20 September, 2016

Afternoon Tea - by Jessica Saideman

Afternoon Tea

After having a true English afternoon tea, I have discovered that it is the greatest meal invention created to shove as much food in your mouth as possible, while still seeming high class.

My first experience with Afternoon Tea was actually not in England, but in Quebec City in Canada. My grandparents had reserved an afternoon tea at the famous Chateau Frontenac. My mother had warned that we not eat lunch because it would surely be enough for a full meal. As me and my dad’s stomachs grumbled, we were quickly filled by a tiered tray of finger sandwiches, a scone, tea and a buffet of various French desserts. There were macarons, cupcakes, various complex flavour cakes, and mousse.

I was left with a wonderful experience and a desire to try the true English tea in my time here in London. I have compiled a list of affordable teas here in London, including places that do it classically, The Orangery at Kensington Palace, The Tea Terrace, Bond and Brook, among others.

One of the most fabulous tea rooms in London however is the café at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Their tea room is filled with stained glass windows, hanging chandelier orbs and great marble pillars. To boot, you can get large scone with the traditional clotted cream and jam, and a full pot of tea that delivers about 3 cups of tea, for around 6 pounds. And their scones are the most scrumptious and fluffy scones I’ve ever tasted. In combination with the jam and cream, I was in heaven.

And that was not even the full afternoon tea experience. The full truly English afternoon tea I partook in was actually in Bath, England, at the Jane Austen Centre. Along with a lovely little museum where you can play Regency era dress up and figure out which Austen protagonist you are (apparently I’m Emma Woodhouse though I really don’t see it), they have a fantastically affordable Regency Tea Room. You can get an absolutely delectable tea for 15 pounds (16.90 if you haven’t toured the exhibition room). If that’s too much, you can skip the cakes but keep the finger sandwiches and the scone for 9.60.

I didn’t know where to start, I wanted to shove everything into my stomach. I ended up grabbing a scone, a piece of carrot cake, and a cucumber sandwich at the same time, crowding my plate. As I figured it out, I slowly went through my savoury sandwiches: salmon with cream cheese, chicken with some Indian chutney, and a sundried tomato quiche. Then I ate my delicious fluffy scone though less fruity than the ones in London. I also found the clotted cream hard to spread. Then it was onto the cakes: the classic Victoria Sponge, carrot cake, some chocolate cake, jam tart, and regency biscuits. My group could not finish all the cakes we were so full, so we got them wrapped up to finish at our flat.

Basically, Afternoon Tea is the perfect excuse to stuff a bunch of sandwiches and cakes in your face without being judged. It is also the perfect way to get stuffed for a meal without thinking about it as you’re eating such tiny baby cakes and sandwiches.

Now here’s a list of more afternoon teas in London, under or around 20 pounds (because as much as the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea looks fun and classic, 50 pounds is  a bit out of the price range for an average college student):

Afternoon Tea at the House at the National Theatre - £26.50Includes a fizz cocktail, ice cream, and a selection of classic theatre themed sandwiches and desserts

Glam Rock Afternoon Tea at the K West Hotel and Spa – £24.50 - A rock and roll themed tea with unique cakes/desserts

Afternoon Tea at the Delaunay – £19.75 for full, £9.50 for a lighter Cream Tea – A Viennese/Austrian take

Afternoon Tea at The Ivy Kensington Brasserie – £19.75 for full, 8.75 for lighter Cream Tea – Classic with some cheesecake and mousse to boot

Afternoon Tea at The Wallace Restaurant – £18.50 – The restaurant at the beautiful Wallace collection, the tea room has a beautiful large skylight and a charming atmosphere, traditional tea with all the cakes and sandwiches you could ask for

Afternoon Tea at the German Gynasium - £18.50 – The same price for either a German or Austrian style tea

Le Chandelier Afternoon Tea - £18 – Classic tea with classic good cakes

Gallery Mess at the Saatchi Gallery - £17.50 for regular, £7.50 for Origamitea, made for children but looks awesome – make your own cupcake, sandwiches and an origami kit

Afternoon Tea at Muriel’s Kitchen in Soho - £15.75 – Probably the most bang for your buck, an affordable price for a bunch of sandwiches and desserts that look absolutely delicious

Now go about and stuff your face with this delicious middle of the day meal. 

13 September, 2016

Water and Billie and Puck, Oh My! - by Jackie Asbury

Hello Hello Hello!! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jackie Asbury, and I am one of the lucky students studying in London this semester!

Today I am here to talk to you all about something that is very near and dear to me: theatre. Or more specifically, today I am here to talk to you all about the theatre I have seen so far in the UK.

Before coming to London, I was able to attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where I was able to see a multitude of shows, some very good, some not so good. And since coming to London and discovering how much more affordable theatre is here than in New York (@ New York: what are you doing) and having the opportunity to see shows for some of my classes, I have seen even more shows! And many more are yet to come. But I digress. Let’s talk about my top three (in reverse favorite order).

The Glass Menagerie. I saw this production in Edinburgh, and it was by far the best show I saw in Scotland. This show was acted so stunningly, but the direction and the design were really what got me. Director John Tiffany incorporated such beautiful movement into this piece and it made me even more excited than I already am (although is that even possible?) to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in a few weeks, which Tiffany also directed. The way that he brought Menagerie to life felt so real and so dreamlike simultaneously. It was beautiful to watch and I cried. The design of the show was also truly magical. The set of the house in which the show takes place was surrounded by water on the stage, so it looked like these two rooms were just floating. Every so often, stars would be reflected onto the water to become an upside-down night sky. I wasn’t aware of the water until intermission (I thought it was a mirror or glass or something) and the realization of what it actually was blew my mind. I absolutely loved this show.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The night before classes began, we were all given the opportunity to see this classic Shakespeare comedy at… Shakespeare’s Globe! Ta-da! How cool?? We got to be little groundlings and stand in the yard and watch Shakespeare just like they did in ye olden times. Except not really. But it was still ridiculously cool. And the production was just so awesome. The show had a bit of a Bollywood theme throughout and they modernized it and strayed from the text (which I rarely mind when it comes to Shakespeare. My personal opinion is that the best way to keep something timeless is to make it accessible and relatable to as many people as possible. If that means adding some Beyonce to a scene, go for it. And yes that really did happen in this production (it was dope!) and Helena became Helenus and was played by a man. I pretty much always love gender-bending, and seeing LGBT representation in a Shakespeare play that worked was just really great. The actress who played Puck in this production was also absolutely hilarious and fearless and tried to steal my bracelet at one point while walking through the audience. This was the kind of show that reminds you why you love theatre so much and why you want to dedicate your life to it (if you’re anything like me).

Yerma. Most recently, I was able to see this show for one of my classes and I think you should all buckle up folks, because I could literally talk about this show forever. Billie Piper stars as the titular heroine in this reimagining of Frederico Lorca’s famous play, adapted and directed by Simon Stone. Yerma tells the story of a woman unable to have children and how the affects her and those around her. This adaptation was brought into 21st century London and frankly, absolutely everything about this show blew me away. With the audience set up in stadium seating, the stage was encompassed in a glass box in the middle of the room. This was the second time one of this director’s shows featured the actors performing in a glass box, but hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? And this production was certainly not broke. Throughout the entire show, I felt like I was watching something incredibly private that I was not supposed to be seeing. The set changes were flawless and succinct and the music they played during the intervals in between scenes perfectly reflected the haunting and intense emotions of the show. Okay. It’s time for me to talk about Billie Piper now. Holy guacamole, you guys. Billie freaking Piper. I am not exaggerating when I say that Billie Piper is one of, if not the greatest actress of our time. I have never seen an actress give a performance like that in my life. She was earth-shatteringly powerful. Her descent into complete madness that led up to a decision no woman should ever have to make (no spoilers, I promise! This ending is different from Lorca’s) was heartbreaking and terrifying to watch but impossible to look away from. Billie Piper bared her soul on that stage and it was incredible to witness. I was in tears by the end of the show, simply because I was overwhelmed by the amount of emotion I was watching. I will remember this production for the rest of my life and if I could see it again and again and again, I would. But alas. It’s sold out. Also I’m poor. But anyway. Yerma has been my favorite show I have seen here so far and absolutely one of the best pieces of theatre I have ever seen in my life (right up there with Hamilton and Peter and the Starcatcher).

Well that’s all for now, my friends! Thanks for listening to my passionate theatre ramblings. More to come, I’m sure. Enjoy your day. Pet a dog. Drink some tea. Hug a friend. Kiss a loved one. See a show. All that jazz. Toodles!

08 September, 2016

An Account of the ICLC Bath Trip - by a Work Study Student

Avebury, Glastonbury, Wells, Bath, and Stonehenge

                  This past weekend (mostly) everybody at the Ithaca College London Centre got the wonderful opportunity to explore the English West Country. We began our trip bright and early in the morning, all stuffed into a single coach bus and started on our way. Nearly everybody fell asleep immediately upon arriving on the bus because they just couldn’t seem to keep their eyes open. I, on the other hand, couldn’t even think about closing my eyes because I was so excited about taking in the brilliance of the English countryside. While everybody else caught some ZZZs, my eyes were glued to the window watching all the illustrious rolling hills zoom past. I couldn’t help but feel like a character from a Jane Austen or Bronte sister novel, traveling far and wide to go see some distant relative or go to some illustrious Victorian ball. I highly recommend listening to some British music, while riding along, (i.e. Bowie, Adele, or the Beatles), to further heighten the experience. If you’re too tired to stay awake, certainly fall asleep on the bus so you are well rested for all the stops along the tour. Just be forewarned that you’re missing out on some of the most picturesque English landscapes that simply shouldn’t be missed.


         Our first stop was at the Avebury henge; Stonehenge’s lesser-known little sibling, if you will. What Avebury lacks in grandeur in comparison to its world renowned older sibling, it certainly makes up for it in charm, (and sheep!). The massive rocks are actually quite far apart and make for a very nice walk through some farmland. It surprised me to see an entire herd of sheep lazily grazing through the grass right by the Avebury henge. They seemed much less impressed with the boulders than we all did, but they were quite welcoming, with some being friendly enough to allow us to pet them. The best part of the experience is that you can actually walk right up to the colossal stones and touch them. Getting up close and personal allows you to see just how impressive the stones are, and just how impressive it is that our Neolithic ancestors were able to move them.  Standing near them certainly made me feel small, but it made my mind wander to enormous possibilities about what they might represent and why they were left there.


         We all hopped back on the bus and headed off to our next destination. Only a short hour later we arrived in Glastonbury, a quirky town that reminded me a bit of Ithaca. A lot of the locals wore dreads in their hair and hippie-sandals on their feet so I couldn’t help but feel like I was taking a stroll down The Commons. We all got a tour of the ancient, and now ruinous, Glastonbury Abbey which was nothing short of magnificent. The fact that the Abbey was in ruins almost made it more meaningful and impressive, because it’s not every day that you see such a prolific monument in such a crippling state. Our tour guide was named Luke, and he looked as if he had been plucked right out of the Middle Ages with his long beard and ancient English garb. He even told us many people believe Glastonbury to be the final resting place for the famous King Arthur, (you know, the guy who invented the round table), and his wife Guinevere, but it was up to us to decide whether we believe in that myth. After the Abbey, many of us climbed up to the Glastonbury Tor which is 512 feet in height and offers a breath-taking view of the entire town and the surrounding fields. I couldn’t help but feel small standing on top of the Tor, as if I were a small ant on top of a big hill. If ever given the opportunity I highly recommend the short hike up to the peak, because it is something I don’t intend on ever forgetting. It started to heavily rain on all of us as we walked back down the Tor, and even that couldn’t tamper with the beauty of the scenery.


         After a lovely afternoon in Glastonbury everybody packed back into the bus and we rode off to Wells. Our main point of attraction in Wells was the Wells Cathedral, or the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew. After seeing the battered remnants of the Glastonbury Abbey, the Wells Cathedral seemed like a stunning example of preservation and history. The architecture was quite impressive, with flying buttresses and ornate stained-glass windows everywhere you looked. The Cathedral even houses the second oldest working clock in the world, which still chimes on the hour. Again, I found myself feeling quite small in comparison to the splendour of the Cathedral, with its high vaulted ceilings and large sacrificial altars. But my appreciation for religion, and the amazing architecture it brought into the world, grew tenfold.


         Once we go to our destination we immediately checked into the YMCA, (it really is fun to stay at), and settled in for the night. We were all free to explore the nightlife of Bath, and a lot of us had a really fun time at Belushi’s Pub. It was a Friday night, so the place was quite crowded, and we were able to chat with people from all over the UK. Beer was drank, pool games were played, and everybody headed to bed in a great mood, eager for the day ahead of us.
         At what seemed like the crack of dawn the next morning, we were all awake and ready for our tour of the Roman Baths. The museum at Bath is quite extensive, with a great audio-guide companion that tells you all about the ancient city’s history. I learned that Bath is such a beautiful blend of ancient Roman and Celtic culture. What impressed me the most was Roman engineering, and the way they manipulated the space around the hot spring to use to their advantage. I drank some of the natural water from the spring, which tasted of minerals and a bit like blood. I wouldn’t let this discourage you from giving it a taste yourself, and besides, it is thought to have healing powers, which we rightly needed after the night at the pub before. It was amazing to realize that I had migrated to a place that millions had migrated to before me simply because there was a hot spring in the ground. It helped me grasp just how extensive the history is here in England, and just how small I am in comparison to it.


         After our comprehensive history lesson, we headed to our final destination: Stonehenge. We actually parked our bus some distance away from the rocks and walked ourselves all the way to the site of the henge. It was very exciting to see them suddenly appear so small on the horizon and watch them grow larger and larger as we approached them. Walking to Stonehenge helped me realize how far the people, (or aliens), had to walk in order to set up the monument. Once we finally reached the boulders it felt amazing standing only a few feet away from one of the most recognizable sites in the world. Something I had seen in pictures countless times before was now suddenly right in front of my eyes. Standing in the wake of Stonehenge, I found myself feeling small again. These massive stones all hold some sort of massive meaning behind them, and I couldn’t wrap my brain around what they stood for and how they’ve stood for it for so long.


         We all got on the bus one last time and headed back to the London Centre. The whole trip had exhausted us of our energy and we were happy to be back in familiar territory. From Abbeys and Cathedrals to ancient rocks and hot springs it was a trip that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. The weekend seemed to remind me just how small I am, but I can’t help but feel like I’m actually much bigger after experiencing it all.