I think it goes without saying, but today was a very, very, VERY long day. My husband and I always like to joke about “traveling through time” when we travel through different time zones. According to the clock, I was only traveling for 8 hours today, from departure to arrival. But in truth it was much longer: Kelly and I were up at 5:30 to shower, finish packing, and checkout and to get on the tube when it opened at 7:00. We walked to the station in the rain (again, where was this cooler, rainy weather when we wanted it last week?!) and bought our one-way tickets to Heathrow, closing the book on our time in London. The tube ride was pretty awful this morning. The trip took a little over an hour total, but the train to Heathrow was packed tight and it was stiflingly hot and humid. Kelly and I both had small bouts of lightheadedness and nausea, gasping for fresh air anytime the doors opened. I was also a little panicked for time, considering my flight was due to leave at 10:05 am and we didn’t get to check-in till after 8:30. But the attendants in London were wonderful, and made sure that those of us needing to check-in for that 10:05 flight did so before the 60 minute cut-off. Since Kelly was taking a later flight we parted ways, waving our goodbyes. Thankfully security was quick and painless and I was at my gate just as the flight started to board.
I was able to sleep for a good portion of my flight over the Atlantic, which was a welcomed change from the last time I’d made the trip just a couple weeks ago. The headache came upon landing at Newark. For some reason, I didn’t realize I had to reclaim my checked bag and go through security again (though come to think of it Mom may have mentioned it to me… sorry, Mom!) so I was a little stressed once I was off the plane. Thankfully I had almost three hours to make the connection. While standing at baggage claim I was visited by a drug-sniffing dog-in-training and he tried to grab one of my souvenirs out of my bag! I think he needs a little more training! But it did help to ease my stress a little and made me laugh. “Hey now, that’s for my niece, not for you!”
The worst part of the trip back was definitely going through security at Newark, mainly because it was just congested during a busy time on a Sunday afternoon. But I made it through unscathed, and took some time to get a snack and text my husband and friends while sitting at the gate. When we boarded the plane and started taxiing out to the runway I looked out the window and saw the iconic NYC skyline. I’m pretty sure I saw the Empire State Building, and I think the 9/11 Memorial Towers, and possibly the Brooklyn Bridge. That was really cool for me, since I haven’t made it to New York yet for a vacation, and it made me remember that that’s a destination to plan for in the future. Now we’re flying somewhere over the Midwest, and I can see small foothills below, making me excited to see the mountains once we get closer. I’m so excited to be home and to see my husband, friends, and my dogs. But this experience was fantastic, and I know it’ll be something that I remember forever. I made many new friends, learned so much and got to see so many things I may have never seen otherwise.
Landing in a stormy Denver
But I suppose it’s time to close this travel blog as we descend towards Denver… until next time we’re in London, because there will definitely be a “next time” someday. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it!
Though our course officially ended yesterday we had one last group event before heading back to the States: the England v. Belgium game at Wembley. Football has been a huge component of this class, as it is the largest and most popular sport in England, and it was so much fun to see the fan culture we’d heard so much about. We’d been asked to wear white for the game, to show solidarity to England, so after our birthday brunch a group of us ventured to Picadilly for an England t-shirt. Back at the dorms, we decided to go all out for our game, brandishing temporary England tattoos on our faces. Matt even fashioned a cape out of an England flag to wear! We made sure to leave extra early for the game, after our sad attempt at Twickenham last week.
England v. Belgium
The tube ride was full of England fans, many of whom were dressed all up and down in England garb, many complete with face paint and crazy headgear. We actually fit in pretty well with the crowds, and Tini took the opportunity to talk to some locals about chants and songs we should know before heading into the stadium. When we got off the tube at Wembley Park we joined thousands of other fans and walked down the road toward the stadium. Wembley is, in a word, HUGE. It’s a focal point once you’re off the tube, and knowing the venue’s history and value it kind of took me away for a minute. I’m a huge Queen fan, and Live at Wembley is one of the few live album recordings I really enjoy. Knowing just that piece of it, that so many great bands have performed at Wembley, was, well… very cool! But what was even cooler was once we were in the stadium and waiting for the game to start… when the jumbotron switched on and there, projected for the thousands of us to see, was the Queen herself. REALLY! The Queen and I occupied the same space in England for several hours. Also, for those who are more celebrity-inclined: David Beckham and family was at the game today as well, as Beckham received an award during the half.
I’ve been told that football is relatively similar in rules to hockey, and I sat with Jessie and Alicia who help educate me on what was going on in the game. As we’d heard at Arsenal earlier in the week we witnessed the “fan segregation,” with all the Belgium fans confided to a small section of the arena. The atmosphere and enthusiasm is something I can’t even begin to describe. I’ve been to many live sporting events in my life, including some very feisty Avs/Red Wings games, but nothing I’ve seen compared to the atmosphere at this game. I suppose it’s something that has to be experienced, because I don’t think I can do it justice.
Alicia and me enjoying the game!
We’d learned the hard way from our experience at Twickenham that leaving with the masses was tricky and uncomfortable, so we opted to leave a few minutes early (England won, hooray!) despite it being a fan faux pas. When we arrived back at the dorms many of us ventured to our rooms to pack as many of us leave early tomorrow morning for the States. Kelly and I rocked out to Queen in the room, in honor of our exciting day at Wembley, and I discovered that my little suitcase and tote were just barely big enough to carry all my souvenirs and the extra clothing I’d had to purchase last week… maneuvering all that luggage may prove tricky tomorrow, as Kelly and I are taking the tube to Heathrow early in the morning. But after packing we all did take time to sit, visit, and enjoy our last night in the dorms together. There were talks of meeting up together during the summer for drinks or pizza and excitement about having some classes together in the fall. It was a great, laid back way to end our time in London.
But it’s off to bed now – a long travel day awaits!
Our last day of classes was completely jam-packed, so apologies for the late posting. It’s been trickier than I expected to get these writings posted, mainly due to the lack of wifi and a quiet space in which to type. All wifi in the dorms is accessible in the common areas only. For a fee we had an option to get internet in our rooms via Ethernet… but I own a Macbook Air, so no Ethernet for me. Alas, we forge ahead!
The BBC Centre!
As I mentioned, we were booked to the minute today. Having shared our experience with Jessie and Julia about our poached eggs, our little foursome stopped at Leon bright and early for breakfast (yes, I got the chorizo this time, and it was even better than the first!) before heading back to the BBC for a lecture on the broadcasting and digital rights to the Olympic Games. Our speaker, Dave, really made me wish I was going to be in London for the Games, just because of their broadcasting strategy! It was a nice tie-in with our first lecture at the BBC, and it really showed more of the scope of the organization and its overall marketing strategy. From the BBC we all got back on the tube and scurried to the London School of Economics, where we had our rescheduled lectures from Thursday morning. The first lecture was about athlete branding and sponsorship rather than team sponsorship, so it was a really different and unique take on sponsorships. It’s also something I’m personally interested in, so I found myself wanting to hear more. The best thing about this course is that, even though our speaker didn’t get into the “nuts and bolts” I have the opportunity to contact him and potentially start a dialogue about that topic and really gain some deeper insights. It goes back to what I said before about the exclusivity of the program – where else, or how else, would I get the opportunity to hear from these professionals? Our second lecture talked a bit broadly about how a city bids for an Olympic Games – which was interesting to us, considering Denver is the only city to turn down the opportunity to host the Games in the past and is planning to bid for an upcoming Winter Games. That lecture ran a little longer than planned, so we needed to go very quickly (much to the dismay of my little legs) back to the BBC for a studio tour.
The old fountain at the BBC
Wendy had made the studio tour optional due to the craziness of our schedule on Friday, but I wanted to go simply because I’d never been to a TV studio before. Our group was small, too, which I felt was better and made the experience a little more fun. Jessie, Julia, and I had a great time. We learned a lot of interesting tidbits about the site’s unique shape (a question mark, designed to fit the plot of land) and its driveway (only three people have been on the drive: the Queen, Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear for a show segment, and Jennifer Lopez because she refused to walk “that far” to her dressing room), the newsroom (they have their own travel agency built in for emergency flights, and journalists own two passports) the blue screen studios (screens are always blue or green because they don’t naturally occur in the body except in the eyes), and the dressing rooms (Mariah Carey requested a basket of puppies in her contract rider). We ended in an interactive studio were we did a news segment and a quiz show. Jessie and I tied and each won a BBC book as a souvenir!
After the tour I was concerned for time, as I was one of three in the tour group going to the Coldplay concert. Our tour ended at 3:30, and doors for the show opened at 5:00, and I needed to go back to the dorms and change. But Wendy assured me that we’d have time to eat – a good thing, considering we hadn’t eaten since our eggs at 8:00. We ventured to a nearby Wagamama (that place is delicious – come to Denver, please!) for some dinner and then headed back to the dorms for a quick costume change. Our concert-going group reassembled and headed back to Emirates. When we arrived, we were disappointed that we were all split up due to the entry location for our tickets, even though we were all General Admission and on the floor level of the stadium. But the concert was actually very good. I’m not the biggest Coldplay fan in the world, but seeing them perform live in London seemed like a religious experience for many of the fans in the crowd with us. The technology and showmanship of the concert was fantastic: when we arrived we were given wristbands to wear. During certain points in the show these wristbands would blink and glow in rhythm with the music – Tini was able to get a video of this on her phone, and if I can figure out a way to post it I will – it was just really cool! The set included five large, round video screens and we were blown away by fireworks and other pyrotechnics throughout the show. When Coldplay came on for an encore, they appeared at a smaller stage at the back of GA, which incited a rush to the back corner near where we were standing, which I couldn’t figure out… was there a tunnel?! It all happened so quickly. For the final encore they played two of their biggest hit songs and ended the show with an even larger fireworks display.
Unfortunately the night took a turn after that. Before getting split up from Alicia and some others in our group I’d given Alicia my Oyster Card (a pre-paid tube pass), my student dorm ID (which is my entry pass into the dorm building) and 40 pounds. We tried for nearly an hour to arrange a meet-up spot in the arena, but finally decided we just needed to get going as the tube was going to close at midnight. When we left the arena we were greeted by a fairly heavy drizzle – we have finally started to see the typical London weather we were all expecting earlier in our trip. This meant our walk to the tube stop was crowded and wet – and it got worse when the station we needed was abruptly closed due to the heavy after-concert traffic. We walked for over an hour in the rain in a large crowd of people, desperately trying not to lose one another. We finally made it back to the dorms just after midnight, and I was so happy to see Alicia and Rachel come in right behind us. We were all miserable and cold and most of us went straight into a hot shower and into bed. We were, however, also celebrating Rachel’s birthday yesterday, so a few of us went down the street to the late-night pub for one celebratory birthday drink. Thankfully the rain had stopped by then, and we were able to get back still relatively early and dry.
Now we’re off to a post-birthday/end-of-program celebratory brunch, then on our way to the England v. Belgium game at Wembley Stadium!
I think I’ve been a little homesick the last few days because I’ve been craving “American” food like crazy. At the top of that list has been a craving for a great big juicy burger… and today I had, quite possibly, the best burger of my life. Now, I know it sounds like an exaggeration, but I am not!! This burger will haunt my dreams. That burger, on top of several other food extravaganzas today, have me feeling like I may not be hungry till I arrive back in the States.
Alicia and I ventured out relatively early to try a breakfast we’d seen a few days ago: a little “fast food” joint in the St. Pancras terminal offered a “Poached Egg in a Cup” with truffled gruyere cheese and toast for under 3 pounds, and the advert for it was a little too tempting for us a pass up. And it was actually delicious! The pleasant surprise of the trip was the coffee… as I mentioned, it’s been rough finding coffee here that I like (though a lot of it is “drinkable,” I’m just a coffee snob) and the coffee at Leon tasted good and was well prepared. I asked for an Americano and I got it! And it was a great complement to my poached egg… next time I’m getting it with chorizo!
A street performer at Covent Garden
When we returned to the dorms everyone was ready to go to the Covent Garden market for lunch. I’d heard a lot about Covent Garden, and that it was a little shopping district, but it wasn’t anything like I expected. We walked down from the tube stop past crowds of people and plenty of street performers before wandering through an open-air mall, filled with unique carts and established shops. On the other side of the mall was a large marketplace full of food stops: breads, cupcakes, and cooking stands making everything from savory crepes to Polish sausages. After a once-over of the place I settled on a stand offering a simple beef burger with rocket (arugula), olive oil, and an unpasteurized cheese called Stitchelton for 5.50 pounds. I was attracted to it, of course, because of the awful cravings I’d been having. But as I was standing and watching the cook work I found myself a little intrigued. I know this “open-air
For the love of burgers
cooking” does happen sometimes in the States, and that the food-truck craze is a sort of modern interpretation, but this cook was really in tune with what he was doing. As I was standing in line I saw him grasping each burger with a set of tongs – when he grabbed one, he squeezed it gently, and either moved it off to the side of the pan or put it back in the oil and juices to cook more. He arranged each burger by hand: first a drizzle of olive oil, then the perfect amount of rocket, topped with a burger. Then he’d take a small spatula of the cheese and smear it on top of the burger – not on the bun – to allow it to warm and melt a little. Finally, he’d kindly ask what condiments were desired (whole-grain mustard for me) and smeared those on the bun before putting them together and wrapping it for you. I know it all sounds very romantic, but I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by this small taste of European life. When I met up with the group to eat, I took one bite of the burger… and it was absolutely wonderful. The burger was cooked to perfection, with just the right amount of crispness around the edges. The cheese melted and combined with the mustard and the juices, and the rocket wilted just enough and added the perfect amount of peppery spice to it. It. Was. AWESOME.
The best burger EVER!
I promise this isn’t going to be a post entirely about food… but there was a lot of good food today! So you might want to grab a snack – sorry to make you work up an appetite!
Naturally we needed something sweet after our marketplace lunches, so we walked around and landed at a small gelato restaurant nearby the Novello Theatre. The shop itself was really interesting. They had a traditional handpull espresso machine (which I was dying to play with, as I’ve only ever seen them in pictures) and a skylight… in the floor of the shop… that allowed us to view an office in the basement. The other strange thing was the gelato flavors: rosemary with orange, caramel with balsamic vinegar, and other unique and different flavors I’d never imagine combining, especially in ice cream! I decided to have a somewhat more traditional flavor (chestnut) and with our sweet tooths properly satisfied we made our way back to the tube and headed to the Chelsea Football Club.
Chelsea Football Club
I hate to admit it, but today’s lecture was a little rough for me. I’ve never been a “numbers” person – I mean, I’m good enough at math to get by, and I’m pretty good at budgeting our expenses, but the more in-depth discussions of capital and turnover really make my eyes glaze over. It’s always been my weakest point in my business classes. But our lecture at Chelsea was otherwise interesting. On a high-level the lecture was about the debt of the Football Club and the Financial Fair Play Act currently being imposed upon the teams in England. Broadly speaking, the FFP requires all teams to work down the amount of debt carried by the team. What I found most interesting about the lecture was the deeper discussion into the fan psychology of football in England. Fans in England are fans for life – and fans rarely switch their team affiliations in their lifetimes. It seems so different from American fans, who (at least in my experience) tend to be a bit more fair-weather and not as loyal to one particular team. Football is really a key element in an English person’s life, and that was what I found most interesting in the lecture. My only real disappointment from our time at Chelsea was that we weren’t privy to a site tour… but I guess after seeing Emirates and Twickenham the venue tour would have been awfully similar.
Since tomorrow is the last day of our course and the Coldplay concert is tomorrow evening we had our Farewell Dinner tonight nearby at a little French restaurant. The atmosphere was definitely France – right down to the menu! With a little help from Jessie I ordered a French onion soup and a linguine in tomato and peppers sauce. I’d never had French onion soup, and had always wanted to try it. This soup was indulgent and delicious: melted, creamy cheese and two thick slices of baguettes with onions cooked in a flavorful broth… yum! The linguine was also good, though I was pretty envious of some chicken Caesar salads that also came to the table. The grand finale was our choice of a proper dessert, so Jessie, Julia, Alicia and I each ordered something different and sampled from each person’s plate. I got a delicious crème brulee, Jessie ordered a lemon and berry tart, Alicia had a proper pot of chocolate with Cointreau, and Julia ordered profiteroles with chocolate sauce. All the desserts were delicious… of course, I liked mine the best! Dinner was such a great time, especially over a shared bottle of wine and with new friends.
After dinner the majority of the class headed back to the dorms, but us girls (and Aaron!) decided to visit a nearby pub for a nightcap before heading home. We sat and visited about our homesicknesses and our enjoyment of the course, and how we were all anxious to see friends and family in the States but didn’t want to leave this amazing place. The pub added an air of irony – Odell’s Cutthroat Porter, one of my favorite Colorado brews, was on tap.
But it’s late, and tomorrow is going to be the busiest day of the trip, so I’d better get some rest. Only two more days in London!
I don’t think I know anything about tennis. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever watched tennis, nor played it outside the two-week high school gym course, and I don’t remember a thing about it. But today we learned: it’s all about the grass… at least, that’s the story at Wimbledon.
Our time at Wimbledon began at the Tennis Museum, which featured all kinds of historical pieces from the earliest days of tennis. I was shocked to know that “back in the day” women tennis players wore corsets and traditional, heavy fabrics, adorned with pins and jewelry… crazy! We also learned that Wimbledon was originally a croquet field… now croquet is a “sport” I remember playing in the back yard with my sister growing up! But the museum was terribly interesting even though I didn’t know a thing about tennis.
The Main Court at Wimbledon
After our museum visit we attended a lecture from Wimbledon’s CFO and talked a lot about the “identity” of Wimbledon. I have to admit, I didn’t know up until this class that Wimbledon was the tournament, not the tennis courts, and that the tournament is really the only major event that occurs at the courts. Wimbledon also has a rich history and strong brand identity within the tennis world. Contrary to most of the other lectures we’ve heard while in London I thought it was interesting that Wimbledon does NOT litter its courts with sponsored advertisements, nor does it allow its players to wear brightly colored and sponsored clothing. At Wimbledon “tradition” is the name of the game, and that means all white uniforms and a court that lends complete focus to the game. It was definitely an interesting and different perspective than we’ve seen thus far on this trip.
The best part of the day was our Wimbledon site tour, led by a lovely British man named Ben. He was relatively young and enthusiastic, and had one of those British accents that should narrate audiobooks. He took us around the site, giving us interesting bits of history about the site and the tournament. The things that stuck out to me the most was the love of strawberries, which were often enjoyed by the crowds waiting to see a match (and it was definitely reflected in the gifts in the gift shop!) and the description of the world’s longest tennis match, which occurred at
The original benches!
Wimbledon in 2010. When we were taken into Court 1 Ben explained the rigorous, professional, and incredibly meticulous care and preservation of the grass on the courts. As we’d learned in our lecture, the grass was part of Wimbledon’s brand identity, and it is treated as the most important element on the court. The bottom line? It’s absolutely perfect. We also walked through the player’s entries and saw the long-standing winner’s boards, dating back to the 1930s. The tour concluded with a view of the main court, where the championships occur, with a description of the highly technological and innovative roof over the court juxtaposed with the long-standing tradition of integrating the original court into its expansion. When the court was “built up” to accommodate more visitors the original court was preserved, including some of the original benches from the original court.
The tour ended mid-afternoon, and we found ourselves ravenously hungry, so we ventured into the town to find food. We stumbled upon a cute little café called The Giraffe (which we found out later is a chain of cafes in England) and enjoyed some lunch and conversation about our experience at the courts. By the time we ventured home it was after 5:00, so we decided to grab some snacks and relax for the evening. Alicia and I hit up a grocery store nearby and found a fitting treat: BOGO strawberries with a champagne cream for dipping… and it was delicious.
Many of us have found that, after our site visits, we’d rather come back to the dorms and spend time with one another, visiting and chatting and watching silly internet videos rather than staying out all night. It’s been a good dynamic in the group, allowing us to get to know one another and develop friendships, and I’ve had a great time getting to know people I may not have met if it weren’t for this trip. We’ve still been seeing a lot of sites and going out sometimes, but the evenings have really been spent visiting and having a great time with one another. It’s been really nice!
Our early-morning lecture tomorrow was rescheduled for Friday, so we’re looking forward to sleeping in (some of us are still struggling with the time change, though it has gotten better!) before our trip to Chelsea tomorrow afternoon. There’s talks of another market trip, which I will definitely join if we decide to go! I love the markets here and wish we had something like it in the States, as I mentioned last time. But for now it’s time to watch some silly videos and eat some more strawberries!
The first thing an opposing team sees when arriving at Emirates!
Today is the beginning of our last week here in London, and it looks like it’s going to be a busy one. We started it off by visiting the Emirates Stadium, home of the Arsenal Football Club. It’s also the venue for the Coldplay concert some of us are attending on Friday, and the set build was in its early stages when we toured. Having some experience from a previous job with the tech/road crew side of entertainment it was interesting and fun to see a huge road crew, with huge lifts and staging pieces and lighting/video equipment out on this huge arena. The lecture was also really interesting, as Arsenal is owned by Stan Kroenke, the same man who owns the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets back home. I don’t claim football as one of my sports of interest, but I really loved the team’s philosophies in terms of financing and branding. The team believes strongly in self-funding, putting all its profits back into the team, and surviving with as little debt as possible. The tour was, unfortunately, a little lackluster… though I wouldn’t mind getting a whirl in the team’s hydrotherapy spa!
As with all tours we were courted out through the gift shop, where I was able to pick up a souvenir for my Arsenal fan godson. When everyone was finished with their shopping, we discussed picking up those 10 pound tickets for Noises Off! for everyone in our little group, and everyone was on board. We headed back toward King’s Cross and to the dorms, stopping at the London 2012 Olympic gift shop and stopping at a local M&S for a quick bite to “take away.” I’m amazed at the number of little take-away food places here – makes me wish we had more like it in Denver! So many of them have good, relatively healthy, quick grab-and-go meals that travel well, which lent itself very well to the city and the commuter lifestyle here. If anyone reading this is inclined to open a Pret a Manger in Denver PLEASE let me know!!
When we got back to the dorms, Alicia and I quickly ate while I called and reserved tickets for Noises Off! They were the third row from the back on the top balcony, but having seen the show before and knowing the theaters in London tend to be smaller, I wasn’t terribly worried about them. Everyone pitched in some money, and once I was done eating a delicious green and quinoa salad (seriously, the thing had pomegranate seeds in it!) Alicia and I took off to run some errands, including finishing our souvenir shopping so we wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.
Unfortunately, we were incredibly pressed for time. While the tube is quick and efficient we sometimes forget that navigating crowds of people takes longer. Also, for those who don’t know, I’m about five feet tall with short little legs that don’t move as quickly, so this trip in general has been a struggle for me since we do so much quick-paced walking. But we got all our errands run, and after running up and down all the escalators on the way to the West End we met back up with our group in time for the show… my little legs burning and anxious to sit down for a few hours!
I still don’t know what “seal-honkingly hysterical” means…
We stopped in a nearby pub for a pint before the show, then walked back down to the Novello Theatre to pick up our tickets. I went to the ticket booth, presented by ID, and as the gentleman handed me the stack of tickets he said the most amazing thing: “We were able to upgrade your group for no additional charge, so please note your seats are in the Stalls.” My heart skipped. The Stalls are the floor level (orchestra level, as it is typically called in the States) and when we went in to sit down I was in complete shock: we were only about 20 rows from the stage, with a perfect view. And, as expected, the show was a riot. The cast had absolutely perfect comedic timing, and I was so happy to bring my new friends to this show, and was happy they all had such a great time. I can’t remember the last time a stage play had me laughing to the point of tears… quite possibly the last time I saw Noises Off! in Denver! But there was such an air of authenticity to it, seeing it performed in London on the West End. And even though I won’t get to see We Will Rock You on this trip as I’d hoped I’m glad I was able to see a great stage play. I’ve missed seeing live theater and realize that I need to try to see more of it on a regular basis.
We’ve got an early-ish morning tomorrow at Wimbledon, so off to bed I go!
Today was our second free day of the trip, and I was on a mission. As many of you know, I am somewhat of a “beer connoisseur,” and I enjoy taking brewery tours at the various places I visit. So, naturally, I researched for breweries nearby and found Fuller’s, the largest and oldest brewery in the London area. Our group was smaller today, as many decided to travel to Brighton Beach for a little R&R. Alicia, Jessie, Julia and I hopped on the tube early in the morning – grabbing coffee on the way, of course – and ventured out to the small town of Chiswick.
The brewery was about a 20 minute walk from the tube station, so we got to see parts of the town, which were very cute… lots of little shops, adorable flats with lovely little gardens out front, it reminded me of our trip to Twickenham earlier in the week. When we were nearing the brewery we came to a very large, major road, and were a bit confused as to where to go. Looking across, however, we saw a billboard that simply said “Has anyone seen a brewery around here?” with the Fuller’s logo.
We knew we were getting close, and after a little looking around we found an underground walkway, which took us
safely to the other side of the road. Once we were at the brewery we wandered into their on-site pub, the Mawson Arms, to get set up on a tour. The gal signing us up looked a bit worried when she asked how many were in our group – apparently there were only 6 spots left on this early morning tour! Luckily we nabbed 4 of them, and we waited until 11 am for our tour to begin. We were guided by a nice older lady, Jill (not to be confused with our older lady Jill tour guide from Twickenham!) who took us around the brewery, and told us interesting facts about how a brewery had been operating in that site for over 300 years – but Fuller’s was operating for only 160 of them! – and that lagers are typically not brewed in England. The tour was great fun. Although the “nuts and bolts” of a brewery tour is similar everywhere you go, the people are always different. We met a very lovely couple who was taking a vacation together for his birthday, and a young man who was intrigued by four young women from the states visiting a brewery in England, and several women on vacation from Ireland. The best part of the tour was at the end when we were allowed to sample Fuller’s four main beers (the London Pride, the ESB, the Golden Pride, and a Vintage Ale) along with two lighter beers (Discovery, brewed to “attract” the American palette, and an organic honey beer). After that the tour became a social hour, and we were allowed to sample whichever beers were on tap at no charge. My favorite for the day was a toss-up between the Discovery and the London Porter. We were happy to find out that a distributor in Littleton, CO carries Fuller’s – we’ll definitely be trying to find it stateside!
Sampling some delicious brews!
When our tour and sampling was over it was well past lunchtime, so we revisited the Mawson Arms for a light lunch (another delicious plate of fish and chips – yay!). A quick stop-off in the gift shop to pick up a few souvenirs and our complimentary bottle of Vintage Ale and we were on our way.
The rest of our afternoon and evening were, well, a bust. We’d wanted to try taking a quick trip up to Stonehenge, roughly an hour away from us. We got to the main rail station and discovered that tickets for the train were nearly 35 pounds a piece, and with the Stonehenge park closing about 30 minutes after we’d arrive we all decided it was too late in the day to pay that much to venture out. Besides that, we were all so miserable from the hot and humid weather that we all just wanted to go back to the dorms for a bit.
The last few days I’d been gauging interest with my classmates about taking an evening to see Noises Off!, a British farce playing just on the edge of the West End nearby the London School of Economics. I’d found a handful of 10 pound tickets for Monday night’s show, and since we didn’t know when our cohorts would return from the beach I decided to call about tickets for our little group. Unfortunately all those seats were sold out, and we were left with an evening free of anything to do. Luckily, we have all staked out a cozy spot in the café at our dorm and have been sitting, visiting, laughing, and journaling about our experiences so far. Next week looks to be a very busy one, starting with the Arsenal Football Club tomorrow!