Monday, September 29, 2008

Hanging silverware and reflective castles

Some of you may have met Brigette, my extra large sunglass-wearing alter-ego who came about during my senior year of high school, though she now limits her appearances to late weekend nights when party guests start to move on with their evenings. Well, recently I met a real-life Brigette, who is mother to Marie, the new roommate to 10 Ellenden court. In other words, the honeymoon is over. Kathleen and I are no longer the only Queens of the Castle and the only residents of the second floor in this humble abode. Oh well. It will be nice to live with Marie’s French accent.

Last Wednesday, I attended the societies fair and got a taste of the types of clubs available at the University of Kent. It’s definitely a creative bunch of organizations, and it took a while to find the “normal” ones. I took pamphlets for the American Club (ha!), the Creative Writing Society, and RAG, which is the service organization on campus, so I’m sure joining them will help me start to make some friends, which has not come easy, as Ellenden Court is a bit secluded from the main part of campus. On our trip to the gorgeous Leeds Castle yesterday, however, we hung out with a nice group of Americans who are also visiting for the semester, making for a really enjoyable day. Leeds castle is absolutely spectacular looking, as you can see from the photo. It was a sunny day, so we strolled the castle grounds and abused our digicams before wandering through passageways to where Henry VIII had secret rendezvous’ with Anne Boelyn and Catherine of Aragon. Crazy stuff! We were then able to lounge on the grass overlooking an English golf course, wander (successfully!) through a maze, and brave the castle grotto. It was a great excursion for the day.

Prior to my Sunday spent at Leeds Castle, I trekked into London for Saturday afternoon. The two-hour bus ride compensated for some lost sleep, and revved us for our first Saturday in London. Needless to say, my hand was covering my purse every second as we attempted to shop on Oxford street. Verdict: too crowed. We met up with Kathleen’s friend from high school instead for a pint at the pub. I am a huge fan of the cider here. American needs to adopt the drink. After our afternoon happy hour, we Tubed to the Tate Modern, a very contemporary art museum filled with a variety of paintings and other forms. My favorites were the Picassos and the Jackson Pollacks. I can’t say I have the most learned eye when it comes to art, but I still felt very cultured as I attempted to find meaning in the paintings. The coolest thing we saw was a room filled with hanging metal objects. It’s hard to describe, so just visit me and you can see for yourself. It’s a free museum, too, so I must tell the truth and say that fact was probably the best part of my day.

Next weekend, I’m off to Oxford, Bath, Lacock, Stonehenge, Bibury, and the Cotswolds. Pictures and blogs to follow, of course. This week, something called school starts… What’s that about?!


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I hope my eggs didn't break...

Americans will never be as attractive as Europeans. Simple as that. Last night was the international students dinner and Kent did it up nice for the several thousand students who hail from lands beyond England, Scotland, and Wales. (I wonder how those horses are holding up…) Our table consisted of four Americans, four Germans, and one Dutch. Everyone got along nicely and talked about their respective cultures, expressions, foods, and what not, making it for a very enjoyable dining experience. Everyone was instructed to wear their “National Dress.” I took that to mean some of my best and brightly colored Polo Ralph Lauren. Others busted out berets, full-on Indian garb, caftans, ponchos, etc. etc. This event was the first time we had free wine provided, making it the first night that I returned to my room feeling not broke, which is a feeling I have not had in a while. (And that is not to say I am blowing all my money on my first bits of legal booze. I promise.)

Moving on.

Today we took a guided tour of the Canterbury Cathedral, which is a truly magnificent church. A little old Englishman was our guide, and therefore the best part of the tour. After that, we bought out Tesco, Canterbury’s discount supermarket. Take the word discount lightly, however… I busted out the bargain hunter within and found some items that would be considered cheap even in America… but only a few. Taking all of our grocery bags back on a double-decker bus was probably the most eventful part of the day. I allow you all to laugh as you imagine this.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Horse + Wales + Me = ????

I need to stop saying “Thank-you.” England is all about the “Cheers!” Hello one and all from Canterbury! It’s nice to know that I’ve finally reached my official destination for the duration of my time as a UK resident. I’ve been at the University of Kent for about three days, after the London extravaganza, which was as exhilarating as it was exhausting. I need a vacation for my vacation!

Call me crazy, but I actually enjoyed the orientation program. The meetings were pretty amusing, as it was fun to listen to British accents for several hours straight, and Kathleen and I clicked with two new friends who will hopefully become travel mates of ours for the duration of our time abroad. We were viewed as the London “experts,” so after our program dinner, we had a flock of jetlagged lads and lassies follow us into Central London for an evening out on the town. Needless to say, we were pretty exhausted all weekend, but that did not stop us from venturing into Picadilly Circus the next night for a play and pub crawl. We befriended a troup of travelers from Down Under and beyond; they all met in different countries over the course of the year and met in London for the weekend, reunion-style. I am definitely a fan of the kinds of friendships you make while traveling, and I hope that as I continue my travels here, I’ll accumulate as many as I can.

After some goodbyes and a two hour bus ride through the English countryside, I arrived in Canterbury and began to unpack. The Brits treat “Welcome Week” (a.k.a. “Freshers’ Week”) much differently than they do in America. Instead of organizing name games and hand-holding, they throw you into the culture instantly. Before I knew it, I was on a bar crawl that culminated in a night of dancing at “The Venue,” the University’s on campus dance club, which is rated the best university club in all of the UK. Since I was well rested, among other things, it was a very fun night. Brits dance completely differently than Americans. Boys will dance together in groups, and are often more “into it” than the girls, which completely fascinates me. While waiting online to enter the club, I befriended people from all over, literally. Greece, Austria, the Caribbean, Germany, Brussels, and beyond. Kent’s not kidding when they say it’s the most diverse Uni in the UK. I loved hearing them try to imitate American accents, which they’re all obsessed with. How flattering.

The next few days were (and are, for that matter!) full of meetings and a few receptions and wine socials for international students, making it a mix of fun and borrrrr---inggggg. Classes start a week from yesterday, which is hard to take in. Starting class in October is something I’ve never done, and to be honest, I’m pretty antsy to get going with everything. The rainy season has also started, but I am equipped with pink rain shoes and a matching coat, so all is well and fashionable, as it should be.

Now, for some exciting news, listen up! Call me insane, crazy, out of my mind, since I probably am, but here is a flexible itinerary of my weekend plans for the next three months:

October 4-5 --- Oxford, Cotswolds, Bath, Lacock, and Stonehenge
October 9-12 --- Heather visits London
October 18-19 --- Horseback riding in Wild Wales
October 24-26 --- Amsterdam and Bruges
October 31-2 --- London IFSA Program Weekend
November 7-9 --- Edinburgh
November 14-16 --- Paris
November 21-23 --- Ireland*
November 28-30 --- Thanksgiving in Canterbury
December 5-7 --- Barcelona with Justine*
December 12-14 --- Brussels and Aachen Christmas Markets
December 19 --- NEW YORK, NEW YORK

*We need to plan on our own. The others are organized by our program.

Lot going on, eh? Kathleen and I had a minor freak attack when we realized getting to the airport is a four hour bus ride, making traveling quite a pain. However, we then realized that IFSA has a partnership with “International Friends,” a tour group that gives discounted rates to IFSA students. Best of all, the tours leave from Canterbury. We celebrated with cider and planned the next three months seamlessly. I don’t know which trip I am most excited for... As of now, our trip to Oxford, Bath, Stonehenge, and the Cotswolds is all set, and as of recent, our Wales Horseback riding extravaganza is also booked. Can you imagine me on a horse in the mountains of Wales? Start picturing it. I hope the horsey will like me! Giddy up!

I got so caught up with blabbering about my travel plans that I failed to mention my first trip into Canterbury, which I highly recommend you all check out. It is the most adorable city with a loveable Medieval charm. Kathleen and I took the UniBus into town for the day and explored the shops and streets, which are all closed off for pedestrians, thus upping the Medieval feel. We also took a row boat down the river that strolls through the city, allowing us to take some pictures that, as Allison puts it, look fake. That’s how magnificent the town is. Tomorrow, the Uni is taking us on a guided tour of the Cathedral. The campus overlooks the Cathedral, so I’m very psyched to see what it looks like from the inside.

That’s all for now. Cheers!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

London meets KR

Hello mates! I send a bright and cheery hello from LONDON, a city which I already adore despite extreme culture shock and overall amazement with every sight, sound, and smell. As I write this, I imagine I’m writing in a lovable British accent – a high-pitch chat of which I believe I’ve already perfected a dead-on impression. I’ve been from London to Surrey to Guildford and back to London in less than two days, and as is appropriate, I’ve got some great stories to tell. Here goes…

Before I go any further, it must be put into print that MaryAnne Rose is BY FAR the most fabulous relative who bears our very floral last name, which says a lot considering the heaps of competition she’s got. By providing my travelmate, Kathleen, and I the ultimate hook-up prior to our flight across the pond on Virgin Atlantic, MaryAnne made my very first international flight completely amazing. With a special VIP ticket to the “Virgin Clubhouse,” I was able to hobnob with some Brits who have some serious quid to spare on Upper Class Tickets. Perks of the Virgin Clubhouse includ free drinks, food, showers, reading material, and beyond. Best of all, the lovely little lady flight attendant whom the Roses of GC befriended invited the parents in to enjoy some Johnny Walker and Grey Goose along with their daughters, making it a fabulous way to start the trip off. And ok, Mom and Dad can also fall into the “best” category, as well, since they’re the ones who got me here! =)

The special treatment doesn’t stop there.

After a few seconds on the runway, prior to take-off, the supervisor of the Upper Class cabin made an announcement for Kaitlyn Rose and Kathleen Atkins to identify themselves, making the entire economy cabin curse in British slang as we were handed champagne to enjoy during take-off. It was nothing short of a fabulous time and a flight that, despite turbulence that had me Hail Mary-ing for a good hour, was comfortable, on time, and hassle free.

Our first London cab ride broke the bank a bit, but got us safely to the Kensington Hilton in one piece. We got settled, made some sense of our luggage, and before we had a second to breathe, we were on a train to a fantastic tudor mansion in Surrey, a house at which Kathleen has some family friends from her days as a resident of Japan. Their son took us out to a club in Guildford. Not going to lie, the culture shock absolutely terrified me, as it was a lot to be thrown into after not sleeping for a day, but it was interesting to experience a time like I’ve never had before. (After all, the farthest I’ve been from home is Arizona, and how can you not enjoy that?!) While clubs definitely aren’t my “thing” (I much prefer a relaxed pub, as you will see below), it’s all the rage in England, so I hope it will grow on me, which I’m sure it will after another day of de-jetlagging.

Despite our fabulous hotel in Kensington, which we’ve decided is a neighborhood similar to Beacon Hill or Greenwich Village, we ended up sleeping in Surrey for our first official night, but that didn’t stop us from hightailing back to London for a day of TRAVEL… after getting cell… I mean, mobile phones in Surrey, of course! We started or trip with a one day travelcard purchase, which gave us the option of traveling anywhere in London for one inclusive price, which we completely abused by taking the “Tube” about 10 times. No joke! Abbey Road was our first stop, so we went Beatles crazy, taking our own photographic version of the famous album cover. To be honest, it looks like any old “Zebra” crosswalk; the best part was watching tourists, like ourselves, walk over the crosswalk 37 times, hoping that each shot will look as perfect as John, Paul, Ringo, and George did during the Summer of Love. It was fabulous and got us very pumped for our next destination: Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

Big Ben is far more breathtaking in person than is expressed in pictures. The detailing on the clock was awesome, making it my favorite stop of the day. We took some (and by some I mean about 50) toursity pictures, grabbed some paninis for lunch, and continued our visit in the area, which we plan on visiting again tomorrow when we take a double decker bus tour around London’s hotspots.

Buckingham Palace did not have any guards on duty that we saw, but it was definitely awesome looking. It’s located in a very cute area, which we enjoyed exploring for a few minutes.

(Note that the rest was written on the following day.)

After that, we Tubed to the Tower Bridge and walked over it and along the River Thames. Foot exhaustion set in BIG TIME at this point, so we rested a little and people watched, giving us the perfect opportunity to take in London’s population and the respective quirks. Some notable ones: Men wear very nice shoes. Women wear black tights with everything. Their teeth really aren’t that bad. Boots are in. Smiling is not.

We then continued on to Picadilly Circus, which is London’s equivalent of Times Square and the Theatre District. While it has its own charm, it was so similar to New York, making it a pleasantly nostalgic walk through lights and tourists. We checked out London’s Chinatown before having a traditional London pub supper of fish and chips. Our Spanish server took an extreme liking to the only two American girls in the pub – a.k.a. us – which translated from flattery to excellent service. He definitely made us want to trek to Barcelona, as he mentioned it’s “Just like London but BETTER.” Hopefuly Ryan, as in air, can hook us up.

Bedtime approached soon after that, but not for long. We were up early to catch our double-decker tour bus excursion. The full-day of hop on hop off tours took us to a lot of the same places as the day before, with an added commentary from animated British men… and one apathetic British woman. We learned some fun English trivia and passed some spots such as Elton John’s apartment and the garden in which Mary Poppins sang about flying kites, among the traditional tourist spots, such as Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Westminster Abby, where we also took a guided tour. I especially liked standing on top of Geoffrey Chaucer’s tomb. I like knowing he can’t write any more Canterbury tales to torture me with. =)

As nighttime approached, Kathleen and I separated for our first time since arriving, making us feel extremely big shot and fabulous. While she went to celebrate a family-friend’s birthday, I added another notch to my Les Miserables tally. (Number 3.) It was phenomenal yet different from the New York production, making it totally worth the splurge. Since Europe is much more risqué than our sheltered state, the costumes and blocking were much more revealing and vulgar. The violence was also upped considerably, making my tears for little Gavroche’s death more like wails of horror. Gotta love those TKTS booths, though in London, the discount barely registers, which brings me to my next discussion… MOOLAH.

London, as I learned on the tour today, is the world’s most expensive city. One ride on the Underground is 4 Pounds, which translates to 8 American dollars. A tiny little lunch sandwich costs 3 pounds, and an extra dollar if you want a place to sit. I can’t even tell you how much I’ve spent on just tours, transportation, and food. God help me tomorrow when Oxford Street meets KR. It’s the shopping capital of London. My plan is to put my pounds and cards in a block of ice.

We leave tomorrow for the Berjaya Hotel to officially begin our time with the Institure for Study Abroad. We spend a few days in Notting Hill before coaches shuttle us to Canterbury on Saturday morning. I’ll update again soon!

With love and a big ol’ cheers,


Friday, September 5, 2008

it's London. i NEEDED one.

Well, it was a lovely day in Roosevelt Field today. Escaping the Indian summer to the central air was well worth the infinite amount of credit card swipes that abounded in a mere two-hour span. First off: boots. The only boots that have touched my feet in the past year are Uggs and the skiing variety. From Chestnut to Cranberry, Uggs are my winter staple, but not in England. It was time for something new, so, breaking out of the box, I splurged on some black leather ladies. They’re quite fabulous and almost edgy. Yiiikes! No worries. I’ll never become a biker chick.

Moving on.

Next up: tote. Vineyard Vines and Vera Bradley just won’t cut it in England, but I think my new graphite Longchamp will. While staying in tune with my style, the bag is a color will help transition me from here to there while working with an array of colors in my new Euro fab wardrobe that’s heavy on the neutrals and light on the pinks. It’s all about the neutrals when you can only take two suitcases for 3 months.


Number three: make-up. Mom was kind enough to provide me with some Sephora cards, making my Clinique collection grow considerably. Some new bronzer, blush, and shadow will enhance my make-up bag, and (hopefully) me! =)


Alright. I swear it was on sale. We’re talking major splurge here. Totally worth it. Been eyeing it forever. It was time. I, Kaitlyn E. Rose, am now the proud and privileged owner of a Burberry quilted jacket. It’s black and fabulous and heaven and makes me happier than any other garment I own. I figured after working the entire summer, I deserved it. And hey, it didn’t even cost an entire paycheck.

Needless to say, I am feeling fabulous. Maybe I should try packing all of this now…?