Tuesday, January 31, 2012

no day but tomorrow

"A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes."
Mahatma Gandhi

In the midst of final preparations for my interview.

Monday, January 30, 2012

comme les francais

Today was a day of discovery.

In the morning, Casey and I set out for the quaint and untouristed borough of Marylebone to do some shopping at the quintessentially-British Selfridge's department store.  After some browsing and admiring Alexander McQueen scarves, we ventured down Marylebone High Street in search of other treasures.

After exploring for quite some time, we found ourselves in front of what can best be described as a market-coffeeshop-gourmet food store called La Fromagerie.
When we learned that they were in the midst of serving afternoon tea, we knew that we needed to claim a table to escape the bitter winter wind outside.  I told the server that I fancied herbal tea, and she immediately recommended a violet-infused blend from the Loire Valley of France.  When the pot arrived, I discovered that it was simply divine.
For some light noshing, Casey ordered a beautiful cheese plate, and I had a humongous organic Braeburn apple (locally-grown in Kent). 
Finishing up our meal, we both concluded that we would definitely be frequenting this place on many occasions during our time in London.  

Returning out to face the elements, we then made our way to the Wallace Collection, a museum in the area that is housed in the old mansion of Andrew Wallace.  I had heard whisperings of the grandeur of this establishment, but nothing could prepare me for what lies inside.  Upon walking up the staircase of the old home, one is greeted by a massive arrangement of Boucher paintings - my personal favourite.   The gallery also holds Fragonard's famous The Swing as well as Frans Hals' Laughing Cavalier.
For a lover of the French Rococo - as I certainly am - this place is an absolute dream.
Especially after today, Casey and I both agreed that we could certainly - one day - call this city home. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

a day in cymru

Even though I love being in the city, it was the most exhilarating feeling in the world to escape to the countryside today.  Early in the morning, we left in a bus from London and drove through the scenic Cotswolds region.  Shortly after, we arrived at Gloucester Cathedral.

While it's gothic architecture was stunning, the most intriguing aspect of this visit was learning that the BBC was in the process of filming a production of Shakespeare's Henry IV and Henry V to be played during this year's Olympiad - and it stars Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston!

After completing our tour of this historic cathedral - and shamelessly doing some star-stalking - we continued our route through the Forest of Dean where we stopped to admire a gorgeous view of the hills and valleys.

Channeling my inner yogi, I could not help but strike a pose in order to truly become one with nature.

Next, we finally crossed the border into Wales, and the Welsh heritage became immediately evident on the bilingual signs.  Our first stop here was Tintern Abbey, a glorious structure built by Cistercian monks in the 12th century.  More recently, it has been made famous by British romantics, such as Wordsworth and JMW Turner, who immortalized it in their sublime writing and art.  

In the small village adjacent to the Abbey, we stopped for a classic Welsh lunch at a local restaurant, and I enjoyed a delicious bowl of butternut squash soup.  

From here, we returned to the bus to travel to our final destination, Chepstow, a traditional Welsh town famous for its castle.  As we pulled up to yet another historic and beautiful piece of architecture, I was once again floored by its beauty and intricacy.  Clearly, I live in the wrong century. 

While I immensely enjoyed being able to travel and view this amazing landscape and these marvelous architectural feats, the best part of the day was being able to spend it with a group of the most amazing girls.  Hopefully, today will be the first of many great adventures.  

Friday, January 27, 2012


I am greatly anticipating my first trip to Wales tomorrow to see the historic Tintern Abbey - especially because it relates to my studies of art history and literature.
Tintern Abbey, Wales 

J.M.W. Turner, Tintern Abbey, transept






July 13, 1798.


Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a sweet inland murmur.*—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
Which on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view10
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which, at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Among the woods and copses lose themselves,
Nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb
The wild green landscape. Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreathes of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees,
With some uncertain notice, as might seem,20
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some hermit's cave, where by his fire
The hermit sits alone.
                                     Though absent long,
These forms of beauty have not been to me,
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart,
And passing even into my purer mind30
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure; such, perhaps,
As may have had no trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life;
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight40
Of all this unintelligible world
Is lighten'd:—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame,
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.
                                                If this
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft,
In darkness, and amid the many shapes
Of joyless day-light; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart,
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee
O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the wood
How often has my spirit turned to thee!
And now, with gleams of half-extinguish'd though[t,]
With many recognitions dim and faint,60
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was, when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,70
Wherever nature led; more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by,)
To me was all in all.—I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me80
An appetite: a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, or any interest
Unborrowed from the eye.—That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed, for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompence. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour90
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,100
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear, both what they half-create,*
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,110
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.
                                     Nor, perchance,
If I were not thus taught, should I the more
Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
For thou art with me, here, upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou, my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend, and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while120
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister! And this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,130
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb
Our chearful faith that all which we behold
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain winds be free
To blow against thee: and in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure, when thy mind140
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; Oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance,
If I should be, where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence, wilt thou then forget150
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came,
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love, oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake.160

Thursday, January 26, 2012

triple threat

I love when the knowledge that I gained in class becomes relevant to my everyday experiences.  Yesterday, I set the lofty goal of touring three London museums: the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, and the Victoria & Albert Museum.  While by no means did I see the entire collection, I did accomplish my goal.

At the Natural History Museum, I could not help but experience feelings of nostalgia as I wandered through the dinosaurs exhibit.  I know that, as I child, I would have enjoyed nothing more than gazing up at the fossilized remains and playing with the interactive exhibits.

As I made my way to the Science Museum, I found myself pleasantly surprised to discover art mingling within its walls.  Just last semester, I studied Kongo minkisi which are often associated with divination and medicine, and they seemed to fit in perfectly to the museum's exhibition of medical sciences throughout history.  Art is totally relevant to science.  

For the last stop, the Victoria & Albert Museum, I was slightly reluctant to go inside.  I was not doubtful that I would enjoy its collection.  Rather I was worried that I would love it so much that I would be disappointed if I do not in fact earn an internship here, for I am interviewing next week.  As I entered its' doors, I was certainly right about one thing: I absolutely love it there.  I love the V&A because it is a museum completely devoted to beautiful things.  And I love beautiful things.  While the National Gallery may house a a diverse collection of religious imagery, and the Tate Modern may hold some of the world's most controversial pieces, neither of these institutions can match the exquisite nature and splendour of the Victoria & Albert.  I only know one other thing for certain: I want that internship more than anything in the world.  

Monday, January 23, 2012

where is hugh grant?

I finally made it to Harrod's today.  Shopping here really is a magical experience.

They even started playing Jump! For My Love by The Pointer Sisters - straight out of a scene from Love Actually.  

time flies when you look at art

Two photos that sum up my day at the Tate Modern:

1.  This picture illustrates the magnitude of this art museum.  Its' sheer size imitates the grandeur of the collection within its walls.

2.  We are hipsters. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

sport free zone

After a week full of pub quizzes, pub crawling, and partying on a river boat, it was time for me to explore the London that I really came to see.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit two great art historical sites.    In the morning, I ventured to Westminster Abbey where I found myself floored by its' stunning perpendicular Gothic architecture, medieval cloisters, and rich history.  As I wandered down the nave, listening to the echo of my shoes along the stone floor, I remembered why I simply love cathedrals.
As I finished the tour, the thought of witnessing more art exhilarated me so I decided to head towards the National Gallery.  After a short, but windy, walk, I found myself in Trafalgar Square staring at the triumphant columns that marked one of the most prominent art museums in the world.  Excitedly, I headed up the steps, and, for several hours, I gazed upon awesome works of art.  
Once again, I was reminded that my art history textbooks will never do justice to pieces like the sketchy lines of the Burlington Cartoon, the stark expressions of the Arnolfini Portrait, and the colour schemes of Renoir and Van Gogh.  After this adventure, I could not possibly imagine a more beautiful day.  

Then today happened.  

Following a whirlwind journey on the tube and a warm lunch at a cafe, I headed to the British Museum.  I had a marvelous afternoon exploring its' three levels of Ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities as well as - my personal favorite - the Asian collection.  
What excites me the most about this museum is its' many layers of controversy - who actually has the right to the exquisite and historic works that lie within its walls?  As I reflect upon this weekend and consider how much I learned, I am convinced that my time in London will become one of the most rewarding and valuable experiences of my life.  

Next stop: The Tate Modern. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

just touched down in london town

While I will admit that I initially felt anxious about coming to London, I can happily say that, since arriving yesterday morning, I have shunted all fears to the side.  I already know that this is the beginning of one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.  After strolling through the quaint streets of Kensington, touring the shops on High Street, immersing in cafe and pub culture, and taking a whirlwind bus tour through the streets of London, I am confident that I can call this vibrant city my home for the next four months.  Throughout the next few days, I will be busily occupied with orientation activities where I will inevitably learn more about the opportunities that await me this semester in my internship, in travel, and in making possibly lifelong friends.

Now, the only question that remains is when I am going to inform my parents that I am never coming home...

The Gherkins - our champion British Pub Quiz team

Saturday, January 14, 2012

someone like me

With only 48 hours until my flight leaves for London, I can feel a slight twinge of anxiety creeping within me.  I am not nervous about flying - I have certainly done that enough in my life.  I am also surprisingly at ease with being so far from home for such a long time.  While Gainesville may actually be closer to home, it's remote locale makes it feel as if it were actually a world away.  London seems much easier to access.  Actually, I am quite anxious about making friends.  Most people would probably be shocked to hear that I am fearful about meeting my fellow program participants given my relentless talkative nature, but my better friends know that I take my friendships very seriously.  I just want to meet people that I really clique with and people that understand my sometimes quirky tendencies.  Four months is a long time to be alone after all.  I guess only time will tell...

For now, I will comfort myself with the thought that my peers are likely just as eager to meet like-minded people as well.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

fringe benefits

Officially ready for Britain. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

it's always time for tea

While I anticipate that some aspects of transitioning to life in London will be difficult, I already know that I will fully appreciate the British love of tea time.  66 percent of the British population drinks tea daily, adding up to 165 million cups.  While I have been a long time purveyor of tea, I am told that I have experienced nothing until I participate in British tea time.  Is it too early then to declare that I may have already discovered the most amazing tea on the planet?

I recently have become absolutely obsessed with Harney & Son's Cinnamon Spice tea.

It is truly the most flavorful, warming, and delightful sensation that I have ever experienced while drinking tea.  It is so fabulous that I am forced to write about it here.

Time for tea again.  Cheers!

Friday, January 6, 2012

ahhhh artistry

I recently saw one of the most amazing films that I have seen in a long time - The Artist. 
The story takes place during the 1920s, and it follows an actor George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin) through his personal struggle as Hollywood transitions from silent film to the talkies.  The film was beautifully shot - silently with subtitles - in black and white.  

At first, the premise of this film reminded me strongly of The Jazz Singer, a movie that actually dates to 1927 and conveys the crisis of modernism as the era of silent film wanes away.  The Jazz Singer has a decidedly-depressing ending, as the main character's professional ambitions ultimately cannot overcome the expectations of his family and of society.  In contrast to this tragic ending, The Artist distinctly chooses to end positively.  While, at first, George attempts to combat the advent of the talkies by creating his own films, he eventually learns that he must perform in the talkies if he wishes to continue the work that he loves.  He does not, however, succumb to speaking and forges his own path by dancing across the screen.    I found it utterly inspiring that the artist could continue to be himself in spite of the transforming world around him.  

The film's enduring message would be nothing, though, without the sheer artistry and beauty of its' imagery.  The music, choreography, stunning black and white shots, and the ability of the actors to perfectly imitate the mannerisms of 1920s silent film will certainly guarantee The Artist a flurry of Academy Award nominations.  What a breath of fresh air from the digitized, 3D images that now characterize the movies of the 21st century!  I cannot recommend this film enough.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

the essentials

With the countdown to London only twelve short days away, I am beginning to feel a sense of urgency.  This morning, I approached the lofty task of packing.  For Christmas, my parents gave me a beautiful new luggage set and a hiking backpack for my travels.  While this gesture was awfully kind of them, I could not help but notice that the bags seem exceptionally small.  I know from past travel experiences that I am a notorious over-packer so I promised myself that, this time, I would not make the same fatal error.  To begin, I created a list of essentials.  Obviously, I must not forget things like my passport, warm clothes, and daily toiletries, but I know that there are some other items that I simply cannot leave behind.

The real essentials:

1.  My French Press

2.  Shoes

3.  Travel Journals

Obviously, this list still requires work.  Updates to follow.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

strawberry wunder unders

Today, as I was manning the pants section, a guest approached me with a question.  She held up a pair of black tights and asked me what other flavours these pants came in.

Flavours? I thought to myself, rather puzzled.  While I usually refer to a variety of this sort as colours, she seemed to feel differently.  At first, I exchanged a few awkward glances with a coworker.  Then, I shrugged and gestured to the grey and blue tights in the same style.
Ultimately, while I could choose to question this confoundment of terms, I will not.  Instead, I will choose to call her a surrealist, and I will admire her just as Jean Paul Sartre inevitably would.  I must learn to think outside the box...

Monday, January 2, 2012

my new years' resolution

Today, at work, I was asked to consider my goals for the coming months.  You are going to London, my coworker exclaimed. What do you want to accomplish while you are there?  My initial response was that, in four months, I would be marrying Prince Harry while wearing a Stephen Jones' fascinator that would rival that of Kate Middleton. 
While I intended this comment to be partially serious, I realized later that I had yet to truly consider a response to this question.  What do I wish to accomplish in London?  I know that I will paint the city red - as I did in Paris two years ago - and I intend to travel to at least eight countries while I am abroad.  I also want to earn an internship at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the preeminent museum of art and design in the world.  On a more personal level, I hope to rekindle my passion for art history.  While this fire burned strongly within me following my summer in Paris, sitting in dark classrooms while staring at overhead projectors and working at stuffy, old-fashioned museums has slightly extinguished the flame.  I also wish to pursue another lifelong passion of mine - fashion.  I imagine that living in London will allow me to explore and express my own personal creativity more than living in a small college town ever could.  Still, I want to prove to myself that I am capable of such lofty independence that comes with exploring a new place.  

Looks like a busy four months.  

On a final note, while I may not become the next Grace Kelly by marrying Prince Harry, I do not think it unrealistic to meet a like-minded individual who shares my passions for travel, culture, and exploration.  

After all, what better than a relentless case of wanderlust to bring two people together?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

a new beginning

With January 1, 2012 upon us, I look back nostalgically on 2011.  It was certainly an eventful year.  For the first time in my life, I experienced the tragic loss of two beloved family members and the pain of unrequited love.  I also had one of the most rewarding summers of my life - stumbling upon a job that I love and having the opportunity to volunteer with children in Colombia.  As I returned to school in the Fall, I officially declared my intent to pursue a dual degree in Economics and Art History, and I earned a curatorial internship at the university art museum.

Today, as I welcome the new year, I have no doubt that 2012 will be as eventful as the last.  In just two weeks, I embark on a four-month adventure to London where I expect to learn more about myself than I could possibly imagine.  I have also applied for a bevy of internships for the summer that may open many doors for my future career.  I will also begin my final year of undergraduate education in the fall.

This blog will document my adventures to London and beyond so that others may accompany me on this journey of self-discovery.  Through my photographs, thoughts, and reflections, I hope that you will learn more about what I think, where I travel, what I eat, and - inevitably - what I will wear.

I hope that your anticipation of 2012 is as fervent as mine.  Let the adventure begin.