Sunday, January 27, 2008

Smorgasbord is a real word?!

If you really want a taste of the minimal and well, rye, try Nordic Bakery. From smoked salmon to invigorating coffee to cinnamon buns, the Scandinavian inspired food shop and bakery has enough to keep an American, and Helvetica-obsessed designer satisfied. With little interior decor, aside from custom made furniture (imported from Finland) and gorgeous wood paneled walls, there's really nothing to take away from the experience of trying something new...and delicious. Even my Swedish friend was impressed.

Afterwards we walked down Carnaby Street, looked around in a foreign bookstore, and, much to his embarrassment, saw ourselves some hookers in SoHo. It was a grand day.

I swung by Rymans, and the salesperson looked at me like I was insane when I asked where I could find colored pencils. Apparently Crayola isn't too entirely popular 'round these parts. BUT, Sainsbury's (my local grocery) didn't fail me.

This evening, Kristin and I ran down the street to the laundromat to do about three week's worth of dirty clothes. It was entirely too difficult. The machines only take pounds and 20 p's, so I had to get change twice. Anyway, I now have clean clothes, so that's a good thing. I guess I can hold off on the Febreeze for about a week.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I'll miss you, Duchess.

Happy Australia Day!

It's been a busy wrap up to the week. Work was on Thursday and Friday, and while job-related activities were, indeed accomplished, I also managed to try my first Flake Cake (a deliciously rich and, yes, flaky chocolate-y sponge-y delight) and remedy my massive craving for pancakes with a satisfying crepe.

Friday night, my flatmates and I went to the Victoria and Albert Museum for for a late night party. Unfortunately we arrived at the tail-end, but it was still fun. There was a craft area, and I made an exciting postcard involving mince meat. You're excited now, right? Afterwards we tried a few busy pubs and finally found an acceptable one on Old Brompton.

By some stroke of luck I woke up at a decent hour today and headed off to the Southbank. That wasn't before checking out Leicester Square, where I found the original Freed ballet shoemaker store. After having feet like mine--nobby and ruined from pointe shoes (Freeds, to be exact), I was quite excited.

Southbank was great. I went there to find some Banksy street art, but ended up coming across a more-than-heavily graffiti'd area for skaters.

If there was any of the London renegade artist's work, it has long been washed away. I did check out an exhibit on Dali and Picasso at the County Hall, and afterwards spent some time at OXO towers. It has been absolutely gorgeous for the last several days. I'm not sure how long this weather will remain, but I hope I get a few more seriously fantastic sunsets.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

To the baths

Today all 81 of us traveled two hours, utilizing a combination of highways and beautiful country roads, outside of London to the ancient and ever-famous Stonehenge. The pictures do not do the mysterious rock formation justice. It's a little bizarre. You have no warning--the stones just pop up on the horizon in the middle of farmland and busy highway. Cars drive by like it's nothing new (or special), and there are sheep that graze in the adjacent field. I suspect that they may be the most famous and most photographed sheep in the world.

Next was a 45 minute drive to Bath. We entered the city from over a hill, and the view was beautiful. I had all of these preconceived notions about coming to England, and Bath lived up to all of my expectations (and stereotypes). Beautiful streets with houses. Everyone walks. Hardly any cars. Brick and grass courtyards and gardens. A world famous bun bakery. Roman baths (naturally). Terribly English. We went through the museum that houses the ancient baths. The Romans were brilliant--they had separate areas set to very cold and extremely hot temperatures and a zillion different baths. Still, I couldn't get the picture of a bunch of really dirty naked people bathing out of my head.

After the baths, I walked up a bunch of hills to see the city view. Unfortunately it was overcast, so the photos didn't turn out, but, in person, it was a beautiful sight. I'd highly recommend it.

I think I'll go to bed early for work tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Work it out

I started my job at Huge yesterday, and don't worry: one of the guys is working on a website redesign--so something better should be up shortly. For now, the place holder is here.

It is a very small firm. There are six of us, but it's great, and just want I need. Today Rebecca brought Cadbury eggs for everyone. Apparently in England the eggs are laid on the shelves immediately after Christmas and until Easter. Additionally, the Cadbury factory is like Wonkaland. We talked of going today, but decided that wolfing down chocolatey goodness would be detrimental to our bodily functions.

Reading over the last paragraph makes me sound like all I "need" is a Cadbury egg. What I need (and thrive on) is an encouraging group of designers, who work as a team. Thankfully, that's what I think I may have encountered.

Anyway, someone brought up how Americans have a lovely snacky-treat called the Ice Cream Sandwich, and how it could be the greatest thing on Earth. No one else (except the two of us had eaten one), so after lunch, we all split delicious sandwiches a la Ben & Jerry's. While it's difficult to compare to the wonder that is the Cadbury Egg, I think the office was pretty satisfied.

But, I guess you might like to know what I'm actually doing (instead of eating) at my job. There are there components of the business: Mark owns Huge design, which does large-scale projects like banners and such for businesses like Sky. Neil owns First Folio which does leaflet and social design work in the public sector. Then there's Binary Colors, the printing company, that everyone is a part of. At the moment, I'm working within Huge, with Mark and Tom, on some theme ideas for a theatre convention that will be held in London during June 2008. Mark will present the ideas to the client on Thursday, and we'll develop them from the decisions of that meeting.

Tomorrow we visit Stonehenge and Bath. I'll have some pictures later this week.

Oh, and Amber, I bought a bottle of South African wine--it's from your Stellenbosch, and splendid.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Science of..

Can't sleep, but look what I found.

Look outside at the raincoats coming, say Oh

Vampire Weekend was nearly a bust. A threatening combination of disinterest, stage time (1 am) and the impending doom of the night bus, almost canceled plans. A few people, however, came through, and despite the hour long queue in an alley that reeked of urine and cigarettes, the night was pretty fantastic.

Astoria 2, the huge, 2-story club they played, is an experience in and of itself. Kids stand outside in tight pants and pointy shoes, drinking Carlsberg. A few look like babies--maybe 16--and are already well-versed in the ways of the hipster world. Quite scenius, they say. The place was utterly intimidating, and a little frightening at first, but by the end we (the Americans) had impressed a few Europeans, having heard of the headliner.

Earlier in the day, Kristin and I stopped by the Victoria & Albert Museum. The building is striking, and you could spend a week in and still not see everything. Yet, the exhibits are inviting, and as you walk through the halls it's as if time has frozen. The serenity of the rooms and courtyard make the V&A ideal for a contemplative afternoon, and while you might have plans for later, you certainly won't want to leave.

In other news, doing laundry is expensive! At 3.5-5ish GBP per load, it'll cost an arm and a leg, or at least a shirt sleeve.

Also, I've had the most vivid dreams since arriving in London. For the longest time I couldn't remember what I had dreamed in the night, but the ones I've had lately are eerily realistic and very impacting. Maybe it has something to do with change. They say the alcohol here is stronger than in the states, but I haven't been drinking enough for it to have much of an effect on my REM.

Anyway, work is tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The squirrels here should wear tophats

Friday was one of those days when, after it ends, you are happy you woke up early.

St. Martin in the Fields hold free lunchtime concerts every Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Yesterday a 20-year-old Turkish pianist performed. Everything started out pretty rough, and by the Beethoven sonata, there was a homeless man in the corner snoring so loudly that one side of the hall was collectively more stressed out. Luckily, the pianist pulled through, and by the end of the second piece, we applauded loudly enough to stir the derelict. By the time the pianist performed his last piece, he was on fire. It was as if he had grown twenty years since the beginning of the concert. He had the passion of a young person, but the control of someone very experienced.

Afterwards it was time to check out the pop art portrait exhibit at the National Gallery, but admission was a little to pricey. Instead, we went to Bond St., walked a few blocks and found the Timothy Taylor Gallery, where Andy Warhol's personal photographs are exhibited. They were all black and white photos of the banal and often slightly perverse. Half-eaten birthday cakes, lobster dinners, pointe shoes and corpses. It was fascinating to see things how Warhol might have viewed them. His pictures are taken with an "anyone could have snapped that photo" sort of quality, but the artistry and attention to the ordinary let us know that these pictures are only possible because of Andy.

Hyde Park was a fantastic detour back to the flat. There was a woman bundled on a bench, feeding the birds from her collection of about ten loaves of bread. The squirrels are overly friendly. And there are swans! At dusk the park had a mysterious grey tinge that washed over the greenery, muting the vibrancy of everything.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

London keeps getting better and better.

I had my interview at Huge today, which went really well. It is, indeed, a very small firm, which makes it better for me to learn anything and everything I want. Everyone seems awfully great and we will take lunch together everyday. Another plus: I don't have to be at work until 10!

My roommate, Kristin, and I wandered over the Tower Bridge to the Design Museum for the Jean Prouvé exhibit. Check out click the link to the right to be directed toward my design blog, to see photos.

The wind and rain kept us from getting to the Textile and Fashion Museum, but we ducked under a walkway and found ourselves outside a great little cafe with waterfront views of the Thames. Perfection.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

And when I finally make it upstairs, this is where I live:

Also, I went to the Museum of London today, which, I must say is disappointing. I think you can learn more about London just by walking around. It felt a little too much like a jumbled mess than a cohesive history of one of the world's most famous cities.

I was in such a rotten mood afterwards that I exited at the wrong stop and ended up in Tottenham, which was quite a happy mistake. It's a refreshing change from where I'm living Kensington--a stuffy, affluent neighborhood. In contrast, Tottenham is alive and moving and breathing, and there are little nooks and crannies that you'll miss unless you go back more than a few times. I'll be there for the Vampire Weekend show at Astoria 2 on Saturday.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Sunday was the Russian Winter Festival in Trafalgar Square. Giant men with mustaches, lots of cigarettes and vodka...oh and nesting dolls. That's a festivus if I don't say so myself.

In the last few days I've found out where I'm interviewing:
Huge, it's a design firm, and so far it seems pretty sweet. I talk to the art director on Thursday. From what I've gathered, it sounds like the company just expanded, and it's in a really cool area.

If everything goes as planned, I'll take the District Line west from Earl's Court to the very end. To get an idea just how far outside of the "city" it is, I did a trial run: (click the map to see the graphic)

The sky was clear and sunny when I started out, and halfway there (20ish minutes), things began to look less promising as black skies loomed in the west. When I got off the train it was windy, rainy and terribly cold. There is, however, a fabulous shoe store directly outside of the stop.

Storms and flood warnings were implemented all over England. Today my umbrella opened itself--and it doesn't even make sense to use it when the rain comes from every which way. Waterproof shoes...and socks would really help. It isn't so bad, though. Rain in London is supremely better than rain in Missouri. The Thames looked romantic and stormy today, making it the perfect afternoon to brood. And what better place to ponder 900 years of English history than Westminster, which was incredible. Elizabeth I is buried there with her sister, Mary Tudor, along with other big Brits, like Chaucer and you know, kings. Yikes! There are also terribly quaint and wonderful gardens and walks...and England's oldest door. I think the date on that little guy was 1050.

I also started class on Monday. We went through many of the papers that circulate throughout the city. While I am only starting to become aware of the G. Brown upset, I certainly know more about Britney Spears (the "one woman disaster zone," as the Independent so eloquently wrote) than I did back in the States. Thanks!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Down the Rabbit Hole

The markets run for blocks on Portobello Road. The ruddy cobblestone road turns to asphalt and continues past the Scottish kilt shop and the crepe stand and fresh fish stall and the handmade journal booth. It never ends. You could spend hours here. And we did.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Love & Death

It's a touch comforting to know that Mark Twain, a fellow American--nay, Missourian--could be slightly profound:

"The traveler is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep."

Adam and Eve it, London is a big, bad city (in the most loving sense).

I'm not one for a bust tour, but the one yesterday, led by Debra, was highly entertaining. I never would have thought that for 400 years, public executions were the place to see, be seen and, well, be-headed. Hangings, were apparently something you could take the kids to, but they were sort of slopping. If you really wanted to witness how to beautifully execute an execution, just look for a gleaming sword and a hooligan lot.

Let's see, what else. Changing of the guard. Piccadilly. Johnny Depp. Johnny Depp fans.