My Life As A Long Lost Prince (Sort Of)

July 11, 2012 - Leave a Response

Chapel across Jesus Green

Cambridge, England is a marvelous and lovely place. So far, I have learned that there is no such thing as “Cambridge University,” that officially incorporates the city. Instead, there are about 30 colleges in the city, similar to how there are numerous colleges throughout Boston. Unlike Boston, however, these colleges get clumped together and, as a result, are collectively called “Cambridge University.” King’s College is by far the most famous and well-known college in Cambridge. It dominates the city with it’s vast stone cathedral and open campus. I am currently attending Gonville and Caius (pronounced “keys”) College, which is right next to King’s College. Additionally, each college has a bell tower, so at each quarter hour, they all go off at once. It’s quite wonderful to hear as you’re strolling the city or studying outside.

The city is filled with winding streets with many different kinds of interesting people. There are a plethora of shops, cafés, restaurants, and the like to visit and explore. Most of the colleges in the city are also open to the public throughout the day. Albeit not like standard “American” collegiate campuses, these institutions use their outermost walls to gate off, secure, and exclude those who are not privileged to attend (hence why they are open throughout the day for people to visit). Think of a standard 2 x 2 square. That’s what Gonville and Caius is like, anyway. Each outside line of the square, including the “+” inside, is the interior of a building, or an outer wall of a building depending on where you are standing. Each open “square” is a courtyard filled with lush, green grass, beautiful flowers, and sometimes, trees that are probably older than the United States’ founding.

Interesting customs in Cambridge include one absolutely NOT being able to walk on the grass. The British take exceptional pride to make sure everything on the grounds looks kept and beautiful. If you’re a fellow, or a professor, you are more than welcome to walk across the courtyard grass. If not, then you must use the appropriate cobblestone walkways that boarder the squared lawns. The grass is absolutely beautiful. It never has to worry about drying out, since it is watered daily by the infamous rain that plagues the Island of Great Britain at random intervals throughout the day. It has beautifully checkered stripes that are made by caretakers who mow the lawns in an artfully distinct, and carefully pristine manner. There are numerous large parks throughout the city with grass that you can walk, lay, and play games on. Of these, one I have actually been to. It is called “Jesus Green” as it is adjacent to Jesus College. It’s a beautiful park that sits alongside the meandering “Cam” River. There are enormous trees that must be hundreds of years old with lush, dark green foliage. On the banks of the river, there are many ducks that come up to you expecting to be fed – it’s quite cute! Many college students come there to relax, play, and stroll about. It’s a grand and peaceful place for contemplation and leisure.

The “Great Hall” (where we eat breakfast and dinner) kind of looks like the Great Hall in Hogwarts, except it’s 1/4th the scale. (Speaking of “Great Halls,” I learned that the one in Harry Potter is actually modeled after the Banquet Hall of Oxford University!) There are beautiful stained glass windows that adorn each wall, along with great paintings of famous scholars who studied specifically at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge. Of these individuals, Stephen Hawking is included among the portraits. There are three long and narrow wooden tables where we are served three course meals at dinner, vaulted ceilings, butler-styled waiters, and unlimited amounts of coffee and tea – very fancy!

Now, for the best part: my bedroom. My bedroom is absolutely magnificent, minus the fact that I am the only person living on my floor (which is lonely and a bit frightening at night), and do not have a shower on my floor (I have to go down a flight of stairs; I do, however, have a toilet on my floor and a sink in my room which is very convenient), and have no WiFi. My room, located on the fourth floor of “S” tower in Tree Court, is almost the size of my living room and kitchen combined in my house in Manchester. A stone, spiral staircase is the only way to access my room, which houses beautifully stained glass windows, and a hollow tower at the top. It’s exquisite, and I feel like some sort of long lost prince. My room contains a bed, closet, desk, two chairs, and many shelves on the walls. I also have two very tall windows that look onto the stone rooftops and chimneys throughout the city. One window in particular allows me to see a gargoyle that overlooks the city street below. The bed is very comfortable, and it gets made by porters daily where my sink is cleaned and my sheets and towels are changed. It’s hard sleeping, since students are out at pubs late at night and talk very loudly; it doesn’t help that sound carries very easily through stoned buildings. Loud trucks pass my window at the wee hours of the morning, so it can be difficult to get a good night’s rest.

Unfortunately, blog posts will be limited, due to the overbearing workload that I currently face right now. I am only going to be updating on important things I do or see, such as going to London, Paris… etc. I may have another post on Cambridge, but for right now, I have covered everything that I want to talk about at this point in time.

I hope all is well – I am missing the beautiful weather that is currently present in the New England region. Enjoy it!

For now, I bid good day!


First Plane Ride of My Entire Life… Alone + Across the Entire Pond: Check.

July 9, 2012 - Leave a Response

My Airplane at Gate A19 in Terminal A of Logan Airport

Well, here I am. Sitting in Terminal A of Boston’s Logan International Airport. I am sitting in a moderately comfortable black chaise filled with many other interesting people. We share one fate; two actually: we are waiting for our flight, and we will BE on an aero plane, flying across the gargantuan Atlantic. Nothing but 30,000 feet of air will be below our fuselage. While I wait, my imagination ignites with wonder.

 . . . 

This will be the first airline ride I have ever taken in my life. I expect it to be a bit like a calming rollercoaster ride at a theme park. As the plane launches down the runaway (like on Superman: The Ride), we angle up towards the sky’s invisible rails.  After the plane further clacks on up, we bank to and fro on imaginary helixes. It’s a dizzying scene in front of me, but it’s so marvelous. I’m confronted with a gorgeous sapphire sky filled with puffy marshmallow clouds that wisp around and caress the plane like a silk scarf on one’s bosom. The plane then starts to hurdle down a hill, trying to maintain its horizontal position in the stratosphere. Speed is what drives the plane, and the thrusting and roaring engines gravitate the plane on our elevated track of 30,000 feet. It’s such a calming and peaceful experience, but it is also so exhilarating!

As the plane applies its brakes,  it’s continuing  momentum propels it down the ramp from the sky onto the damp asphalt below. What a ride!

I take my seat belt off and see the stewardess give me an exciting look, like she was trying to convey “how was that ride?” as operators do when a roller coaster train cruises back to its station.

. . . 

But… That’s just my imagination talking. 🙂

My mind races back to reality. It’s time to board. I quickly collect my things, put my backpack on, and wheel my spinner suitcase into the bathroom to take care of some business before the long journey ahead.

As I get my ticket checked, I walk with fellow passengers through a “tunnel of mystery.” It’s very cramped and winds around like I’m in line for some sort of ride at Disney World. I then make my way through the plane door, find my seat, sit down, and relax.

About 30 minutes of cruising on the Logan tarmac later, the plane’s engines begin to roar to life. For a second I think I am in a race car. The plane starts to lurch forward… And we are off. Faster and faster and faster we go. We are the rock being slung from the catapult, and when finally we have enough momentum, the plane starts to ascend. I immediately feel the G’s of being pushed upward. It IS like a ride! We emerge from the overcast sky, and streams of glorious sunshine fill the cabin as we stride above white fluffy clouds. From what was once real life buildings on the Tarmac, to miniature roads and houses while we were ascending, I can now see a blanket of what looks like snow underneath the plane wing. The whooshing of air all around us is omnipresent, while we float through a clear sky like a boat silently sailing through a calm, clear pond.

About halfway through the flight, after sailing over Greenland, the plane jerks a little bit on rough patches of turbulent atmosphere like a railroad car would clack around its uneven rails. Our average speed is 551 miles per hour, and we are cruising at an altitude of about 35,000 feet over a grand total of 3,256 miles! [I am aware of this information, because there is an LCD screen on the seat in front of me that lets me watch movies, listen to music, play games, and be able to get information on the plane (ie: speed, altitude, how many hours / miles away from London we are… And a little virtual map that tracks the plane in real time! Pretty cool!)]

Dinner on the plane consists of a super meal: a fresh tossed salad with green lettuce and large slices of tomatoes, topped with shredded cheese; A roll with butter; Keebler club crackers with cheddar jack cheese; and a chicken dinner with gravy, mashed potatoes, and broccoli, Absolutely delicious! I was impressed at how much food was offered, and I was so hungry that I ate every morsel! I concluded with a miniature brownie and a small cup of tea with milk and sugar! How English of me! 🙂

Before I knew it, the cabin was dark and I fell asleep. It was sort of an in-between-conscious-and-unconscoius-reality “hyper” sleep when your body is conscious of sounds and movement, but your eyes are closed and your mind is drifting. Before I knew it, I woke up to dawn streaking in through the tiny port-hole windows while being served a muffin, banana, and orange juice for breakfast. We are only about an hour away.

All of a sudden, there’s jolting, shaking, and a plummeting-to-the-Earth feeling. We start to descend, and it’s extremely anxiety provoking. I have just ate breakfast and now feeling nauseous. Although the whole plane ride could be comparable to just being on a train… this constant bobbing motion while landing in London’s infamous rain clouds is very scary to say the least.

The plane finally reaches Terra Firma (Thankfully), and I collect my belongings to de-board. I was in Terminal 4 of Heathrow Airport, and by itself, is probably bigger than Logan Airport. It is absolutely massive. It takes me almost ten minutes to walk what was probably a half mile from my plane through winding alleys and tunnels to the Immigration Station, then to collect my bag, and, finally, to Customs where I could see windows to the outside world. Terminal 4 really isn’t anything that extravagant and modern like I was hoping to expect in Europe… it’s just a boring terminal. Anyway… what a crazy and long day. I can’t believe I’m in ENGLAND! It’s finally a reality. I’m here!

Nota Bene: The only thing that drove me nuts during the flight was having numb buttocks along with an annoying and defective touch screen on the seat in front of me. You think they would just install iPads on airplanes to watch movies and entertain yourself, but nope… Cheap screens that barely respond to your finger and lag five seconds every time you tap something is all that’s available in economy class!

Pre-Departure: The Day Before.

July 6, 2012 - One Response

So, here we are. The eve before the day that will ultimately change my life has finally come. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was sitting at a not-so-comfy desk  in a warm, bright-lit room of Murkland Hall last year. I was attending a Cambridge Summer Program meeting, as I was very interested in the program. I remember being the last person to walk into the classroom (as always; and if you know me well, you would that I am quite punctual. And if you know me even better, you know that this whole sentence is the most sarcastic sentence ever written). I marveled at the professors who were telling their stories about Cambridge and about Gonville and Caius (prounced “keys”) College.

I guess I really had no idea about any other part of the world, especially England. In Cambridge, it is a vast wonderland of Harry Potter-esque buildings, with narrow cobblestone streets and tarnished brick buildings. Fellow folk venture on bicycles throughout the city or take a small boat around the city’s canals. It’s a beautiful place. In my mind, anyway, and from the informational meeting.

I first got inspired to study abroad in England after having watched the Royal Wedding. I had a “mini” party in my dorm room, and could not sleep very well. After awakening to the sound of small chickadees and the bleeding dawn dripping from my curtains, I opened my tired eyes and decided to pass the time by watching television, while my friends dreamed on the cold, hard floor. I wanted to watch the news for some reason, so I flipped the channel to NBC, unbeknownst to the magical festivities that were presently occurring five hours ahead of me. London was beautiful. It was so clean, pristine, shiny, and green. It seemed to sparkle, like the glitz of a diamond as it scatters light into one’s eyes. I felt envious and curious. I wanted to have a love affair with the city of London, as I have had one with New York (My irresistible desire for Manhattan is unlike any other in this world).

To me, cities are not just, well, cities. They are real and physical. They emanate a sort of essence that only human civilization could offer. Buildings that go as far as the eye can behold, bridges that go as far as they can possibly span, roads that can take you to whatever destination you can imagine; Civilization absolutely fascinates me. When I go to New York, I can feel the radiance that the city itself has to offer me, and I want to explore that in other cities around the world.

I simply cannot wait for this experience, though I am dreading to land in the gargantuan maze of Heathrow Airport as a foreigner. However, I know that I will be alright. I was born to do this; I know that it is my destiny to explore all the possibilities that the world has to offer. I love it, and I appreciate it tremendously. And though I am finally doing so in the prime of my youthful adult-hood, I find myself completely ready

So, in conclusion, this blog marks the final countdown to the beginning chapter of my worldwide travel adventures. Each day, I will write a 500 word (give or take) blurb / blog that incorporates photos and videos. In this way, I will be able to instantaneously (and without writing a novel)  convey all my surroundings and experiences to you.

Bon voyage all. I’ll be seeing you in mid-August! 🙂