraffe', and, while I find that an odd name for a restaurant, the food was very good and I have a little plastic giraffe that is meant to go in a drink, but I asked the waiter if I could have one even though I only had water and tea. We attempted to get a group photo, but unfortunately, it seems the waiter failed to capture all of our faces in the photo, but I love the quote on the wall behind us: Live every day... Love every day...

That seems to sum up the summer thus far living, loving and exploring London. I had another fun Friday Museum night. I left work a bit earlier than usual (as I had already put in quite a few hours throughout the week) and first visited the Natural History Museum. I didn't stay there very long, as looking at big stuffed dead animals really isn't the most exciting thing to me. So instead I wandered back to the V&A again. Since I arrived before six, I got to see some of the exhibits that close later in the evening, and that was awesome.
I thought this display of flattened musical instruments suspended from the ceiling was neat. I also finally got to walk through the sculpture exhibit. The China exhibit is still closed though. The other galleries I saw were of British art and things found in British homes in older time periods, as well as jewelry and iron work. It was yet another well spent evening at the museum!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All in a Day's Work

It was a little after four today when my supervisor came knocking at my door. I thought perhaps he was coming to see my progress, but not this time. The first thing he says to me is: 'Are you claustrophobic?'

Now, that is not one of those questions that I get asked everyday, but hey, maybe you do. My puzzlement probably showed on my face as I simply responded 'I don't think so... why?' This was followed by me being asked if I would mind having MRIs done on me. I quickly decided 'sure why not', and asked when we would be doing them. The response I got? 4:30. Thus began the most exciting research time I've had so far.

So at 4:30 I wandered up to my supervisor's office and he, my professor, a grad student, and I headed outside and hailed a taxi to St. Mary's Hospital. After having to remove everything metal on my person, and changing into a pair of scrubs, I and the others got ushered into the MRI wing. It was definitely exciting for me! The grad student went first, and the doctors let me push some buttons and click some things (nothing that I could mess up their equipment doing) so I got to help operate an MRI machine!

After the grad student was finished, I got attached to a heart monitor and breathing monitor then strapped to a bed and slid into the tiny MRI tube. Everyone around was giving me advice since this was my first MRI. They warned about how I would hear loud noises, and it would be kind of tight, and how if I started panicking I could just push a button and they would bring me out...

Honestly, I didn't think it was that bad; I actually found lying there relaxing, despite the loud noises and occasionally being asked to hold my breath. All of this chaos resulted in me having a much longer work day, but it was definitely worth it! This means that some of the data that I will work with this summer, is actually of my own body! Oh, and in answer to my supervisor's first question... No, I'm not claustrophobic.


(P.S. -I double checked with my adviser to make sure I was allowed to talk about this adventure despite the fact that my research is 'top secret' and he gave me full permission and took the picture of me coming out of the MRI machine)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

How to Make a Salad.... London Style

Oh how much we take for granted in the kitchen. After attending Holy Trinity last week for church, my roommate and I decided to sign up for their annual barbecue. We signed up to bring a salad... that can't be too hard right?

Task One: Find a bowl big enough to bring a salad in. If you are thinking this should have been the easiest part... think again. Why don't we just hop on the tube or bus and go to the dollar store, or Walmart or something, oh wait, this is London... they don't have those. Well, what about the grocery store, nope try again... after a week of searching finally we found a bowl at a random little shop that seemed to sell little bits of everything. The bowl was not exactly what we were looking for, but it would do.

Task Two: Decide on a type of salad. The word 'salad' encompasses quite a wide variety of dishes using everything from greens to beans, potatoes to tomatoes. Since we purchased a large bowl, we decided to make two salads to place in it, and division the bowl...somehow. We went for a relatively traditional approach: lettuce with toppings. We decided to make one with a 'sweet' theme and one with a veggie theme.

Task Three: Buy Ingredients. It took two stores to find lettuce that wasn't going brown, but we found some as well as the toppings for each salad. For the veggie salad we wandered around looking for cheap veggies to put on, and gathered some cucumber, carrot, tomato (yes I know they are a fruit), and broccoli as well as a bit of rocket just to make it look fancy. For the 'sweet' one we gathered cheese, raisins, and an apple. We also acquired a vinaigrette and an Italian dressing. So out of all these items, which was the hardest to find? If you're thinking one of the veggies, you lose. It was the raisins. Raisins, really. You would think they would be common and easy to find. Word of advice: it is easier to find dried blueberries in London, than dried grapes. Ah well, after much searching, and a few different stores, we found them.

Task Four: Prepare salad ingredients. Oh how we missed our home kitchens. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for our little kitchen sets, but how I would have loved to have had a cutting board and some bowls and a colander. I really did not appreciate how nice it is to be at home and just open up the cabinet and find any size bowl or strainer or a salad spinner that I may need (or raisins if I am looking in the food cupboard). We used every dish we had trying to wash and cut up our veggies. The entire kitchen counter was taken over by our venture.

Task Five: Assemble salad. Ok, so we had all the ingredients prepared, now we just needed to get it in the bowl... but how to keep the two sides separate... good thing you have two engineers preparing the salad! A little bit of aluminum foil and voila, a perfect bowl divider! Well, maybe not perfect... but at least it looked presentable (ish).
Don't worry, we didn't add the apple until right before it was served.

Task Six: Eat salad with fun companions! The barbecue ended up being a fabulous time, with great food and great fun to be had by all. My roommate and I were definitely the youngest there by a few years, but they were excited to have us and definitely an entertaining bunch:


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Out and About in London

I learned my lessons from last week, so no more 15 mile walking adventures to report about. However, I didn't just sit in my room all day either...

Today, I started out by visiting Buckingham Palace again to see the changing of the Guard ceremony. Thinking ahead, I went early so that I could get a good spot. Well I picked out a spot next to the area they were clearing.... and got a great view of the procession in and the procession out, but not of the actual ceremony. I guess that will be a lesson to learn for another visit.

The next place I decided to adventure to was the Monument. This was probably my best decision of the day. (Thanks Amanda for the recommendation!) I proudly climbed all 311 steps to the top, and they even gave me a certificate! They gave everyone else that climbed the monument a certificate also, but that is beside the point. I enjoyed glancing around and seeing London from above.

I also had the amusing experience of finding myself being the subject of many tourists photographs today. Outside of the Monument, there is a little area with benches. In that little area of benches sits a piano with the words 'Play me I'm Yours!' painted in big bold letters across it. So, naturally, I sit down to play. There didn't seem to be anyone really around, so I just played my little heart out, enjoying this opportunity to play an instrument, since I couldn't bring any with me. When I finished playing, I look up to find about 20 different people around me, with cameras out, photographing my musings. One person even decided to come up and ask me if it was my job to sit there and play piano for people. Oh those poor poor people... I had to disappoint and inform that: 1) this is not my job 2) I am not British 3) I don't actually play piano... maybe I should have just donned a fake British accent and pretended.

After that adventure, I wandered over to St. Paul's Cathedral and walked around. While wandering I found a cute little tea shop to visit. I headed back to my dorm (by bus! you should be proud of me) and thus ended my touristy adventures. In the evening my roommate and I made a salad... but that is a story for another time.


Friday, July 9, 2010

The V&A Musuem Again!

Once again I spent my Friday evening wandering around the Victoria and Albert Museum, and once again I think it was an evening well spent. My favorite exhibit that I viewed this evening, I was unfortunately not allowed to take pictures in. The exhibit was of paintings by Raphael. They were extraordinarily large, making the people depicted actually appear life-size. The scenes depicted were based upon different passages in the book of Acts (from the Bible for those of you who don't know).

My next favorite exhibit was on Beatrix Potter's work. It had one of the original pages of her letter for the story Peter Rabbit, as well as many sketches both for that story and others. All of them were behind glass, so my pictures turned out a bit blurry, but here is one of her rough sketches of a mother rabbit getting her kids ready:

Some other exhibits I viewed included the fashion exhibit and an exhibit on the history of theatre and performance. Both contained beautiful dresses. My favorite from the fashion exhibit was this 'piano dress':

The theatre exhibit was really fun to look around in at all of the different costumes and play advertisements. I also walked through the silver exhibits, which were not as interesting to me, and some more paintings and photography. Sadly, the China exhibit, some sculpture exhibits and a few others I wished to see, were closed. I guess that means I will have to return again!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Street Signs

"Remember to look both ways before crossing the street"
Growing up, that is one of those standard parenting phrases that you hear so many times you learn to just nod and say "I know". However, that is very good advice, especially when the cars are coming from a different direction than you are used to. In London, I have been working on remembering to look right, then left, before crossing the street. I didn't realize how accustomed I was to looking left first, until I had the constant visual reminders on the sidewalk that say 'Look Right -> '

Other street signs in London are also different. Where in the US it seems fairly standard for little green signs saying the name of the street to be posted on poles on the street corner, in London the street sign is posted on a building or gate... if it is there at all.

When the street signs are around, at least they are very informative, telling you exactly what section of the city you are in and the postal code, in addition to the street name. Other good signals to recognize are crosswalks marked with black and white poles topped with yellow bulbs:

These crosswalks imply that a vehicle must stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. That does not mean that a taxi might not beep at you because it is impatient, but at least you will be able to safely cross the street. Also while crossing streets, you may note that the street lights go through a slightly different cycle. First they are green, then yellow, then red, then right before the lights turn green again both the red and the yellow light up. Many corners with stoplights also have the little green and red men to tell you when you are allowed to cross the street, however these are highly irregular, and the green walking man does not stay lit for very long.

I've noticed a few other random differences as well. Instead of a sign saying 'Detour' for a road being closed, it will read 'Diversion'. Speed bumps are referred to as speed humps. Parking meters are located in one spot on the street instead of at every parking space:

There are definitely other differences too, but these are just some that daily catch my eye!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I'm seeing red!

No I'm not angry, red things just seem to be a common theme in London. Where in the United States many of our national public things are blue, England seems to have chosen red. Like mailboxes:

...and mailtrucks...

...and the uniforms of the guards. Red brick buildings, and red hospital and building signs. So many things seem to be red!

I guess it is a good thing I have not seen any bulls in London! Though I have seen some cows:

Monday, July 5, 2010

More Museums!

The museums in London are very large and have a lot to see. They are also conveniently located within a block of where I work. On Saturday, after all my wanderings to tourist attractions, I went to the science museum. I got there about 45 minutes before closing, so I did not have a lot of time, but I did walk through three exhibits: technology through the ages, history of mathematics and history of computing. All ones that I found very interesting! (I know that they may not be everybody's cup of tea.) They had many old computers and devices like this differential analyser :

It is really weird to think that this huge machine is what used to be required to take a complicated derivative that my hand-held TI-89 can compute!

Today, I went to work a bit early so that I could leave and see a bit of the Natural History Museum before it closed. The building itself is beautiful and HUGE.
Once again, since it was almost closing time I did not have much time to look around. So today I decided to look around the dinosaurs and then the human body exhibit. This giant sloth amused me greatly:

There is still so much for me to see in every museum! I think I am going to make a habit of going to work early a few days a week, so that I have a chance to see an exhibit or two each week.

Enjoy your holiday weekend, as it is not a holiday weekend here! Cheers!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Being a Tourist

Today was the first day where I had the whole day free for exploration! In the morning I tried to act like a local. I began my day by walking down the Thames for an hour, then turned around and walked back. Along the way in a garden there was an art display of Elephant statues. I wasn't allowed in, but they didn't seem to mind me taking pictures from the gate.

After my morning stroll, I visited a small fair at a local church just to see what it was like. It wasn't much to see, but it was fun to walk around and they had some live music.
In the afternoon I visited a bunch of tourist sites. I started by walking to the Wellington Arch and then wandering across to Buckingham Palace:

After that I wandered through St. James Park to Parliament, where Big Ben is located.

Then onward to Westminster Abbey.

A word to the wise: don't decide to walk to the tourist attractions if you live far away from them, especially when you have already walked a lot earlier in the day. After returning for the evening, I calculated the approximate distance I walked today, and it was over 10 miles...probably closer to 15.