Friday, March 2, 2012

Londres: The Scone and Other Quests

Last week I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity chaperone a school field trip to London. How many times now have I mentioned how cool my job is? Because this definitely merits at least one more mention! I have a rather disproportionate love for scones, and here was the chance to go to the source! London was all it's cracked up to be, and there's no way I could have ever seen so much in only five days if I didn't have veterans like my fellow professors Susana and Nieves to keep me on the move! There's a lot to see in London! For a relatively quick trip, we made it to most of the best-known landmarks.

London Bridge


The Tower of London

Buckingham Palace

Carnaby Street

Big Ben (and the Tube!)


Camden Lock

And don't forget about these guys!
(At Windsor Castle)

When you go to London, there are some things you just have to do as a tourist! And although I sometimes credit my excessive cheesiness to the amount of time I have spent among Japanese tourists, the truth is simply that I have very little shame. The photos below capture the fabulously quintessentially touristy spirit of things I absolutely delighted in, but which are sure to make cockneys (and possibly readers of this blog) roll their eyes!

Preparing for a costume change...

Is Mr. Holmes home?

All we need is love (and a traffic light)!

It's best to do it at a bit of a run if you're nervous!

I also made it my personal (tourist's) quest to taste as many of the famously British food items as my stomach could squeeze into five days. (Yes, I took pictures.) Having been in Spain for a while, I reveled in the chance to enjoy extra large coffee with flavored syrup and pick up greasy takeout from China town, but I have also come to love the distinctly British dishes. English food is delicious! If you have ever had a face-to-face conversation with me, you have probably seen me shake my fist at some injustice or another, and I'm here to tell you that I have now added the international disregard for British gastronomy to my list of causes! England has a bad reputation for a lack of variety when it comes to cooking, and, especially if you ask a Spaniard, the conversation about the food will go something like

"How was the food in London?"
"Oh, terrible."
"What did you try?"
"Pizza" or maybe, "McDonald's..."

How can a person not be outraged by this kind of slander? These people are defaming an entire nation's cuisine! Haven't you heard of the expression, "Don't knock it 'till you try it"? Well, I gobbled up all of the landmark delicacies and I can now informedly say that they were positively tasty! Honestly, who doesn't like a shortbread or a pasty? English pubs have a great atmosphere with food to match. And, if you get tired of shepherd's pie or fish and chips, London is so diverse that it offers excellence in quite possibly any cuisine you could imagine. I've heard people say that to try the best Indian food in the world, you have to go to London!

Steak and Ale Pie

Fish and Chips

Indian food

Touristic indulgences aside, some of my favorite London stops had to be the fantastic museums! Again, I have to thank Susana and Nieves for this because otherwise I never would have made it out of the first museum! Apart from practically being works of art themselves, Britian's museums include an impressive collection of art and history. Not to mention, they're free! I got to see Monet's Water Lilies, Egyptian mumies, and the Rosetta Stone! (Did I mention that I was paid to do this?!)

The Natural History Museum


Victoria & Albert Museum

...The Rosetta Stone!

The only hiccup in my museum ecstasy arose from my quest to see The Great Wave, by Hokosai. When I was in Japan this summer I thought it would be neat see the iconic work, but no such luck! The only print uncovered by quick Google search was at, you guessed it, the British Museum! And now, chance had brought me to Britain! However after looking high and low with Susana (and making a bunch of impatient teenagers wait in a "boring" museum), a docent informed me that only the week before they had put The Great Wave into storage! Alas, the quest continues, but I made the best of it by keeping up my immature tradition of picking the noses of moai statues!

2012, London

2008, Viña del Mar

All this good food and good fun, and I got to call it work! The trouble with being an authority figure, though, is that you have to be an authority figure! But I honestly had the best of both worlds this trip, because I got to be something in-between a student and a teacher. I loved getting to know my students better and answering their questions, and I tried to do my part as a chaperone by hanging behind and herding along students who dallied or wandered into shops, but, really, do I look like the kind of teacher who could strike fear into your heart if you misbehaved?

Respect... my... authority?

Which one of these does not look like the rest?

As well as getting to know the students and other teachers better, and getting the grand tour of London, one of the best parts of the trip was the fun of getting to see the Spanish outside of Spain! I started to take note of the cultural circles when I realized that nearly everyone in the group had packed some kind of embutido, or cold cuts, for the trip! Only the Spanish would have a 100% embutido-to-suitcase ratio! And then, there's the walking. I have been meaning to write about this for some time now, but, really, you'd have to come to Cangas on a Sunday afternoon to truly understand the super-slow, group-walking phenomenon! It's probably for the best that my students couldn't understand the Brits constantly telling us off for being in the way!

In addition to the Spanish-ness of the Spanish, I was impressed by their sheer numbers. London is inundated with Spaniards! Granted, we were on the tourist-train, but every-other person on the metro, at the museum, in the hotel, seemed to be Spanish! It made me realize that Europe really isn't that big.

This afforded one of my favorite memories at our hotel. After an incident the previous night involving your basic teenage antics, it was late when I heard a ruckus outside of my room, and, although hesitant to go outside in pajamas with wet hair, I felt that it was within my "authority figure" responsibilities to say something before our security deposit got nabbed by the man. When I opened the door I found a group of Spanish students (mostly not from our group), who were going door-to-door and immediately asked me, "¿Española? ¿Fiesta?" or roughly, "Are you Spanish? Do you want to party?" I gave my students a glare but couldn't help laughing for a good couple of minutes after I was safely behind my closed door. Could anything be more stereotypically Spanish?

What are we all looking at? A squirrel!
(I think squirrels are pretty cool too.)

Being an authority figure has its perks! After scolding the students for arriving late and causing us to miss our boat, Susana and Nieves and I snuck off to try some mulled wine!

In case you haven't already inferred from this marathon blog post, I had a great time in London! Now that I've seen the sights, I hope I make it back soon so that I can lounge in parks and cafés and basque in literary heritage while munching on scones and other decidedly delicious British treats!

Just in time! Nieves and Susana helped me fulfill my gluttonous goals before we caught our flight home!

I can't wait to hang out at the Charles Dickens Coffee House!

A view of the city from the Lawn--Until next time, London!

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