Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries Tagged as '2010 David'

Sunday at Norwich & Norfolk Beer Festival at Dragon Hall

May 7th, 2011 · No Comments

(Image found at ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/norfolk/content/images/2009/01/09/dragon_fest_span_203x152.jpg )

Sunday at the Norfolk Beer Festival at Dragon Hall was much better than I expected it to be. Saturday night was just as packed as Friday night, and those two days drained the beer supply that had been purchased for the festival. Thankfully, there were bottled beers, two types of cider, and someone was able to grab two casks of beer from a local brewer for Sunday. No one expected Sunday to be a big day either, and it turned out to very well be an easy going day. There was only an afternoon session and it worked out very well.

        I was surprised because no one seemed extremely upset that there was almost no selection in beer there. At the door the prices were altered and costumers were made aware that the festival was basically out of alcohol, so everyone was well aware of the situation before purchasing admission into Dragon Hall. However, this did not stop a good number of people from showing up. Sunday afternoon welcomed the same amount of visitors that Saturday afternoon had. The bottled beer sold well, one of the cider casks was completely consumed, and both the new casks of beer were drunk by the end of the day.

            Looking back on my experience at Dragon Hall and my time volunteering at the Norwich and Norfolk Beer festival, I’ve come to realize that I could not have chosen a better place to do my mandatory volunteer/internship hours. This experience opened the eyes of an American boy who used to prefer a cold Fosters to warm local ale. I tried so many different types of local beers, all tasting different with unique qualities in colour and texture. My favourite would have been one of the Fat Cat’s contributions called the Cat & Canary. It was light and refreshing, with a fruity taste.

            At the end of my time there, I remembered something that another volunteer, Dodge, had mentioned to us before we started working on Friday. He reminded us that we should have fun, that the whole point of this festival was to have fun, try some new and interesting beers, and help others try them as well. Of course, the whole “have fun” part is something that you hear wherever you may be putting in effort to get something done, whether or not in reality it has any chance of being fun. I’ve heard it before starting a summer of sailing lessons with a bunch of bratty 11 year old girls (…not fun). But now I realize that Dodge meant that, and that it was possible. I spent a weekend serving delicious beer to interesting people, working alongside other knowledgeable and friendly volunteers, learning a lot about what kinds of tastes I like in a beer, and enjoying the beers myself. Not once were any of us volunteers without a glass at least half way full. This was actually encouraged, we were supposed to know the beers, we could only help customers with their decisions if we had made our own. I did have trouble describing the differences, beyond the colour of the beer, to costumers, but I was reassured that this skill will come in time, and for now I should just learn as much as I can. So that’s what I did, I drank beer and learned (probably the only place in the world where the words “beer” and “learned” accurately can describe an experience).

            After working on Sunday, I went out with some of the volunteers and some of the men playing in the band. We walked to a pub that was having another beer festival that weekend. I am only mentioning this to show how my relationship with the other members of the team developed throughout the weekend. By the time I was in the pub Sunday evening I was talking about where I was getting advice about where I should visit in Europe and how to handle life after college. Many of the other volunteers became my friends because of how close and well we all worked together. They all said that I need to do the Norwich Beer Festival held at St. Andrew’s Hall, but unfortunately I had to tell them that I was not going to be around for it.

            So I have this one last thing to say: If you have been to a beer festival, you should try working at one. You meet the best people on both sides of the bar, you get to drink amazing beers for free, and you learn so much about what makes beers special.

Date: 31 April 2011
Time: 11:30-16:30
Total Hours: 27

Location: Dragon Hall
Supervisor: Rachel M.

Tags: 2010 David · Uncategorized

Saturday Volunteering at Norwich & Norfolk Beer Festival at Dragon Hall

May 4th, 2011 · 1 Comment

After volunteering at Dragon Hall on Friday night, I believed I was equipped with what I needed to know for Saturday. Unlike Friday, when I had to stay from 5 o’clock to midnight for preparation, the evening session (the only session on Friday), and clean up, Saturday was going to be a lot longer though. I had to be there at 11:30 in the morning and I wouldn’t be let out until midnight that night. There were both and afternoon and evening session this day. Also, the work I did was a lot different than the work I did on Friday night.

            I was placed at one of the two bars. I would have to dispense the beer from the casks and collect the tokens from the costumers. Although this may seem easy, and although it proved to be less difficult than I worried it would be, at the beginning I was very worried. All of the volunteers that were working with me that afternoon had done this work the night before and I was very nervous about messing up. However, there were some things that made my life easier behind the bar.

            Firstly, all the glasses were marked. Along with the image and logo of Dragon Hall, there were measurement marks for a third of a pint, a half a pint, and a full pint. The committee that ran the festival had decided before that a third of a pint should not be sold, so that mark was irrelevant. But it is extremely important to pour the correct amount of beer into your costumer’s glass. I was warned many times that there is a committee that goes to pubs and beer festivals to make sure that the pouring was accurate and that the buyer was getting what he paid for. With the marks this was something that should not have made me worry, but I poured a little past the lines every time just to assure myself that I wasn’t going to rip anyone off. Secondly, all the beers were sold at intervals of 20p. Each token was worth 20p as well. On the casks there were labels with the names of the beer, the brewery that created it, the alcohol content, and the price and token amount for either a half or full pint. All I had to do was look at the token amount and ask for it, not having to deal with money or change. Thirdly, at the bar I was working at, there were two experienced beer festival volunteers who made sure everything was working smoothly. I made one mistake that thankfully was not a major issue, but it could have been.

            The beers being served at these CAMRA festivals all have sediment that lies at the bottom of the cask. That means that after the cask is transported or put into its location at the bar the cask must rest for a certain amount of time in order to let the sediments settle back down under the liquid. This also means that after tipping a cask, which is what you do when the beer is running low and you need to heighten the rear of the cask to increase the flow of liquid to the nozzle in the front, you have to be extremely careful. Only experienced people were able to touch these casks in order to tip them because the adjustments had to be done slowly and accurately. Sudden movements could shake the sediments afloat. The cask would then have to sit, possibly for hours, before the beer was ready to serve again. So at a festival, where beer is needed and needed fast, this would be a terrible problem. I did almost cause this to happen when I was trying to be helpful. One of the experienced volunteers, Andrea, was tipping a cask that was running low, and I decided that she needed a hand, so I started to push the rear of the cask upwards. I was quickly scorned and I let go, and she had a tight enough grip on the cask to make sure that it didn’t fall back down when I let go. I never touched the cask again, except for the nozzle, which I was allowed to touch. Although I was yelled at for my mistake, the group of volunteers behind the bar was supportive. There were some volunteers my age, and a couple older volunteers. As long as we listened to what the older, usually more knowledgeable, ones ordered and as long as we were productive and putting in effort, us “virgins” (as we were called once early on Friday because of our lack of experience working at beer festivals) were treated respectfully, and eventually even friendly.

            The festival as a whole ran into problems by the end of the afternoon, before the night session. We were actually running out of beer. No one had expected Friday night to be such a success and the men and women who organized the event did not order enough beer from the breweries. By the early hours of the night session we had to cross off beers on the beer menu that was offered to costumers. One by one the beers dropped off and the selection began to dwindle. My bar literally sold out of beer Saturday night and had to resort to selling the few options of bottled beer that were available. These bottled beers were from the same breweries that provided the casks of beer but we far less popular because they were more expensive and they had an altered taste because of their packaging. A lot of costumers were very disappointed and I was sympathetic to them. They came to a beer festival expecting abundance of beer to choose from, to taste, to consider, and to discover, but for those who came later on in the evening that was impossible to do. I felt horrible turning people away because we didn’t have any of the beer they were interested in having. It wasn’t like I had a choice though.

            There was a little bit more cleaning up to do Saturday night than there was on Friday. I had to remove the trays that were placed on the floor directly under the nozzles. These were meant to collect all the drippings from the casks. I collected random glasses that were left around and placed them by the sink in the kitchen. After this long but successful day at Dragon Hall, I was able to catch the bus home.

(Image found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/norfolk/your/a-z_norfolk/images/dragonhall.jpg)

Date: 30 April 2011
Time: 11:00-24:00
Total Hours: 20
Location: Dragon Hall
Supervisor: Rachel M.

Tags: 2010 David · Uncategorized

Friday Volunteering at the Norwich & Norfolk Beer Festival at Dragon Hall

May 4th, 2011 · No Comments

(Image found at http://www.creativesponge.co.uk/images/branding_5.jpg )

I fulfilled my volunteer/internship hours at the Norfolk Beer Festival held at Dragon Hall last weekend. This event was sponsored by the Campaign for Real Ale, or CAMRA. This is an organization that, based on all I witnessed during my time as a volunteer, supports the local breweries. It is a national organization spread throughout the United Kingdom. The Norwich and Norfolk branch of CAMRA puts on beer festivals, holds tastings, and publishes Nips, a magazine that contains reviews, calendars displaying scheduled events, opinion pages, and many other types of articles that describe the up-to-date happenings in the local beer world of Norwich and Norfolk. It pays to be a member, as discounts are offered at various events to people holding the CAMRA membership card. (Norwich & Norfolk CAMRA’s website: http://www.norwichcamra.org.uk/ )

            Friday was my first day as a volunteer. I arrived at 5 o’clock in the late afternoon at Dragon Hall. The students on the Dickinson program have all seen it before because of the walking tour we were assigned. This was one of the locations that someone had to explain the significance of. It is located across the river from the movie theatre near the train station. It’s only a five to ten minute walk from the train station when getting off the 25 or 35 bus. Dragon Hall is a fifteenth century building that has been used as a venue for commercial, social, and domestic purposes. However, this weekend it hosted the beer festival as a fundraiser to maintain the building and its historic merit.

            After arriving on Friday, I was herded up stairs to the big hall. There were two bars lined with casks (I learned never ever, ever, to call them kegs), two shelves high. The festival itself was scheduled to start at 6, so the hour between was used to divvy up the jobs that the volunteers were going to be doing. The older volunteers, the CAMRA members, and the more confident of the volunteers were given the tasks upstairs where the bars and beer were located. I myself volunteered to go downstairs, to the door and help with the till (cash register). Before the night started, all the volunteers were given food vouchers, because food was being provided by a catering service downstairs, and a pint glass, which could be filled with beer.

            That night I worked at the first table that the costumers came to. I was working with an old man who volunteers regularly at Dragon Hall and is also a well-educated-in-beer CAMRA member. Sean Nam was there too, working alongside me and this old man, named Mark I believe. Initially, Sean and I worked on passing out glasses, along with £2 worth of tokens (which were actually raffle tickets) to the men and women coming in. These tokens would be put into the glasses that the arriving costumers would receive after paying an admission fee of £5 or £4 for CAMRA members. At a table located across the room, more tokens would be available for purchase. The initial £2 worth of tokens could buy a half pint of beer. Friday night turned out to be a lot busier than expected, so Sean and I were constantly opening new boxes of pint glasses and putting tokens inside of the glasses. When Mark left to get food, he left me in control of the till. I did one transaction that had to be voided, but soon I got the hang of it. I’m glad that I didn’t work upstairs with the beer Friday night because working down at the front door helped boost my confidence, relax in this new environment, and get comfortable with the beer festival vibe. I’d never been to a beer festival before, let alone worked at one.

            The people coming into the beer festival seemed to all belong to different crowds. There were the older people, usually coming together as spouses or pairs of spouses. The CAMRA members were usually these people, which I was not surprised about. Mark would continually jest with the older people who showed their membership cards, either knowing them or pretending to know them. I was surprised at how many young people came though. Lots of the attendees looked to be about my age or a little older. There was a policy set in place that nobody under the age of 18 should be allowed in, but everyone seemed of age. These younger people, the ones that could have been my 21 or older, were extremely friendly and I was able to joke with them.

            I worked the door until it was time to leave around midnight. The last call was sometime before 11, I believe it was around 10:45. People started to file out soon after that, everyone seeming very happy with what they had experienced that night, saying goodbye and thank you. I felt as if I had done a good job that night, no big mistakes had been made, and by the end I had adjusted to the venue and the crowd. It was a very good night.

Date: 29 April 2011
Time: 17:00-24:00
Total Hours: 7
Location: Dragon Hall
Supervisor: Rachel M.

Tags: 2010 David · Uncategorized

Museums are big, but not all of them

September 21st, 2010 · No Comments

I’m going to try and clear up my statement. I might or might not succeed. I JUST CAN’T LIVE WITH THE HUMILATION ANYMORE.

London is full of museums, some big and some small (how am I doing so far?). But I don’t just mean the sizes of the buildings; I also mean the scope of the collection. The British Museum, being the largest historical museum, and the National Gallery, being the largest art museum, offer an array of different exhibits that don’t have anything to do with one another. They are a buffet, if you will, of art and history. You can go and look at something in particular, say Ancient Greek and Roman history at the British Museum, or go and browse the whole collection.

And then there are medium museums. The Museum of London, though a large building, hosts artifacts and pieces of only London’s history, not that of the whole world like the British Museum houses. The National Portrait Gallery is an example of a more specific art museum, because it holds only portraits associated with England, unlike the National Gallery, which exhibits all types of paintings from all over the Europe. Museums like the Victoria and Albert Museum fall into this category as well, because it offers a more specific collection. It’s exhibits are more unique, like fashion and jewelry, which makes it less enjoyable to some people, but extremely enjoyable to others. The Tower of London (can I count this as a museum?) boasts the Crown Jewels and a collection of armor and weaponry, but everyone comes for the Jewels. I count this as a medium museum because it doesn’t have a large collection of anything, but the Tower is an exhibit itself.

Now for the small museums. Like the medium museums, there is range here. There is the John Sloan’s Museum, which is so specific as it holds mostly architecture designs and the items from Sloan’s personal collection. But there are smaller museums, like the Charles Dickens Museum that I visited. Obviously, this museum was solely about Dickens and his life, but the museum was limited to sketches of the author, old prints of his books, and a surprisingly little collection of things that Dickens owned and used. It was really disappointing. Small museums offer visitors such a specific topic that its hit or miss. If someone hated Dickens, they would not go to the Dickens Museum, where as if someone hated paintings of the Virgin Mary, they would still go to the National Gallery.

That is my explanation. I hope it I explained myself clearer than in class. Any questions? Comment!

Tags: 2010 David

Places of Worship

September 21st, 2010 · No Comments

The different sites of worship that we visited as a class offered us a way to understand some of the major religions that make up London.  Within the city Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are embraced in different neighborhoods and different people. Here is what I learned from our visits to the different places of worship.

The Hindu Temple-

The first thing I noticed about the temple was its high walls and gated entrances. This place was not kidding around about safety. The guard in front was wearing a bullet-proof vest. I thought this was very unusual because I haven’t heard much at all about religious violence towards or against the Hindu people in London or anywhere else. After the visit, however, I realized what an amazing structure it is, and why protection of this sort might be necessary. It’s the largest Hindu temple outside of India and the building took a long time and lots of effort to build. Preserving it completely is extremely important. Inside the temple, I realized other aspects of the Hindu community here in London. First off, the temple was not only for worship, but it was a social gathering place. It seemed like a place where some members of the community go just to see other people and not for any religious reason. The little museum inside the temple was extremely informative. If you invite people to come and tour your temple who may or may not know what your religion really means, what’s better than a visual appealing and educational exhibit? I think it was a brilliant idea to include it in the temple, and it really shows how much the temple is trying to include outsiders in their religion. Being able to sit in on the religious ceremony was another informative experience I had at the temple.

Westminster Abby/Saint Paul’s Cathedral-

I didn’t get much insight into the Christian religion from my visit to Westminster Abby. Although it is still functioning as a religious institution, the majority of people there were there to see the dead people in the floors, walls, and stone tombs. It was exciting to walk over the names of Darwin and Dickens. It was a beautiful building and its history was also intriguing. The only time I realized I was in a place of worship is when John told us to listen to the loud-speaker and observe a moment of silence. Why is this? Why has Westminster Abby embraced tourism and dampened its religious value? I have an idea…money. The amount of people willing to shell out some cash to see kings and queens, composers and poets, who they had only read about or read must be ridiculous. And although it does not have the same amount of tourist attraction, St. Paul’s is similar. Maybe I am missing something, but these places seem to have diverged, to point, from religion and have almost joined the ranks of Big Ben and Tower Bridge.

The Mosque-

This was the worst, but probably most interesting visit. It was interesting, not because of the information that I received from the tour guide, but because of the way the whole group was treated during the visit. I think this gave me the most insight into Islam in London. I was honestly nervous about visiting the mosque, only because I didn’t know what to expect. All I know is that in the country I come from, many people have intense views about Islam. Anyway, the tour guide seemed extremely uncomfortable, like he didn’t know where to start. He asked us about what we know about Islam, but what I know is extremely skewed by the media inside the United States. I wanted to know what he had to tell me. He answered our questions, but I didn’t feel that that gave me a concrete idea about what Islam is, like the introduction to Hinduism I got at the Hindu Temple. The most informative part of the visit was when the women dressed from head to toe in black closed the window shades and locked the doors to the hall where the children were playing. I know that no one is hiding anything, but we came there to learn, not judge, and I feel that the whole time we were there it was like they felt Islam was on trial.

The Synagogue-

I have been to synagogues in the United States and this one wasn’t very different. The man leading our tour was very enthusiastic about our visit and went directly into explaining Judaism and its existence in the UK and London. I did not know the influence of Jews in the UK and so it was very informative. The history of the building was also cool. He pointed to where I was sitting and he told me that a bomb during the Blitz landed right there. I thought that the plaque dedicated to the Queen was very interesting. I didn’t expect to see that there.

I learned a lot from these visits. They were worth while and gave me a better understanding of religion’s role in historical and modern day London.

Tags: 2010 David

Tired of the Fast Pace of London? Here’s a Place to Hyde!

September 21st, 2010 · No Comments

London could, and rightly should, boast about its parks. The amount of space the city has reserved for outdoor enjoyment is outstanding. The largest parks, Hyde, St. James, and Regents, have fantastic gardens, bodies of water, and wildlife. Initially, I was going to do a tour of Hyde Park for my walking tour. This park specifically hit me with its beauty.

So what is it that makes Hyde Park so special?

From what I have noticed, London is a city leading the way in healthy living, and Hyde Park lends itself to that. The amount of space for games and exercise is astonishing Both times I visited there had to be three dozen football matches being played. These games and others are played on the Parade Grounds. A large, flat, green lawn, these grounds give visitors the space to run around, though they have to share it with the ones trying to relax. There is a track around the park that w

alkers, cyclists, and runners share with each other. There is tennis center and also horseback riding. I think even Central Park in New York has gotten ride of horseback riding. Anyway, there is a Barclays bike station right near one of the entrances that allows people to cruise around and enjoy the sun (or clouds).

Another aspect of Hyde Park that makes it unique is the facilities that allow people to… chill out. This is another part of London culture that I’ve seen: Londoners need for relaxation. There are green and white striped deck chairs that dot much of the green space around the park. People are able to take paddleboats out on the Serpentine (the body of water within Hyde Park that I will get to in a second). From what I saw, there were also two restaurants that were placed on the shore of the Serpentine. Though it might now seem like much, there are cafés all around the park where people sit and drink coffee, eat cake, and talk.

For a city, London definitely embraces its animal inhabitants. The Serpentine is a long body of water that attracts lots of birds, ranging from Canadian geese to swans to exotic birds. The people along the shore feed them, the birds allowing them to get so close that people can feed them out of their hands. The squirrels too, they go right up to people and take food from their hands! I had never seen that happen except for here in London. Its such an unusual relationship that the animals and people have.

The park also includes many memorials, statues, and historical spots. The first thing you see when you reach Hyde Park from Oxford Street is Speekers Corner. Since the late 19th century, people have spoken there about anything they were interested in preaching. There is a 7/7 memorial and a fountain dedicated to Princess Diana. The most interesting one in the park is the Isis statue. It resembles a crane is meant to inspire people to cherish the wildlife that they have around them. It recognizes the relationship that I previously talked about.

In many ways, Hyde Park incorporates the culture of London into its beauty and nature.

Tags: 2010 David

A Long Way from Broadway: London’s Theatre

September 20th, 2010 · 1 Comment

I am not a big theatre guy, but every Christmas (before they decided to take us to operas instead) my grandparents took my brothers and me to see a Broadway musical. I always enjoyed dressing fancy and taking the train into New York City. I loved walking into the theatre and finding my seat. The load commotion of the audience thrilled me and when the lights started to dim, that’s when I realized what where I was and what I was doing.

The theatre we went to here, however, was so different than what I would experience every winter with my family. I know that the shows we went to were not supposed to be exactly like Broadway, but that’s what I have been accustomed to. I’m used to dancers, lots of extras, enormous props and flashy lights. It’s like what Rick Fisher explained to the group during our first class discussion. Plays are different here in London, they aren’t as glamorous or glitzy. Of course, I didn’t go independently to any plays or musicals, so I can only agree with this based off what I have seen here.

The Marry Wives of Windsor, the first production we saw, was unbelievable. Being inside the Globe Theatre was an experience within itself. We stood just as the groundlings did in Shakespearian times (however we were required to be a little more well mannered). My legs did get tired, but for the most part the performance distracted me. From only reading Shakespeare, I don’t get the nuances and I miss most of the meaning because the language and humor is not what I am used to. But the actors and actresses were able to present so that I actually understood what was going on! It was truly a hilarious play. Although we saw the play at night with lights brightening the stage, and we were able to buy Cokes from a vendor in the audience, I really think I at least got a glance at what it would have been like to see the production when it originally was performed.

Another hilarious show was The 39 Steps, the play adapted from the Alfred Hitchcock film that we saw at The Criterion Theatre. This four-man show was brilliant. It was the most Broadway-like production we saw in London, but really only because of the atmosphere. I didn’t notice until Chris pointed it out, but the play was extremely British. It was most apart in the apologies that the characters would give through out the play. “Sorry” for everything. I enjoyed watching the characters use props in three or for different ways. Chairs became cars and dressers became fireplaces.

I am still unsure about the final visit we had to the theatre, where we saw The Habit of Art. Not only was I a little distracted by Sir Ian McKellen, but my attention began to wane during the transitions between the play we were watching and the play inside the play we were watching (huh?). I heard many classmates say that they would have rather just seen a play about the poet. I got annoyed by the interruptions by the actors, because sometimes I forgot that the play I was watching was not just a play about the poet.

Our tour through the National Theatre was interesting and I really learned a lot about how unique the productions there are. Unlike West End theatres, the National Theatre is not just about making money. The facilities there were awesome, and the fact that almost everything is done on sight (from the making of the props to the making of the costumes) is astonishing. This was my favorite part about being at the National Theatre.

All of the experiences at the theatre were worth it. Though I still believe I am not a big theatre guy, I really enjoyed everything I saw.

Tags: 2010 David · Uncategorized

London Pubs… Not My Scene

September 19th, 2010 · 3 Comments

I have been to many pubs in London, though probably not as much as some of my group members. The fact is, I don’t really like them. Before I came to England, I had the idea that pubs would be low-key and intimate places. I thought they would be places where I could relax. It turns out to be the opposite. I can’t relax at these places. I get extremely anxious. Pubs are where I actually have to act British, and I am not too sure yet what that means. I have read Fox and she has helped, but the times I actually experienced the pub scene for myself I’ve been confused. In the moment, I have a hard time thinking about what Fox has told me to do, and I just do what David always does… and it’s not always pretty.
One experience that I had was when Sean and I went to the Rising Sun. We made our way to the bar and, after probably five minutes of waiting, the bartender came and asked what we wanted. I ordered a pint of London Pride, and the guy asked if that was all and I said yes. But, then Sean said he wanted one too so I said, “Wait actually my friend wants one too.” Strike one. When you order, know what you want and order it all together. So the bartender gave me an attitude and then started to pour Sean’s drink. When he was finished, he gave us the price of the two drinks. We went fumbling through our pockets, full of random coins that we hadn’t yet learned by touch, so we could pay separately for the drinks we ordered. Strike two. Be ready with the money and pay together so the transaction can be fast, especially on a busy night like this one was. No need for a third strike, the bartender had no sympathy for the two confused Americans. When we eventually paid, we got our drinks and went to sit. We found a group of girls from the program, and I had to take Melissa with me when I wanted another drink because of how embarrassed I was. But experiences like this are not the only reason I don’t like pubs.

Pub food is garbage and the atmosphere is uncomfortable. I don’t care if its steak and ale pie, potato jackets, or a burger. The only thing that’s actually good is the fish and chips, but really how could anyone mess that up. This food is really missing all and any flavor that it could have. I really prefer to go to restaurants to eat and drink. The food is usually better and just as cheap. The drinks too are usually just as expensive. I like the slower pace of restaurants because I can eat and drink without people yelling and their elbows in my plate.

On a recent night, however, I was surprised to find a pub that I actually liked. It was small and quiet. When I looked in the window I hesitated before going in because it looked so low-key that I was worried it was a kind of a “regulars” spot. But when I walked in (with Sean) I found that it was exactly the kind of place I had been looking for! Sean and I were probably the youngest people there. There was no music. The place wasn’t full but the people there were actively engaged with who ever was across from them at their table. I felt relaxed, I felt comfortable, and I drank a lot. I think the pub’s name was the King’s Crown. It’s a little bit up Gower Street, on a street to the left. I recommend that before everyone leaves, they give this place a shot because I’m sure it’s different than any place you have been to so far. I will totally be going back before I leave.

I hope to find pubs, like the one I just spoke about, in Norwich. I know pub food is notoriously bad everywhere, but I just want a place I can relax and unwind. That’s it.

Tags: 2010 David · Uncategorized

I <3 London

September 17th, 2010 · 4 Comments

I went souvenir shopping recently on Oxford Street. Just like the streets of other major cities I’ve been to, there were shops and shops selling similar merch

andise boasting London’s places of interest and culture. The classic I <3 [enter city’s name here] shirts lined the walls of these stores. There were hats and sweatshirts, along with underwear and key chains. The shelves were lined with little figurines of London’s attractions. I bought my girlfriend a snow-globe with the London Eye, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, a red double-decker bus, and a red telephone booth inside of it. As I was in bed the other night, I looked over at it and I started to think…

What would New York have in it’s snow-globe? What about Chicago? Even cities like Athens, what would these places put inside to represent themselves? I could only think of the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State building, and a yellow taxi for New York. Chicago would have the Sears Tower of course, and Athens would include the Acropolis. The fact is, London has many more recognizable places of interest and cultural emblems than any other city I can think of. This snow-globe I gave to my girlfriend could included only a few of the spots.

Because of its long history, London has been able to accumulate these over its existence. Just looking at the snow-globe, there are different eras of London’s history right inside of it. Big Ben, though there was a tower on the site since 1288, was raised in 1834. Tower Bridge was opened in 1894 to satisfy the increase in commerce in the East End. The red telephone booth, actually called a telephone box, was first introduced to the city in 1920 and the red bus has been a stable to the city since the early 1950s. And then there is the London Eye, which is extremely modern, in 1999, when it becoming the tallest ferris wheel in the world until 2006. Though the figures inside the glob are random, it shows how the city embraces all of its cultural icons. I’m sure that if the Roman walls were still standing, they would be included inside.

So, what would you put in your snow-globe? I would put the Tower of London, Westminster Abby, the Millennium Bridge, and I’d probably keep Big Ben in there too. I’d probably throw in a royal guard with that large black hat as well. London doesn’t make it easy to choose, but we all have our favorites.

Tags: 2010 David · Uncategorized

The Thames Festival… No Red Stripe?

September 12th, 2010 · 4 Comments

I can’t begin to imagine the amount of beer cans that were picked up off the streets of Notting Hill after that gigantic parade/fair that I visited at the beginning of the program. Everyone was drinking as they followed the floats (if you call reggae DJ’s riding on big buses floats) down the streets of the neighborhood, throwing their beers on the ground as they were receiving a joint from a generous hand or reaching into their pockets for two pounds to purchase a sketchy jello shot. The side walks were engulfed in the trash that overflowed behind the jerk chicken and Bob Marley tee shirt vendors. Though it sounds dirty, which I guess it was, it was a unique (not going to say fun) experience. First off, I don’t think I’d ever seen saw many people in one spot in my entire life. I was nearly crushed to death so many times. I also liked some of the costumes that the paraders were wearing. I didn’t really like the costumes themselves, women in feather decorated bikinis, but they represented the enthusiasm that so many people had for this event. I soon got tired of it all though, and after trying to get through the crowds of drunk and high people, the closed subway stations just got me even more frustrated.

But the Thames Festival! It was like a five year olds birthday party compared to what I went through at Notting Hill. Like the previous festival there were vendors, but here there were much more and they offered a lot of different foods and crafts. It wasn’t exclusive to one neighborhood, so people were selling everything from Greek food, to pizza and from Japanese, to sweet and tasty churos. Lots of vendors sold toys, like bubble makers and glow wands, while other offered paintings and clothing. As I walked along the shore of the Thames, under the London Eye, I moved through the foot traffic easily and listened to a concert that was off on the grass close by. The paths along the river were busy, but there were no traffic jams. There were people holding clear plastic cups of beer, but that was really the extent of the drinking. I didn’t notice anyone that I thought was wasted. Anyway, the big event of the night were the fireworks. I found a spot on the bridge next to the London Eye and waited half an hour for the fireworks to start. Sadly, I was on the wrong side, and blocking my view of the show were the steel supports for the train track that ran through the middle of the bridge. From what little I saw, but more from the “ohs” and “ahs” of the huge crowd watching, I assume the fireworks were incredible. The tube station and the bus stops were remarkably uncrowded, so the trip back home took as long as it would any other day.

Two different experiences, one a little more comfortable than the other, but both well worth attending. The Thames Festival, if it happened every weekend I would go. For the Notting Hill Festival, I think once every three to four years would be okay.

Tags: 2010 David · Uncategorized