I Had a Bath

Went. I went to Bath. It’s four hours away from Norwich. People think I’m crazy. They’re correct. If you travel anywhere further than an hour away from Norwich, people think you’re insane. Because you know, why would you ever venture to the very near far side of the country? If I lived on a tiny island, I would try and see as much of it as I could. Oh wait. England is a tiny island. Right.

So Bath was neat. Jane Austen lived there for a couple summers, so of course we had high tea at the Jane Austen centre.  People, there is an art to eating scones! They crumble, and fall apart, and melt in your mouth. The solution? Be delicate. Also, do not inhale. I also bought a teeny weeny leetle bottle of gin, that has Jane Austen’s face on it. It’s 50 ml, and I probably paid too much for it. But oh well. It’s locally made, and delicious, and a souvenir.  That being said, I’ll never drink it. It will be my treasure, that I shall keep forever to remind me of that one time I spent two days in Bath.

We also paid 13 quid to wander through the Roman Baths. Folks, I wasn’t going to do it. I was going to refuse to pay 13 British pounds to wander through Roman ruins. I AM SO GLAD I DID NOT LISTEN TO MYSElF FOR ONCE. If you ever go to Bath, I highly, and strongly, suggest you go on a tour of the Baths. There is more history and information in that two-hour walk than one could ever hope to know about a Roman Bath. Science and culture. Meshing. Diluting? Diffusing? Who knows. It was cool. Also there were statues. And giant cellular devices. And British actors pretending to be Romans. It was a bit backwards.

In all seriousness though, I learned an incredible amount about the people who settled Britain (kinda, mostly). I was blown away by how advanced the Romans were, and how many of the things they used back then (steam rooms for example), are utilized today. This place, larger than a football pitch (for you in North America read soccer field) originally, was like a YMCA for Romans. Exercise space, pools, steam rooms, massages, and to cap it off, a temple to pray at when all was said and done. Super cool. I want to go back and learn more. Maybe I’ll just read a book though. Train tickets are expensive. Come to think of it though, I was hesitant to pay to get in, yet spent money on a 50 mL bottle of gin. Ridiculous.

We also went to a Jane Austen improv performance. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. How could anyone do that? Well let me tell you, 50 Shades of Darcy, was fantastic. I mean… terrible. Just kidding. The prompt they chose was ‘What colour is that dress anyway?’ If you don’t get it you need to catch up on your pop culture. Or don’t. You’re not missing anything.

Post performance, we had a lovely drink in a local bar, called ‘The Gin Bar’. Original. I know. The gin martini I had was vonderbar, complete with coriander sprig to garnish. Once again, read cilantro. You’d love it or hate it. I thought it was awesome. I liked it so much I had another drink. The Somerset Negroni. Like a regular Negroni, but better. I was raised by the best of the best at Ricardo’s back home, and am discovering I’m a bit of a cocktail snob. No Bellini for me thanks, nor cheap vodka shots. Alcohol should be more refined than that. Enjoyed, not carelessly consumed. We’re in our twenties now folks, time for us to enjoy the finer things in life. (I can feel the old soul taking over my brain).

I realize I haven’t posted photos in a while. I’d say, ‘They’re on their way!’, but the truth of the matter is, I’m just too lazy to upload them from my camera. Then I have to sit here and go over how wonderful everything away from Norwich was, and start to feel depressed about living in the Kelowna of the United Kingdom. I thought I was getting away from white people over the age of 40. Not true. I’m pretty sure this is the bread box of Europe. More flat than Saskatchewan too. I can’t wait to climb a mountain when I get home. Or to be out of breath from walking, up a hill. A real hill.

Long story short. Go to Bath. Drink quality cocktails, and visit anywhere except Norwich unless you like old white people and never walking up a hill. Learn about the Romans, and don’t ever give up the chance to experience British humour first hand.

Until next time,

Sarah.

I wonder if we’ll be the last ones…

Our world is withering away into a permanent state terror. The war in the East rages on and slowly but surely, the West is getting sucked into issues that never initially involved them. Suicide bombers as young as 10 years old are blowing themselves up, killing dozens of others with them, and living in England I’m thinking, ‘It’s on my doorstep.’

It’s on Canada’s doorstep too. Our malls and social spaces have been threatened, an attack on our government is pushing our democracy to initiate laws that they’d never consider otherwise, and you can’t open up a laptop or switch on any sort of broadcasting system without hearing about another Canadian student leaving their family or friends behind to join what they believe is the group doing the right thing.

In my search for cheap places to travel whilst I’m living here, I’m discovering that the farther East you go, the more likely you are to get further on your dollar. It’s not surprising though, considering the amount of unrest and killing going on. You can save a buck if you want to risk your life. A greater chance to defy the odds if you’re young, a woman, and Caucasian. I wonder how long it will be until North American universities will stop sending students abroad because it’s simply too dangerous to risk their lives for the sake of education and experience. Ironic isn’t it, that education could solve some of the issues that are being fought over. I wonder how long it will be until Canada has to restrict their immigration and refugee applications because the wars in the East begin to threaten the livelihoods of not only those who are currently in immediate danger, but also those who will be in danger because the fighting will continue to spill over one border, and then another, and another. Until World War III breaks out in full.

Isn’t it already starting? Oxford Street in London was included in the latest IS threat, as was West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada. 26 Christians were beheaded this past week just for standing up for what they believe. More people died simply because they live in a war zone. Someday, 2015 will be included in the era known as ‘the time between WWII and WWIII when civil unrest was normal.’ We’ll be in the history books as the generations that could have learned from what happened before, and did nothing to change our futures.

I won’t get into what causes it. I won’t start any great debates or point fingers. But I wonder if I’m privileged to be part of the last generation who gets to travel our world without any immediate thoughts to their safety, or to seriously having to consider whether I’ll make it home alive. Or whether my family will be alive when I get home. We all live in our heads, don’t you think? We all think, what can I do? And we’ve all heard it a thousand times. ‘But I’m just one person!’ But if every person who thought, ‘I’m just one person’ changed their thought process and thought, ‘I’ll make a difference anyways,’ then a whole lotta people would be in the mood for change.

Just a thought. People are angry. We all are so quick to point fingers and lay the blame anywhere but on ourselves. Wouldn’t be an interesting world if we were all just a tad  bit more humble, and less upset. I think it’d be really quite amazing if we could develop a system that allows us to predict human interaction based on factors like hunger, number of parents, religion, access to education, equality. Wouldn’t it be curious to see how the world would be if everyone was educated? Or if no one was hungry? Maybe some intelligent mathematician somewhere will build a program somewhere that does that. Maybe there are too many factors involved. I don’t know.

Anyways. Sorry for the dark post today, but it’s a thought I had today. ‘I wonder if I’m one of the last ones that gets to adventure and experience the world outside of my own little bubble. Maybe wars will escalate so much so that all those post apocalyptic movies and books won’t be too far off.’ If I am one of the last ones, it makes me so much more inclined to cherish the time I have here, regardless of what I miss from back home. This could be one of the last chances anyone ever has to live abroad, without the immediate threat of danger looming over their head.

Sarah.

Odile the Goose.

On Wednesday night a few friends and I went to the Theatre Royal in Norwich’s city centre for the performance of Swan Lake, Tchaikovsky’s ballet. I remember seeing The Nutcracker when I was a kid, and I’ve seen televised versions of Swan Lake, but haven’t ever seen it live. It was half decent, although the swans could have been more synchronized and by the end it was pretty clear the dancers were becoming exhausted.  For that I don’t blame them, it was a long show. The music on the other hand, was fantastic.  I played the oboe in high school, so getting to hear it played again was really cool!

During the show though, I couldn’t help but laugh a bit.  Those of you who know me, understand that I have this critical and satirical sense of humour when it comes to watching shows.  Rarely will I sit through a movie or tv show without criticising it in one regard or another.  Sometimes it’s the acting, other times it’s the lack of feminism. A lot of the time I don’t even support the comment I’ve made, but hey, it’s fun to jest anyways isn’t it? Here are my thoughts on the Russian State Ballet of Siberia’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

Scene One. There are princes and paupers and who knows who else running around on stage and I’m thinking, ‘Okay so far this is alright.’ Then the hopping starts. I’m not going to pretend to be a dance aficionado, but it looked ridiculous. Now I’m thinking, ‘I can do that! I already do that! Every morning, while I’m trying to pull my pants on.’ This renders a snicker from myself, which I cover with my hand. Dancing princes and upset queens are nothing to laugh at. Unless they’re hopping. I should also mention, I like how in Swan Lake it’s the prince that’s being forced to marry, not the princess.

Scene Two. We’ve gone hunting, and our prince (Siegfried, if anyone cares) has seen a beautiful swan. Now I don’t know about you, but let’s be real here. If you’re off with your buddies, hunting, you’ve probably had a few beers and probably aren’t all present upstairs. Suddenly the bird you’re trying to shoot for dinner turns into a girl. I’d be outta there so fast. Birds and humans are very different things. But nope, he falls in love. Typical fairy tale. So then the prince disappears and the swans are left to do their things, which is dance… like birds. In my head I’ve now got David Attenborough narrating the scene. ‘The graceful swans often flap their arms in order to draw attention… See how they glide gracefully across the water?’  This goes on for the rest of the scene. Keep in mind that I know very little about swans, so it was mostly made-up nonsense and we all know that David Attenborough would probably never narrate anything fantastical like Swan Lake. Hence, I found it ridiculously amusing.

Next. We’re back in the castle. Or in the courtyard outside the castle. Who knows. Prince is dancing with his buddy, and there is an assortment of princesses also dancing around. Pick one. Well this one is too sultry, and this one looks like a giant toddler. How about the black one? No, that’s not racist, although I’m sure something could be read into that. So now the evil owl king has tricked princey boy into marrying the wrong goose… er, swan. Odile, the owl king’s daughter is kicking her legs up and doing all sorts of fun stuff on stage and I’m thinking, ‘I need to join a ballet class, if I could get my leg up that high shaving would be so much easier!’ And the dumb prince… falls for the wrong girl. Odette even warned him in a vision! Since the beginning, men have been ignorant of all the signs women drop.  Tchaikovsky could figure it out, why don’t modern men?

Finally. Lover boy runs back to the lake. There she is! I’ve stopped screaming out ‘IT’S THE WRONG GOOSE!’ and he’s finally listened to me, only to return to find his lovely princess dying of a broken heart. Or maybe an oil spill poisoned the lake. I’m not sure. This day and age, anything can kill you, and people change relationships like they change their underwear. Maybe she spent too much time in the sun. Really, it could have been anything. But, at least they get one final dance together. Halfway through there’s a bit where the prince is lifting Odette up in the air, whilst she moves her arms up and down, in a graceful flapping motion. This is the final straw. My brain is yelling, ‘Ima bird! Ima bird! Ima bird!’ Then they die. Apart. Not together. Princey boy is tossed into the waves, and Odette finishes centre stage surrounded by her goosey friends. Gooses? Geese? Goosen? Swan? Whatever.

So those are my thoughts on the ballet. I was quite entertained, although probably by the wrong things. Don’t get me wrong, the level of athleticism is still incredible, and the musicians were phenomenal. But, I believe a bit of comedy added to my enjoyment of the performance. All someone needs to do now is write a parody of the whole thing, and I will be content. Something along the lines of, ‘The Ugly Duckling that Got Kissed by a Frog.’ Don’t worry, it’s just a working title.

Till next time,

Sarah.

I just want a cup of coffee!!!

Okay, so when you move to England you expect that every cafe will have tea as their main beverage.  What you don’t expect, is that none of them offer coffee. At all. You can get a latte, a cappuccino, a mocha, a flat white, a doppio (what?) and any other assortment of espresso drinks. “Can I get a coffee?” “Was that a latte or an americano?” “No just a coffee.” “Sorry we don’t have filter coffee here.”  Imagine someone who’s really not impressed. The emoticon that looks like this “-.-“. That’s my face.

What do they mean they don’t have filter coffee.  What!? I’ve had three cups of coffee in the 6 weeks I’ve been in the UK. One at the B&B I stayed at on my first night. One at a Starbucks 3 weeks ago. A third on Tuesday night for my birthday at a theatre. It’s ridiculous. What does a girl have to do to get a good cup of coffee around here!? Woman cannot live on tea alone, despite what the Brits might believe.

Thus, it has become my personal quest to find the best latte in town. I’m talking about a straight, 8 ounce latte. One sugar. Artwork included. So far I’ve had 5 different ones.  Best one was today. Costa Coffee was number one.  Good for a chain place, better than Starbucks though that’s for sure. Nero was next, also good.  Just don’t order a sweetened drink. Both Nero and Costa dump the flavour in like it’s going out of style. Imagine how sweet a normal Starbucks latte is. Now double the sweetness. Not my thing. I’m growing to appreciate the bitterness of espresso more and more.

Numero three was Cafe Direct on campus. They’re probably the best for on campus coffee so far. Number four was Unio, the cafe run by the Student Union. Not bad either, but both are overpriced for the quality.  Quickly made, and without much love.  However, I did get a heart on my latte the other day from Unio.  British boys will try.

Finally. Today. I’ve been waiting patiently to try this cafe a friend of a friend told me about. It’s called Aroma, and it’s this tiny hole in the wall of a place. Exposed brick, a wooden bar, with rustic stools. Smiling, young baristas, eager to demonstrate their latte art skills. Today was a leaf. I’ve seen bears, hearts, and an arrangement of other things. The cups are beautiful too, warm black ceramic that doesn’t rattle when you pick up the saucer. It’s annoying when people can hear how unsteady your hands are. The second floor of the building is their coffee shop seating area.  Cute little tables for four, with comfy cushioned chairs. Plug-ins available for those of us that forget to charge their electronics, and windows over-looking the street. The music wasn’t too loud either.

But the latte!  Oh my goodness.  So far the search is complete.  Unless I happen to accidentally stumble across another shop, I think Aroma is my new home. The taste was great, really similar to my favourite coffee shop back home (Revolver on Cambie for those of you in the hunt for some strong espresso). I can’t wait to go back next week to try something else. Probably their hot chocolate, or maybe a mocha latte. Who knows. Oh, the best part? The third floor of the building is their wine and cocktail bar. What? Yup. Oh, it’s 7 pm, I’m done studying and could use a drink and appy before heading home to read yet another textbook. Not a problem, up a floor for a custom created cocktail.

It’s perfect. My new home, and I can’t wait to walk in there and have them recognize me. Don’t we all dream to be a regular somewhere?

Best latte in Norwich, Aroma. Check it out if you’re in town. If you’re not, take my word for it. And send a Tim’s Roll-Up cup the next chance you get.

Much love,

Sarah.

Your Weekly Weather Update, British Humour Included

It’s beginning to get warmer.  I don’t know about the groundhogs in Canada, but the bunnies of UEA are spending more time outdoors. Hopefully that predicts an early spring.  I’m not sure I can handle anymore blustery and rainy 5 degree days.  It’s been consistently around 7 or 8 during the day, freezing at night.  Everyone here is still complaining about how cold it is, but I’m just enjoying being able to be outside without a parka.

It’s been just over a month since I arrived in this cold and dreary place.  I think my brain is finally realizing that this is the way it’s going to be, and there’s nothing I can do about that. Why fight when you can’t win. So, I’ve resorted to just doing my own thing rather than trying to assimilate to the ridiculous British culture.  I get a good kick out of my flatmates, which makes for good entertainment.  Nothing like listening to the rowdies come back from the pubs at 3:30 on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings.  I’m pretty sure I know all the words to God Save the Queen now too.

Grocery day is Tuesday, as in laundry every two weeks. Speaking of laundry, should you ever feel the need for entertainment in a laundrette (as they are called here), I strongly suggest you drop a pair of your underwear next to a baby-faced British boy. The reaction is great.  I think I might even start doing it just for kicks.  See how many first years I can terrorize each time I do my laundry.  Such a British sense of humour. Hah.

I think I’m meant to be British in some ways.  There are so many things I’ve noticed that I keep thinking have prepared me for life here. Hard boiled eggs and soldiers.  That was a staple whenever we went to my Grandma’s house. My family likes their scrambled eggs runny, just like they eat them here.  My sense of humour is dry, sarcastic, and usually no one gets it.  Just like here. I run in cotton t-shirts.  None of this dry-fit nonsense over here.  People in England run in whatever they’ve got.  What’s the point in spending endless amounts of money on clothing that has been ‘engineered’. They’re stuck in the 90s here too.  I was born in the 90s.  Close enough.

Anyways.  I’m finally going to church tonight, as I’ve either missed the memo or been out-of-town the last couple weeks.  I’m excited to meet some new people and get a little bit more involved with something that doesn’t require drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. The people I’ve talked to seem really cool as well, so it’ll be sweet to find another bunch of friends.

Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend! See you all in 99 days!

Sarah.

The Squirrels of London

So this weekend a good friend and I decided to embark on a journey to London. We booked a night at a hostel a few weeks ago, and tickets for the coach that goes directly from our uni to downtown London. It was a cheap way to get there, stay, and enjoy our time. So, Saturday morning we left the campus around 545 am and arrived in London around 830.

It’s a good thing nothing in London opens until 9 or 10. Finding breakfast was our first challenge, and we found ourselves in hole in the wall eating scones and toast. Staples here on the island. Afterwards, we decided we’d head towards Buckingham palace to watch the changing of the guard.  That we discovered, only occurs every other day in the winter. So, we marched onwards to find more things to do.  Having reached Piccadilly Circus we paid too much for a pair of tickets to see Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre.  Then, we found our way north to another little cafe and our hostel.

That evening, we raced through the British Museum (yes, I stood approximately 2 feet away from the Rosetta Stone), and then found an Italian restaurant with a super cheap pasta/salad/wine deal to fit our student budgets.  Then, we caught the underground downtown and raced to make it to the theatre. This for me was the highlight.  I love Phantom of the Opera, but I never thought I would have the chance to see it live.  I was in tears for almost the entire performance, and it was phenomenal.  Not a word out of place, just enough humour, and just enough romance to make it perfect without being a carbon copy of the original. It was beautiful, to say the least.  There really are no words to describe how it all made me feel.

We spent a sleepless night in the hostel, as our drunk and obnoxious flatmates made their ways back to bed around 2 am and proceeded to snore louder than a train for the entirety of the night. Note to self: carry earplugs, sound cancelling headphones, and for emergencies… gags/chloroform. Drunk snoring people look out.

Sunday was much better weather wise.  Windier for sure, but without rain and even a bit of sun which was nice.  We spent the morning wandering around by Big Ben and the London Eye.  I wanted to go through Westminster Abbey, but being Sunday it was closed to the public.  We accidentally happened upon a Cancer Fundraiser race too, which had closed down a fair bit of the city near the river.  I might research to see if there are any other races in London before I leave.  It would be fun to run a race while living here! That afternoon we took the underground up to Baker Street and wandered through Regent Park up to the zoo. Being quite cold and miserable at this point the zoo was empty for the most part, but we still got to see a fair number of animals!

I think my biggest highlight for the weekend though, were the new friends I made.  I discovered whilst wandering through a park that the grey squirrels here are more than friendly, and love being fed.  So, I had broken apart a granola bar and started handing out peanuts.  Then, this greedy little bugger took my entire granola bar right out of my hand. Wrapper and all. But, I don’t even care.  I got to feed squirrels right out of my hand. Trip made.

London was an array of languages, old buildings, and insane taxi drivers.  I’m really looking forward to going back, perhaps later in the spring so try and catch a few sunny days to really enjoy the city.  I still would love to see the Natural History Museum, as well as 221b Baker Street (Now no. 239 Baker Street), and some of the other incredible historical sites. I’ve included some photos for your viewing enjoyment.

The squirrel that took my granola bar.
The squirrel that took my granola bar.
That's the Canada Memorial at Buckingham Palace, officially opened in 1994. What a special year.
That’s the Canada Memorial at Buckingham Palace, officially opened in 1994. What a special year.
Part of the Royal Cavalry; the horses were beautiful, although not super well behaved.
Part of the Royal Cavalry; the horses were beautiful, although not super well-behaved.
Big Ben at the North end of Parliament (Westminster Palace).  Didn't Sherlock bust through one of the windows in the movie?
Big Ben at the North end of Parliament (Westminster Palace). Didn’t Sherlock bust through one of the windows in the movie?
The London Eye. Over-rated ferris wheel.
The London Eye. Over-rated ferris wheel.
My lovely little friend whom I met in St. James' Park. This one didn't steal my granola bar.
My lovely little friend whom I met in St. James’ Park. This one didn’t steal my granola bar.

Until the next post!

Sarah

Cambridge

Yesterday was my first adventure out of town!  Two of my friends and I journeyed to Cambridge by train from Norwich, which took just over an hour.  I was super excited as I’ve never been on a train before!  It was pretty cool, even if it is just a normal UK train line.  We also left before the sun came up, which meant we got to watch the sunrise while we travelled.  It’s so flat here that you can see anything and everything forever. That’s something I miss about home; the mountains. But it was neat to see the sun actually come up into a blue sky, as it’s been fairly cloudy all week.

We got into Cambridge around 9 am, and proceeded to find a place for breakfast.  As I had read in reviews, Cambridge is not a morning city.  We got into the restaurant by 930 and there weren’t too many people up and about yet.  When we left 45 minutes later, it was packed! We ate a place called Bill’s, and I had eggs benedict.  It was delicious! I also had a macchiato, which was yummy.  Unlike the oversized everythings we have in North America, macchiatos here are small, about 2 ounces of liquid.  It’s neat to experience a real coffee/tea culture here that’s traditional and original.

After breakfast we just wandered around the shops and streets.  All of the colleges in town were closed to visitors, so unfortunately we couldn’t really get into any of them to see the halls. That was okay though, it was beautiful outside and just looking at them all from the street was enough.  Eventually we paid for a punting tour (boat tour on the River Cam) and got to see many of the colleges from the river instead.  I couldn’t tell you anything about the history of Cambridge, as I’ve been told several times to not believe a word that the tour guides tell you by several people. Regardless, they were all quite beautiful and I’m going to do some more reading to see when/why the places were all built.

I got to see the halls where Stephen Hawking worked, as well as Isaac Newton and a host of other incredibly intelligent and famous people. It’s unfortunate that the history of the city and school is so hard to get ahold of. I would have liked to learn the real history of each school, and the people who built the colleges and who had studied where. You would think that in a place that’s so highly prized by the UK, and such a hot place to visit that they would have more regularly available information for tourists to find.

Anyways. To finish the day we had a late lunch/early dinner at a tea place. The earl grey here is incredible. It is so different from anything I’ve had at home. It’s fragrant, smooth, and sweet. You barely need to put any sugar into it. The best part is, it’s loose leaf traditionally. It’s not packaged into little baggies (unless that’s how you buy it of course), and it’s wonderful. The next time I need to buy tea I’m going to make sure I buy some earl grey. I’ve already bought too much so I’m going to wait until I’m through what I have to get more.

Here are some photos from the day! Hope you enjoy!

Just a blue door on a church we wandered by. It's a nice change to have a pop of colour in grey England.
Just a blue door on a church we wandered by. It’s a nice change to have a pop of colour in grey England.
The River Cam, with punting boats along the side.
The River Cam, with punting boats along the side.
King's College Chapel
King’s College Chapel
The Bridge of Sighs, located between exam halls and student residences.
The Bridge of Sighs, located between exam halls and student residences.
This library holds some of the oldest first copies of incredible
This library holds some of the oldest first copies of incredible books, including Darwin’s journals, Newton’s scribbles, and the first King James Bible. 

We’re off to London next weekend! Stay tuned friends!

Sarah