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Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now

So it’s kind of fun living in the real world. Paramore’s ironic song “Ain’t It Fun” definitely rang through my ears this past week as I endured some fun trials and tribulations of adulthood. But generally, all for the best. All positive. Despite of and because of all my experiences I have gone through this past month in London, I don’t even want to go back to LA. Can’t I do another semester abroad somewhere? Rome’s still available, right? Maybe. LOL would never happen, but a girl can dream right?

First off, my roommate isn’t coming back to SC next semester. So I’m currently trying to figure out where I’m going to live when I go back to LA. That’s been a bit of an unexpected struggle, but I have faith, and reassurance from my parents, that it will all work out. I’m sure it will, but it’s not something I thought I’d have to look into while I was away from SC for four months.

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In addition, I was pickpocketed at Waterloo Station. Now, I have a love/hate relationship with this tube station. So grateful upon my return post-Dublin but after losing my credit card at such a public transport expo, I felt slightly disenchanted by the whole endeavor.

However, I’ve got to use the station nearly every day, so boycotting it altogether would be senseless.

Let me explain. I found a cute nail salon near Accent and went with Nicole and Taryn after our long day of Thursday classes. I’d had a great day–wrote some postcards at the British Museum during my lunch break, had some yummy Gail’s chai (tried the carrot cake the day before which I’d been eyeing for days–oh my goodness), and was given a book to borrow by Richard Sharpe in my morning Social Movements lecture after merely expressing my interest in ordering the book myself (the kindness of my teachers here astounds me in the best way).

But post-salon, I didn’t want to wreck my newly-painted nails by rummaging through my bag to put my card away, so STUPIDLY, I put it in my pocket. We too

k the Tube from Oxford Circus to return home. I don’t even remember if I bumped into someone, if the card fell out, if someone reached down into my pocket to snatch my card (I feel like that’s something that would stick out in my memory). But all I know is that when I checked my pocket in the hallway of our housing complex, the card was missing. I checked everywhere–MIA. I of course broke down crying and freaked out calling my parents. We were able to call the bank and fix everything–my new card just arrived today, as a matter of fact–and my parents were so kind and understanding, which I so much appreciated.

But even more of a surprise was the loveliness of my flatmates. Man, they sprang right into action doing just what my mom would’ve done. Taryn and Nicole scoured all over Waterloo Station trying to find my card and even went up to the help desk to inquire about it. My roomie Claudia made me tea, and everyone hugged and insisted it would all be fine. Taryn and Nicole came back with some rosé and Turkish delight. I couldn’t believe all the unconditional love I felt. Despite the crappiness of the situation, they made me feel so loved and car

ed for–like I’d really formed a family here in London. I was so grateful for all of their thoughtfulness, and the fact that they “encouraged”–more like insisted–that I go out that night for a fun time at Cargo in Shoreditch. I danced all my tears away, despite the inconvenience of an alcoholic refreshment spilling on my dress sans apology from a darling man at the club. One of the best take-aways I can ascertain from this experience so far is the great new crop of friends I’ve found here.

Oh, that reminds me. One glorious Justin-ism of many: “What’s t

he difference between a latte and an iced latte?” Hopefully, you’re aware.

AND I also learned how to make sausages this week. Look, I can cook! And salmon in the oven last week. While I of course wanted to expand my horizons in terms of my global scope and experiences by studying abroad, I also wanted to mature and grow intellectually and emotionally and in ways I couldn’t even plan. I’d say that’s definitely happening, and I think even though changes may be hard, I think so far they’re warranted.

So, aside from all the philosophizing and self-reflection, I did SO much this week–all within the vicinity of English borders. We toured Buckingham Palace on Wednesday. I ended up losing the group by walking super slowly

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Wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside, so this will have to do


and wanting to soak up every last ornate element of the State Room interiors and gorgeous paintings courtesy of artists like Titian and Rubens. The statues. The Queen’s coronation and wedding dresses! Those were my two favorites out of the entire exhibit on her attire throughout the years. Oh also, a milliner is someone who makes hats. Nice to know. Her wedding dress was inspired by Botticelli’s “Primavera” painting, which I’d learned about last semester in my Greek Mythology class (miss you, Russell Brand) and her coronation dress featured elements of all the differ

ent provinces under the domain of the UK at the time–like Irish shamrocks for Ireland and thistles for Scotland. Both were beautiful. Apparently there’s also a secret passageway behind a mirror for the royals to sneak in and out of. I’ve always wanted to go through a secret passageway, like behind a bookcase or something….

So even though I missed the big group picture and spent the entire afternoon by myself carrying my immensely heavy backpack (that is a work-out in itself, no question), I

had a lovely time.

The next day Claud, Taryn, and I went to Borough as half the gang was in Barcelona, Spain and the other was in Oslo, Norway. Tried the bratwurst from “German Deli” but must admit that I enjoyed my sausage bab from “Boston Sausage” more. Oh, and of course, got my take-away focaccia and one of “Comptoir Gourmand’s” big cookies again. Delectable. Did I mention I wrote an essay today for my Rhetoric of London class cataloguing my love affair with Borough Market? That’s right, I wrote an essay entirely from a first-person narrative standpoint about my favorite food haven. I got so hungry working on it yesterday that I had to run into the kitchen and eat something. Hopefully my professor finds my food descriptions so enticing that he gives me an A.

Or at least schedules a class field trip to Borough.

Later that night, Claud and I went to a concert at Scala, near King’s Cross, to see a band called “Beach Baby” in order to write up a concert report for Justin’s Pop Culture class. What are my homework and essay assignments? It was a fun show, but there were so many crazy high school kids jumping around and spilling drinks everywhere. On me, yet again. But hey, it’s part of the concert experience. And this time, like the last, the stains came out of my clothes, so we’re solid.

The next day, Claudia and I went to…..

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The land from which Shakespeare hails!!! Avon is a river, FYI. Learned that on Saturday. As Shakespeare fans and fiends for his plays, sonnets, and witticisms, we were delighted to finally be going on our excursion focusing on all-things Shakes!

We got off at the wrong station at first–didn’t realize there was a difference between Parkway and Station–after a delay in our train departure anyway. But once we got there, we strolled around town and found a charming Christmas shop

(yes, I believe Stratford citizens are aware it’s only September) and then to the bookshop where I bought a postcard with Puck’s “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” line from A Midsummer Night’s Dream on it, a book of Shakes’ sonnets (which I’ve been wanting to purchase for a while), and a pop-up book of some of Shakespeare’s most famous phrases about love. Claud bought it too.

We then went inside “Shakespeare’s Birthplace” and saw where he grew up, where he’d come home every day for lunch (lunch not dinner was the big meal), and tons of other spectators who were just as much in awe of the man who single-handedly contributed an abundance of words to the Oxford dictionary as we were.

Post-house tour we were pretty hungry, so we wandered around until we found this place called “The Cornish Bakery”

which, little did we know, was deemed to make “the world’s best cornish pasty” in 2013. Not too shabby. Didn’t know what a “traditional” cornish pasty was, and a kind woman in line explained how miners used to eat them filled with beef, potatoes, and leek (aka turnip) and would then toss the crust out–um, BEST part! Plus they’d fill half of them with sw

eet fillings too for a treat. Obviously, we each had to try one. It was rainy outside, and the only empty spaces under an

umbrella were across from a guy also eating a pasty, so we decided to be social and asked if he’d mind if we sat there. He didn’t (shocking) and we had a nice chat with him. Turns out he’s from Romania and was on his break from working in the shop! He even recommended this yummm apricot croissant-like dessert to us when we unabashedly went back for seconds (and he gave us the take-away price!). Yay for new friends.

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We then went to the RSC but didn’t see a show unfortunately (although we did use their restroom facilities at least three times). Our train was due to arrive during the middle of Cymbeline, but we’ll hopefully see it when it comes to London!

We strolled along the bank of River Avon, and saw some swans that looked li

ke they came straight out of The Swan Princess in addition to a collection of boats featuring characters from Shakespeare’s plays on them, like Helena from Midsummer and Juliet from, well, I’ll give you one guess.

We went to Shakespeare’s “New Place,” the home he bought for his family to live in, and walked amidst the beautifully-manicured gardens despite some photo-op mishaps in which I called a most likely-22-year-old Sir. It’s cool.

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Since everything in Stratford closes at 5pm, think seriously early-bird special, we raced to make it to the last few of our Shakespeare stops (sorry, we missed out on Anne Hathaway’s cottage and his mother Mary Arden’s farm, but next time–we do have annual passes now!). We went to Hall’s Croft, his daughter’s home with her doctor-husband. They had an exhibit on the “Christmas Truce” that my grandmother had actually told me about and I’d learned more about at church on Christmas Day last year. Apparently, German and British forces on both sides of the trenches sang carols to each other on Christmas Eve, playing football and exchanging badges and cigars the next day all for the festivities and merriment of the holiday. The day was considered “a day unique to this world.” It’s such a special story and fills my heart with joy when I think of it.

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Our last stop was Shakes’ grave at the church. We got lost, but an elderly gentleman pointed us in the right direction. It was pretty eerie arriving at the place he was baptised and was then buried–seeing life come full-circle. But also

it was pretty amazing considering the fact that the Bard was buried right beneath our feet. Quite the juxtaposition.

We had nowhere to go since our train didn’t leave till half past 8pm, so we walked around for at least an hour trying to find a place to eat. The town shuts down at 5pm, I swear. Eventually we made it to a pizza place and set up shop there for 2 hours. I’m sure the waiter was not pleased. BUT Claud and I bonded and played some fun games. She said she admires my knowledge about film and novels and claims that I’m like an encyclopedia. Oh MY GOD. That made me so happy, what a compliment!


It was a long but very fruitful day, and we even made some new friends on the train on our way home! We talked Shakespeare and Claud and Jack even came up with a new dating app along the lines of Tinder–“to be or not to be.” They should copyright it.

Sunday was pretty chill, but Monday I tried my first full-on English Breakfast. WHOA. SO much fried food. BUT I took a bold step in my life of food adventures and tried black

pudding. And I really enjoyed it!!!! Who would’ve thought? And that night we went to see MAMMA MIA! Loved the movie–the GREATEST girls’ night movie of all time–and had so much fun! The ending encore sing-along/dance numbers were the best part. Can’t believe my dad is not a fan of “Dancing Queen.”

And yesterday we went to see “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time!” I saw it in June when I went to New York for my cousin’s wedding, and loved it just as much this time.

The show really puts you inside the mind of an autistic child, and the production and lighting design is probably the most innovative I’ve ever seen.

That day Claud and I also tried burgers from Bleecker St.–Time Out‘s “best burgers” of 2015 and 2016. They did NOT disappoint. We also got ice cream that basically tasted like whipped cream but thicker and with a little bit of chocolate thrown in. WILL be back. Plus, it was cheap!

So, in conclusion, life in London is a mixed bag. Just like life. But I would not want to be anywhere else in the world. London has my heart. And it’s here to stay–at least for the next 3 months.

Cheers, Tara xx

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